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Swansea City – the benchmark of digital innovation in UK football?

Welsh side Swansea City have been the envy of clubs in English football for their off-the-field innovation.

Since ditching the EFL Digital platform two years ago, City’s focus on fan-centred technology led to the launch of a new creative website, followed by a mobile app which breaks away from the usual.

Head of Commercial for Swansea City, Rebecca Edwards-Symmons told FC Business: “There weren’t that many apps in football at the time and the clubs who had an app often just duplicated content from their website to the app and assumed that would be fine.

“That’s not what I wanted us to do, so our whole digital strategy was about taking a risk. We were a smaller club in the Premier League at the time and we were able use this and our owners’ drive to be trendsetters in the use of app technology in the UK and to take massive strides. So that’s what we did.”

In November 2017, Swansea became the first club to create an app with single sign-on and a one club functionality, giving fans access to tickets, retail and digital accounts. City’s digital partners Other Media and Sports Alliance were instrumental to the success of the app. By July 2018, the service would allow consumers to purchase in-app season tickets.

Edwards-Symmons claimed that a key part of their digital strategy was to give fans content that was suited to their needs.

“We have a very loyal fanbase in Swansea and I wanted an app that could deliver them all the short- form content they would need while saving long-form content for the website,” she said.

“But we also wanted to be able to distinguish UK fans from those outside of the UK to give that matchday experience to those who weren’t in the local area, something that other apps couldn’t do.”

The next stage for Swansea is to take personalisation to even higher levels and deliver the best experience possible for its supporters.

“Everybody is saying that it’s next but nobody has really done it yet. I want each of our fan’s app to look different based on who they are, where they are, if they’re a season ticket holder or someone who only comes to four games a season and is based in London, etc. I want personalisation to its fullest and that is our next step for the next 12 months,” Edwards-Symmons said.

“We’ve got over 50,000 downloads which is a lot for a Championship team in South Wales and these people who have our app are our most influential, they spend more than the average fan. We get optimal engagement but it’s also the best platform for us to get information out there quickly through push notifications.”

Despite these promising statistics, the club understands where they currently sit in the landscape of UK football.

“I want us to be classed as an innovative club, while realising we now have to work within the financial restraints of not being a Premier League club at the moment. Every club wants to be different and the biggest challenge a club has is doing just that. At the end of the day, we’re never going to convert a Chelsea or Liverpool fan into a Swansea City fan but what is important is to focus on the fans and the community and we should not forget that.”

Edwards-Symmons concluded: “Working with Other Media has been a pleasure – they’re not a supplier to us but a partner – they know our business inside out, they understand what we’re trying to achieve and we trust them which is a must in sport.”

Philip Panas is a sports journalist with Soccerscene. He reports widely on football policy and industry matters, drawing on his knowledge and passion of the game.

FIFA and Mexican Football Federation’s Supercopa Femenil to encourage growth in women’s football

FIFA

With the financial support of FIFA, the Mexican Football Federation has launched the FIFA | FMF Supercopa Femenil (Women’s Super Cup) as part of its women’s football development programme.

The five-day U-15 tournament (between 3-7 August) organised in Toluca, provided 206 players across 12 teams from Nuevo León, Tlaxcala, Chiapas, Mexico City, Sinaloa, Jalisco, Veracruz, Guanajuato, Estado de México, Baja California, Chihuahua, as well as a representative team from the United States, with an opportunity to have their talents detected by scouts from both Liga MX, and the Mexican national teams.

FIFA will provide technical support, equipment and funding for two years, as well as education and empowerment through seminars for coaches.

The FIFA’s Women’s Development Programme aims to provide all 211 member associations with the opportunity to apply for, and access additional resources and specialist expertise to develop women’s football at a national level.

Member associations can apply for support across eight key areas of women’s football development during the 2020-2023 period. In addition to financial assistance to cover the costs in selected programmes, the FIFA Women’s Development Programme will also provide access to women’s football experts, additional equipment and technical support within FIFA.

“The Supercopa Femenil was born from the dream of bringing Mexican youth players to a competitive showcase for women’s football in our country, attracting the best academies that are supporting the development of players in this category. This has resulted in a life-changing experience to be scouted by national team staff, and those of Liga MX Femenil teams,” Lucia Mijares, FMF Technical Sports Development Director, said in a statement.

Andrea Rodebaugh, FIFA Women’s Football Consultant, added via FIFA:

“Observing the Supercopa Femenil in Mexico has been inspirational. Its implementation is helping strengthen pathways by showcasing talent, motivating players and coaches as well as sharing knowledge and unique experiences so that growth continues where needed. There is so much talent, potential and support from everyone in the FMF. I am very optimistic for the future.”

Karl Dodd, FIFA Women’s Football Expert, stated via FIFA:

“The Supercopa has been well organised and provides a great opportunity for players to gain experience playing against top teams in their age group. It also enables scouts to watch these players, and for coaches to undertake development workshops to further improve the positive impact they have on players, supporting their personal and professional development.”

EA Sports to be the title sponsor for all LaLiga competitions

EA Sports & LaLiga

Beginning from the 2023-24 season onwards, a new multi-year agreement between EA Sports and LaLiga will pave the way for new experiences, deeper in-game integrations, enhanced broadcast communications, and commitment to grassroots initiatives.

The one-of-a-kind, multi-year partnership will allow both parties to deliver groundbreaking experiences for global football fans, with EA SPORTS FC securing title naming rights for all LaLiga competitions.

In addition, the deal will see a complete rebrand of LaLiga with EA Sports including all logos, graphics, fonts and other visual elements, while also delivering new in-game integration, broadcast highlights, and joint commitments to supporting grassroots initiatives.

This new partnership will encompass the first and second divisions of LaLiga (Spain’s top professional football competitions), LaLiga Promises (the league’s annual youth tournament) and eLaLiga.

“EA Sports FC is committed to delivering the most authentic and immersive experiences in global football. Our innovative new partnership with LaLiga further elevates that ambition and solidifies both organizations’ position at the centre of football culture,” David Jackson, VP Brand, EA Sports FC, said in a statement.

“The visible reach and scale of this partnership is deeply exciting, as is the opportunity to deliver incredible experiences for fans through in-game innovation, interactive entertainment and grassroots initiatives.

“EA Sports represents the cutting edge of interactive football experiences while LaLiga is at the forefront of actual football competitions with unmatched in-person, broadcast and digital fan experiences,” said Javier Tebas, President, LaLiga. “We have been strategic partners with EA Sports for years and this expanded agreement is a commitment to providing the next level of innovation to all football fans, a fusion between the virtual and real worlds of football.”

With this partnership, EA Sports and LaLiga will deepen their collaboration. Both LaLiga and EA Sports are committed to grassroots initiatives to grow the game which will include increasing accessibility, upgrading facilities, and many more initiatives to truly immerse fans into the world of football.

“This partnership with EA Sports is set to truly transform the way football is enjoyed around the world,” LaLiga Executive Director Óscar Mayo said via EA Sports.

“Moreover the alliance demonstrates LaLiga is a global brand, evidence of the success of our league to connect with fans internationally.

“We’re thrilled to partner with a worldwide leader in football fandom to better connect our fans to their favourite clubs, players, and LaLiga competitions,” said Nick Wlodyka, SVP & GM, EA Sports FC. “The contributions from LaLiga to our EA Sports FC portfolio will be immense, not only from a visual aspect, but across technological and game development improvements, further blurring the lines between the real and virtual worlds of football.”

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