Why Manchester City were named the most innovative sports team in the world

According to a report by Sports Innovation Lab, Manchester City have been named the most innovative sports team in the world.

The research and market intelligence firm assessed worldwide sporting clubs across three different categories: technology alignment, organisational agility and revenue diversification.

Over 8,000 data sources were analysed by the firm over multiple years, as well as more than 150,000 market signals to eventually determine the final rankings.

“Our team of analysts masterfully identified patterns of success among the world’s most nimble and well-prepared sports organisations,” said Josh Walker, Sports Innovation Lab co-founder and president.

“Our ongoing daily research and guidance will help the industry in charting the journey ahead.”

Manchester City were listed above an array of sporting sides, due to various factors.

The report stated “Manchester City has had their challenges recently, but that hasn’t stopped them from taking full advantage of their global brand awareness to diversify revenue opportunities, launch their own OTT service, and expand their products and services.

“City has consistently delivered unique experiences that other teams with fewer resources and smaller audiences would be wise to emulate.”

As an example, the English club recently launched a Facebook campaign that promoted a freestyle football competition to a global audience.

City have also worked with the social media giant and its supporters to generate long-form and short-form content that extended fan participation well beyond game-day, creating a variety of non-rights protected media.

Activations like that and the partnerships they have built with companies like Nissan, take advantage of City’s larger amount of assets they have through the City Football Group (CFG).

Sports Innovation Lab scored City the highest in technology breadth, meaning it is willing to use different services and products well before other sporting sides.

For example, City were the first team to launch a channel on Youtube Kids, a platform for children aged 12 and under, whilst also developing a partnership with Capstone Games to offer fans a digital experience where they act as a football manager and make critical in-game decisions.

The club does continue to be highly praised for its varying revenue sources as well, across its operations.

“In addition to all the brand and tech alignment City uses on social platforms, it gets similarly high marks for its revenue diversification and development of the Etihad campus — a multi-use district around the stadium that gives Manchester a hub of various media and entertainment experiences. As it continues to collect first-party data from its fans globally, it will be in a prime position to deliver Fluid Fans (technologically savvy supporters) a personalised experience,” the report said.

Other notable recent activity includes the Premier League side’s deal with Onefootball to distribute global editorial content on the German based company’s app, and their exclusive content deal with Douyin, a Chinese service owned by ByteDance (the company who owns TikTok). Mumbai City’s new deal with Puma, who outfits Man City, also highlighted the power of a centralised ownership group like CFG.

Sports Innovation Lab doesn’t forecast City will dip from the top of their bracket anytime soon.

“We expect City will be hard to unseat at the top of the rankings. They have a strong tech focus that should keep them ahead of the pack,” the report concluded.

The full Sports Innovation Lab list of the 25 most innovative sporting teams are shown below.

Full list:

  1. Manchester City (Premier League)
  2. Real Madrid (La Liga)
  3. Arsenal (Premier League)
  4. Barcelona (La Liga)
  5. Bayern Munich (Bundesliga)
  6. Manchester United (Premier League)
  7. Golden State Warriors (NBA)
  8. Paris Saint-Germain (Ligue 1)
  9. Juventus (Serie A)
  10. Sacramento Kings (NBA)
  11. Liverpool (Premier League)
  12. Philadelphia 76ers (NBA)
  13. New England Patriots (NFL)
  14. Green Bay Packers (NFL)
  15. AS Roma (Serie A)
  16. Borussia Dortmund (Bundesliga)
  17. Tottenham Hotspur (Premier League)
  18. Toronto Raptors (NBA)
  19. Seattle Seahawks (NFL)
  20. Chicago Cubs (MLB)
  21. Los Angeles Clippers (NBA)
  22. San Francisco 49ers (NFL)
  23. Cleveland Cavaliers (NBA)
  24. Atlético Madrid (La Liga)
  25. Schalke 04 (Bundesliga)





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.

FC Barcelona and Ownix to create historic NFTs


LaLiga’s FC Barcelona and non-fungible token (NFT) marketplace Ownix have joined together to create unique digital assets through photos and videos, depicting iconic moments from the Club’s storied history.

With football clubs entering the world of NFTs at an increasing rate, FC Barcelona are looking to set a benchmark in the creation of these types of digital assets.

As part of this strategy, the Club has signed a new global partnership agreement with Ownix, a premium marketplace for NFTs based on the standards of the Ethereum blockchain – a platform for sharing data that cannot be manipulated or changed.

This alliance between FC Barcelona and Ownix will provide a new way for the Club to reach its followers from around the globe, as fans will now be able to acquire and own digital assets that will reproduce unforgettable moments throughout the Club’s almost 122-year history via various auctions taking place throughout the season.

