Stoke City FC’s state-of-the-art Fan Zone on track for 2024/25 launch

Stoke City FC Fan Zone

Stoke City Football Club has shared plans on constructing a brand-new fan zone outside its home ground of bet365 Stadium.

The announcement comes as part of its four million pounds (7.6 million AUD) investment in a five-year infrastructure development programme which began in 2022.

The sketches released on the club’s website show a main-stage and LED screen facing an open-air space, with covered areas provided around the perimeter. The fan zone will also include several food and drink outlets, a dedicated children’s area, and restrooms.

The club has confirmed that a planning application has been sent to the Stoke-on-Trent council, with an intention to complete construction before the start of 2024/25 season.

The importance and popularity of fan zones has increased significantly, evidenced by successes in recent global tournaments and high-profile constructions in elite stadiums across the United Kingdom and Europe. Stoke City’s Chief Operating Officer, Simon King, highlighted the club’s desire to capitalise on this demand.

“In our dialogue with supporters, it has been clear that there is a significant appetite for a fan zone to be introduced as part of a first-class matchday experience, creating a hub of activity where fans can gather and enjoy live entertainment,” King said via press release.

“We also believe a facility like this will present an opportunity for regular supporter engagement and community activities. First and foremost, however, I hope this facility gives new and existing fans a reason to treat our matchday’s as a full day out with family and friends. Subject to planning, I’m hugely looking forward to seeing it come to fruition.”

Vice-Chairman, Richard Smith, reassured supporters that the club remains financially committed to providing high-quality facilities.

“Despite rising production costs causing the Club’s scheduled programme of infrastructure investments to increase significantly, there remains a steadfast commitment to fulfil our ambitions and make our facilities as good as they can be,” he said.

COO Simon King supported this sentiment: “We have unbelievable support from our owners whose continuing investment in facilities is enhancing the Stoke City experience and providing an elite environment for supporters, players and staff.”

A dedicated fan zone is the perfect way to drum up interest for match day, a worthy investment for the long-term.

FIFPRO Asia/Oceania report of AFC Champions League assesses the cost of competition for players and clubs

FIFPRO Asia/Oceania has published a report on key financial findings from the Asian Football Confederation’s (AFC) flagship club competition, the AFC Champions League (ACL).

The report, AFC Champions League Analysis Report: Counting the cost for players and clubs, was produced alongside sporting intelligence agency Twenty First Group (TFG).

This analysis is in response to the announcement of AFC Champions League Elite (ACLE) commencing in July this year, as revealed by the AFC in December 2022.

Based on TFG’s analysis, insights and feedback from participating players and clubs, the report addresses the feasibility of running ACLE with key factors including on-field quality and competitive balance, attendances and fan engagement, economics for clubs and players, travel and workload, competition design, and football development outcomes.

The research undertaken focusses on the value of introducing ACLE, based on the current operations of the ACL.

“This report analyses the merits and drawbacks of the current AFC Champions League based on various data and the results indicate that the merits do not outweigh the drawbacks for most players and clubs, making it an unsustainable system,” FIFPRO Asia/Oceania Chair Takuya Yamazaki outlines in the report.

“However, this does not mean that the future of football in Asia is bleak. On the contrary, we believe that this economically significant region can lead a discussion for truly sustainable competition formats.”

The report is the most comprehensive public analysis of the ACL and includes recommendations for what the AFC should be implementing.

“For players, the development of competitions is central to their employment conditions and future opportunities. As its primary workforce, the players are determined to play their role to shape a sustainable and innovation-driven future for the football sector in Asia,” Yamazaki added.

World Leagues Forum is involved in representing professional football leagues on a global level. General Secretary Jerome Perlemuter explained that collaboration between all stakeholders in the Asian region would help shape and deliver sustainable competitions.

“FIFPRO’s contribution to shaping the future of Asian continental competitions is most welcome,” Perlemuter said.

“Sustainable football development requires confederations, leagues and players to work together with a common objective to shape high potential continental competitions in a consistent global calendar. In this context, it is important to consider economic, geographical and cultural specificities. We look forward to continuing these discussions with FIFPRO and all stakeholders.”

To see the report in full, you can do so here.

Wellington Phoenix team up with Chinese outfit Tianjin Tiger

Wellington Phoenix have partnered with Chinese Super League team Tianjin Tiger to boost football growth in both nations.

As part of the Wellington Phoenix Tianjin Tiger Sister City Friendship, the clubs have agreed to hold an annual encounter between their men’s first teams.

The inaugural Wellington Phoenix F.C. vs. Tianjin Tiger F.C. Sister City Shield match is set to take place in Tianjin this September, with the second in Wellington next year.

The strategic collaboration was formed after Phoenix general manager David Dome visited Tianjin in September as part of a business delegation headed by Wellington Mayor Tory Whanau.

The club hosted a delegation from Tianjin, and the two sides signed the Memorandum of Understanding at the Mayor’s office.

Phoenix general manager David Dome was thrilled with the partnership going through.

“The mayoral delegation to China last year was invaluable and I’m thrilled about this partnership with Tianjin Jinmen Tiger, which will be of benefit to the club on multiple levels,” he said via press release.

“Not only will the men get to play a Chinese Super League side as part of their A-League pre-season each year, but the academy will soon benefit from an influx of footballers from Tianjin.

“We’re looking to grow our academy to have an international component and Tianjin Jinmen have committed to sending some young players to Wellington to attend training camps in July and we’re discussing the possibility of their juniors being part of a new international academy annual programme.

“International students are essential for the secondary and tertiary education sector in Wellington and we are evaluating how an elite international academy focused on football can be part of New Zealand’s international education offering.”

Wellington mayor Tory Whanau added that the city is excited about the opportunity. 

“I’d like to congratulate David Dome and the wider team for the work they’ve done on this MoU,” he stated via press release.

“I’m beyond stoked that the delegation last September has resulted in this MoU between the Wellington Phoenix and Tianjin Jinmen Tiger. 

“The development opportunities for both the clubs will be invaluable to not only football but also our cities.”

The Phoenix are enjoying a successful A-league campaign where they currently sit top of the table 18 games into the season.

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