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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.

Sky Sports extends rights to NIFL

The Northern Ireland Football League has announced that Sky Sports will be the exclusive broadcaster of Football in the region once again.

The Northern Ireland Football League has announced that Sky Sports will once again be the exclusive broadcaster of top-flight football in the region for the next three years.

The Irish League has had a long-lasting partnership with Sky over the years and the agreement will see the relationship in place until the end of the 2024/25 season.

The new agreement will see four Danske Bank Premiership fixtures and the BetMcLean League Cup final broadcast live across the UK & Ireland each season.

Northern Ireland Football Chief Executive, Gerard Lawlor:

“We sincerely thank Sky Sports for their continued backing of our game and we look forward to showcasing some of the best NI Football League matches together over the next three seasons,” he said.

“To continue to have the invaluable support of such a high-profile broadcaster shows how far our league has progressed in recent years as we bring our game to an increasing audience of loyal fans.

“The NI Football League brand is continuing to grow outside of the confines of Northern Ireland, and through Sky Sports, many football fans are now becoming more familiar with the rich history of our clubs and as well as some of the household names that have played in the Irish League.”

Sky Sports Director of Football, Gary Hughes:

“As a long-term partner to the Northern Ireland Football League, we’re delighted to extend Sky Sports’ support of the league and ensure that its entertaining action continues to be available to our customers,” he said.

“Sky Sports customers will be able to enjoy the Northern Ireland Football league alongside our ever-expanding football offering in the UK & Ireland which includes over 500 live games in 2022, from the Premier League, EFL, Scottish Premiership and FA Women’s Super League as well as international action in the form of World Cup Qualifiers, and this month’s Africa Cup of Nations – placing Sky Sports as the home of live football.”

Valencia CF presents revised stadium upgrade plans

Valencia CF President Anil Murthy has stated the club will not deliver a “low-cost stadium” after holding talks with Mayor Joan Ribó over reviving the long-running Nuevo Mestella project.

Valencia CF President Anil Murthy has stated the club will not deliver a “low-cost stadium” after holding talks with Mayor Joan Ribó over reviving the long-running Nuevo Mestella project.

Valencia’s stadium, the Nuevo Mestalla, was originally under construction in 2009. However, over the last 12 years, due to financial issues and negotiation breakdowns, construction has never been completed and the situation has become known as one of the world’s most notorious stadium projects.

Murthy presented revised plans to a Council delegation led by Ribó, with the club seeking to recommence work on the stadium in order to ensure it retains the advantages granted to it under an ATE construction license given in 2012.

The plans presented to the council include a stadium capacity between 43,000 to 46,000, expandable to 60,000. The stadium would have a second ring dedicated almost exclusively to leisure and restaurant offerings, while the roof will be fitted with solar panels in an effort to drive sustainability.

Valencia Mayor, Joan Ribo:

“Initially it is proposed for a capacity comparable to that which the (Mestalla) stadium currently has (48,500), but expandable to 62,000 spectators. But I think this is not the fundamental element,” he said.

“The fundamental element is the novelty of this second ring that has seemed to me to be a remarkable element that is not in many football stadia. They propose a roof that is made of photovoltaic panels, which is an example at that level that I want to value.

“They have assured us that they have guarantees with the bank where they have the debt, which is now Caixabank.

“They have presented us with a calendar where in June 2022 the works of the sports centre would begin, in October 2022 the start of the works of the stadium and in August 2024 the inauguration of the new Mestalla. The calendar seems realistic and possible, but if it is not met, they will listen to us.”

In December, Valencia revealed plans to use funds from LaLiga’s strategic venture, with global investment fund CVC Capital Partners to help finance the construction of its new stadium. Valencia is reportedly set to receive approximately $189 million AUD from LaLiga as part of the LaLiga Impulso venture. $125 million of which is set to head to the stadium project.

Valencia CF President, Anil Murthy:

“The meeting has been very positive. After the two meetings with the Generalitat, today we have taken an important step by formally presenting the project we have to the important institution, which is the City Council,” he said.

“We have agreed on recommencing work as soon as possible, after presenting the project to the Generalitat and the City Council.

“Nobody talks about a low-cost stadium. It’s going to be a stadium that’s going to give a lot of people a lot of hope and it’s going to mean a lot of investment in the city. It’s going to be something different and something attractive.”

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