The agreement between FC Barcelona and Ownix is part of the Club’s global expansion strategy and a further commitment to seek out new channels and formats to connect with new generations, while providing a different form of interaction with their fans around the world.

FC Barcelona President Joan Laporta:

“Barça has a very large fanbase around the world and is leading the way in the digital domain with over 400 million followers in social networks,” he said.

“Given this scenario, the Club is constantly looking for new ways to connect with its fans, and we believe that creating these NFTs is a unique opportunity to continue growing and consolidating the Barça brand by bringing unique moments that have made Barça fans dream and FC Barcelona a well-known club on every level.”

Ownix CEO Guy Elhanani:

“As NFTs surge, we thought it is important to give those collectors who are Barça fans an opportunity to own a piece of their Club’s history,” he said.

“This new and exciting asset class allows collectors to own things that weren’t possible to own before, and we’re thrilled to offer sports fans an opportunity to spearhead the movement. Our Mission is to bring customers to purchase NFTs, not because they are marketable, but for the pleasure and pride of owning them.”

One-on-one with Ex-Premier League Player and Melbourne Victory Goalkeeping Coach Steve Mautone

Speaking with Soccerscene, the former West Ham goalkeeper opens up on his playing career in Australia and England, his coaching stint with Melbourne Victory, why Australia consistently produces top quality goalkeepers and much more.

First of all Steve, are you currently still involved in the game in any capacity with a club, coaching or anything of that sort.

Steve Mautone: My son who is 12 years old is showing a keen interest in playing and is doing really well. I coached his team last season at Port Melbourne and it really is the most important coaching role I’ve had in my career. That’s it really, apart from running a business that is involved in football.

You obviously played many games in the NSL for a few different clubs…take me back a little bit and tell me about those playing days and how things started out for you in Australia.

Steve Mautone: I was lucky enough to have had a scholarship at the AIS, when that was the football factory in this country for a lot of juniors. I had two years on scholarship there and it was based in Canberra so we played in the NSW leagues. My first games in the NSL were with Blacktown City in the late 80’s, making my debut when I was 19. I played there and also for Paramatta Melita Eagles for a year as well, before having an injury which kept me out of the game for a while.

From there, I moved back down to Melbourne and I was picked up by the Morwell Falcons. At the time they were not in the NSL, but eventually by default the club was put into the national league and I played a couple of seasons straight there. Morwell was fantastic for me and I played fairly consistently there, which lead to South Melbourne buying me.

I had a season at South Melbourne but it didn’t go according to plan. I had stiff competition with Dean Anastasiadis and being a big club, it was very competitive. It was a good learning experience, as you always needed to win at that club.

I then moved to Canberra and played for the Cosmos in their first year in the NSL and during that time they granted me permission to trial in the UK.

My whole journey in the NSL was to try and establish myself and get some experience to go overseas, which I eventually did.

How would you describe the NSL as a competition when you were playing in it?

Steve Mautone: It wasn’t very professional. Stadiums were second rate, crowds could vary from a few hundred to a few thousand, although within the football community it was the pinnacle, the actual competition was second rate – from the media coverage, to the professionalism, the organisations, to the money.

However, in saying that, the standard I thought was pretty high for a number of reasons.

Number one they had a very good youth system, the National Youth League was a pretty good competition.

Number two having places like the AIS and other clubs that produced great players like Melbourne Croatia definitely helped and these young players were using the NSL as a catalyst to get overseas because they wanted to be professionals.

Like you said, the youth development system back then was fairly good, how would you compare the youth ranks in the NSL to the pathways these days with the A-League and so forth?

Steve Mautone: It’s hard to compare because I’m trying to compare different generations. I’m talking about the late 80’s to the mid 90’s, where the game was different and a lot tougher. You had a lot of expats from the UK coming over and they played a hard, British style of game.

In saying that, I sometimes watch old videos and you see players knocking the ball around, keeping possession and doing some good stuff technically.

There are a couple of differences overall, I think.

First of all, my generation was still probably coming off the back of immigrants. Like myself, my parents both migrated from Italy so I was a first generation Australian and a lot of kids were similar in the game. The parents had a genuine love and understanding of the game as they grew up in Europe or South America with football being the first sport. There was a big involvement, from them playing football at home, which was very important. It’s important to learn and play the game in an unstructured environment, as opposed to a structured training session all the time.

For example, I remember just kicking the ball around for hours after a Sunday morning game and because the parents loved the game they would stay around all day until the seniors played.

