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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.

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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