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The Bundesliga continues to build its reputation as football’s innovation benchmark

The Bundesliga is one of the world’s leading sports brands.

The competition has the highest average attendance figures in world football (over 43,000 per game), as well as huge overall revenues that are only comparable to a few other sporting leagues across the globe.

The German league has used this success to continue to build its digital engagement methods with its worldwide supporter base.

Over the past three seasons the Bundesliga’s digital channels have increased its fanbase by over one hundred percent, becoming the most engaged of all top European leagues.

The Bundesliga’s proactive approach continues to show why it is being labelled as football’s leading league, in regards to its technological enhancements.

Its long-term strategy to produce content that reaches more fans, in more ways, more often, is fuelling its further growth.

In recent years, the competition does have a notable history when it comes to innovation.

In 2011, the Bundesliga launched the world’s biggest digital football archive. The archive has over 33,000 matches on demand and over 140,000 hours of content, with historical data spanning back to the league’s composition in 1963.

In 2012, it became the first professional league to create an E-Football competition which now has over 120,000 players competing each year.

Goal-line technology was implemented in 2015, with games broadcasted in Ultra High Definition (UHD) in 2016.

VAR was introduced in the Bundesliga in 2017, becoming one of the first leagues to use the system.

Virtual advertising began in 2018, with Artificial Intelligence (AI) used to deliver highlights in 2019 to fans, through a partnership with WSC Sports.

In association with Vodafone, the Bundesliga implemented 5G technology in football stadiums for the first time ever this past season. Fans were able to test real-time data and Augmented Reality (AR) on their smartphones during a game, in what was a look into the future for the in-stadium spectator experience.

So, after all of these previous technological innovations, what are the Bundesliga’s future plans in the digital world?

Their long-term approach focuses on a key process, which includes: Monitoring the current industry and engagement levels, building new innovative products and testing their capabilities, then finally implementing those that are successful and will satisfy the league’s high targets.

The league works with educational institutions such as Harvard Business School and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, to keep an eye on new tech and identify changes in consumer behaviour, consumption and how they relate to the league.

Alongside this academic research, data has been collected by Bundesliga subsidiary Deutsche Fussball Liga (DFL) Digital Sports, detailing how fans consume football, on what platforms, how often and what type of content they enjoy the most.

Another Bundesliga subsidiary Sportec Solutions, records around four million pieces of data from each game, equating to roughly 40,000 pieces a minute. Using DFL Digital Sports’ personal preference information, the data gathered can be utilised by delivering content that leads to deeper connections with its fans and building its base in key markets.

“Understanding the needs and interests of Bundesliga fans stands at the centre of our strategic development as an entertainment provider,” Bundesliga’s Executive Vice-President of Digital Innovation, Andreas Heyden, told fcbusiness.

“Innovative technologies don’t only allow us to learn about and identify what consumers want, but also enables us to react to their demand for individualised content whenever and wherever they want. How fast leagues are able to feed in and integrate new technologies, and offer customised content to fans, will determine who will be at the forefront of football innovation in the years to come.”

Partnering with Messe Dusseldorf, the Bundesliga participated in and also hosted various innovation events in different markets.

In May 2018, the first SportsInnovation event was held in Dusseldorf, with SportsInnovation Future Summits held in China and the USA late last year.

A similar SportsInnovation event will be held in the near future.

Messe Dusseldorf’s Director of SportsInnovation, Heinz Kusters, said: “No other football league offers an innovation event on this scale. It offers a platform for interaction and exchange. Decision-makers from clubs, federations and organisations, as well as the media and the broadcasting industry involved in high-performance sports will come together from all four corners of the world, gain exclusive insights into the technologies of the present and future, exchange ideas and set the foundation for innovations to come. With several new technological developments in the areas of match analysis, broadcasting, digital services and stadium experience to be showcased in a live football environment, it’s certainly an event not to be missed.”

The Bundesliga does continue to invest in its bright future.

An investment with German company Athletia, has led to a joint venture product called ‘Ryghts’, which will monitor all levels of international piracy of Bundesliga matches.

Smart financial decisions such as this, will help the league maintain its strong reputation as football’s innovation leader.

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.