It’s different times now, most people coached back then not for money but because they just loved the game. Whereas now everyone goes through their licenses, badges (and rightly so, they all want to be paid to coach)- but I just think that passion was different in my era.

The other thing is, although the competition was second rate (NSL) compared to the AFL and other mainstream sports, it probably drove us all to really want to go overseas and once we got there, we had nothing to come back to.

A perfect example is Seb Pasquali – a fantastic player, a great talent. He had probably two or three years of trying to knock on the door at a really young age at a huge club in Ajax and because he didn’t make it, he had a good option to come back to the A-League, both professionally and financially. In our day, if you didn’t make it there, you wouldn’t come home because there was nothing to come home to. You’d keep trying over there and try a different level possibly and then try to get back up where you want to be.

I think overall the A-League has been fantastic for football in Australia, but it’s probably affected the standard because people can be a big fish in a little pond. Whereas in our day you couldn’t really be professional in Australia.

Moving back to your playing career, you eventually got a move to West Ham – what was your experience like in England with other clubs such as Reading that you played for?

Steve Mautone: I was 25 when I went over and it was a dream come true. I was a bit overawed going to an EPL club, but what I noticed was the work ethic I had, alongside a lot of other Australians, was like nothing else over there and the English loved that. I think it’s why a lot of Aussies did well over there.

At the time I went over, it was a transitional period for the EPL. They were going from just being the English game and English coaches and so on, to bringing in a lot of foreigners which brought a European professional influence. Big money started coming in for player’s wages in the mid 90’s, it was a really interesting time overall.

West Ham was a really good experience, I didn’t play many games but I got the opportunity to go on loan to a couple clubs. Firstly, Crewe Alexandra and then Reading, where it all seemed to click in the Championship. Reading eventually bought out my contract from West Ham and although I only played 50 odd games there, it was my home for a few years and was a great experience. I played at a couple of other clubs such as Wolves and Crystal Palace, but unfortunately injuries struck me and stopped my career from further flourishing.

Was there a mentor over there in England or in Australia who you really thrived under and enjoyed working with? What separated them from the rest that you dealt with?

Steve Mautone: I worked a fair bit with Peter Shilton, when I first went to West Ham. Just seeing his attitude towards the game, what was important to him as a goalkeeper, I really took a lot out of that.

In terms of coaches, we underestimate the Australian coaches. Ron Smith at the AIS, was probably one of my biggest influences. In terms of a technical coach, in all aspects of coaching, he was excellent. He was a real student of the game.

Harry Redknapp was a character, he was a really good man manager. He knew how to get the best out of players and create a good atmosphere at the club.

How does Australia compare to your experiences in England in regards to an emphasis on goalkeeping development – do you think we may need to focus on anything in particular or improve?

Steve Mautone: No, I actually think we can teach them a thing or two. It’s changed now, but we didn’t have a dedicated goalkeeper coach at West Ham or Reading when I played. There wasn’t a real emphasis on goalkeeper coaching in England when I was there, so I think Australia is a little bit advanced when it comes to goalkeeper coaching.

In Australia, we’ve always had great goalkeeper coaches, the likes of Jeff Olver, Ron Corry and Tony Franken just to name a few and is probably why we do so well in the goalkeeping department overall.

You moved into goalkeeper coaching with the Melbourne Victory after your playing days – what was that like and what was it like to be involved in Australian football around that period of time?

Steve Mautone: The game experienced huge growth around that time, we were getting huge crowds. I was only telling someone the other day, if we didn’t get 40,000 people to a game, we were disappointed. At the time, the love of the sport was being able to be shared by purists and families alike.

Working for Victory was a fantastic experience, they are by far the best club in the country – they did everything right. From there merchandising, membership and matchday experience…to their corporate stuff off the field.

Historically as a country we have always produced top quality goalkeepers – why do you think that is?

Steve Mautone: Generally, it doesn’t really matter where in Australia you have grown up, you are familiar with a form a football that uses your hands, whether that’s AFL, League, Union or our game. So, we’ve got those strong hand eye coordination skills and they are essentially embedded in us.

We also have strong coaches in Australia and that trend has followed through to each generation.

I also think being a goalkeeper you probably don’t need to be technically as good than your counterparts in Europe. You’ve just got to be brave, agile and physical and I think that’s why we do so well.

One final one Steve, back on a personal note, what would you regard as your biggest personal achievement in football that you really look back on fondly?

Steve Mautone: The biggest and most emotional game I’ve ever played in was my EPL debut. I remember walking off that field thinking no matter what else I achieve now no one can take away from me that I’ve played in the EPL, one of the biggest leagues in the world.

It’s something I’m really proud of, I don’t talk about it a lot, but I am extremely proud.

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