Player sentiment up, average age down: PFA releases annual report

Sentiment is well and truly up for A-League players, according to the annual Professional Footballers Australia (PFA) report.

This time last year, only 33% of A-League players felt confident about the direction of their football careers.

According to the PFA’s latest annual report, that number is now 56%.

Of the A-League’s 312 players, 200 responded to the 2020/21 A-League survey, capturing 70% of the current cohort, with the results proving that even despite the ongoing turbulence and uncertainty of COVID-19, the majority of players feel much more confident about their futures within the game.

The report highlights that Australian players actively want to remain in the A-League, as opposed to seeking opportunities overseas.

The key numbers that demonstrate this include:

  • 55% of players said they would like to stay playing in the A-League next season, up from 45% last year.
  • 56% of players are confident about the direction of their football careers, compared to 33% in 2019/20.
  • Only 4% of players would move to an overseas league even if it was for similar money and/or playing standard.
  • Only 16% of players who would prefer to move to an overseas league would only do so if the money and standards were better.

Other highlights of the report include that the average A-League player is getting younger.

Over the last 14 years, the average age of the A-League player has consistently trended upwards.

In 2020/21, however, this changed and the average age trended downwards, dropping from 27.6 to 25.1.

The number of players utilised in the A-League who were aged 21 and under came in at 107, representing 35% of the 300 players who received A-League minutes during the 2020/21 season.

The youngest squads on average belonged to Central Coast Mariners and Adelaide United, with average ages of 23.6 and 23.9 years respectively.

Another highlight was the fact that of the league’s 312 contracted players, 300 received A-League minutes.

“These reports have been immensely valuable, helping the PFA and the players better understand the industry in which they are employed, monitor the application of high-performance standards, assess technical progress and survey the players’ experience,” PFA Co-Chief Executive Beau Busch said of the report.

“For the last five years, we have been able to utilise these reports to formulate evidence-based positions to improve the environments in which our members work through collective bargaining.

“Promisingly, after a period of significant uncertainty, the players have indicated that they are more confident in the direction of their careers and the future of the competition than this time last year, signifying a positive shift in the perception of the A-League.”

The report also highlights the fact that A-League attendances were the lowest ever in the competition, thanks in large part to COVID-19, with an average attendance of 5,660.

Foreign players in the league reduced by 12 to a total of 51, whilst the average salary in the A-League is $136,791.

Access the full report HERE.

DFL and AWS introduce two new Match Facts to Bundesliga coverage

Bundesliga analysis

The Deutsche Fußball Liga (DFL) and Amazon Web Services (AWS) have announced the addition of two new Bundesliga Match Facts powered by AWS that will premiere as graphics during broadcasts and in the official Bundesliga app during the 2021-2022 season.

The two new Match Facts – Shot Efficiency and Passing Profile – will bring the total number of advanced statistics to eight, with each of them aiming to give fans deeper insights into the action on the pitch.

The first of the new advanced stats – Shot Efficiency – compares the number of goals that a player or team has scored with how many goals the player or team should have scored based on the quality of their chances.

The second – Passing Profile – provides deeper insights into the pass quality of a player or an entire team. Both of the stats are generated by gathering and analysing the match feeds from live games in real time as they are streamed into AWS.

Both new stats made their debut during Matchday 4 on the clash between German Champion FC Bayern München and the second-placed team of the previous season RB Leipzig.

The two new Match Facts will better showcase the action on the field – giving fans, coaches, players, and commentators visual support for analysing the decision-making of players and teams.

Andreas Heyden, Executive Vice President of Digital Innovations for DFL Group, was excited to further innovate the matchday experience for viewers based both domestically and internationally.

“Bundesliga Match Facts powered by AWS allows us to give fans more insight into the game of football, broadcasters more interesting stories to tell and coaches and teams, more data to excel at their game,” he said.

“Last year, the reception for Bundesliga Match Facts around the world was very positive, and we expect through ML and AI to continue to innovate on these analytics to make them even better.

“These two new stats give fans a view into player efficiency that hasn’t been achieved before, and we are just at the beginning of our relationship with AWS. I’m excited to see how technology will continue to evolve the fan experience and the game.”

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