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Zeetta: The networking specialists for stadiums

As Australia and the rest of the world are hoping to allow more fans to regularly games in the future, network partners like Zeetta can shoulder the load that comes with managing 5G/WiFi connections.

Zeetta Networks offer high-quality software so that organisations can monitor, control and operate their networks in a flexible and cost-effective manner. In essence, this optimises their communication potential to fans (the customer), delivering a better experience for all.

Zeetta are a leading provider of network solutions, capable of deploying the right technology for any stadiums looking to harness the potential of mobile usage in particular, where communications from a club can be sent direct to a person’s smartphone.

Their products centre around three key pillars:

Visualise: Paints the picture of a network, giving a better indication of the condition of the network with Zeetta’s multi-vendor, multi-technology, multi-site monitoring.

Optimise: Simplifies network operations, eliminates human error and reduces time spend to create and manage network services by up to 90%, ensuring that data is not only quick but accurate.

Automate: Gives businesses the power to make network configurations in a timely manner, with fast on-demand responses able to make sure that all objectives are met.

Backed by a “service-centric” network design approach, Zeetta is versatile in their capabilities – orchestrating their service across mixed LAN, Wireless LAN and cellular LTE/5G technologies with proven distribution in stadia, multi-purpose venues, events, ports and factories.

One of the highlights among Zeetta’s case studies is the creation of a programmable stadium. Ashton Gate Stadium (AGS) – home to Bristol City FC and Bristol Bears RFC.

Regarded as the largest stadium in South-West England with a capacity of 27,000, AGS features state-of-the-art conference facilities and is a major exhibition and hospitality venue for the area.

The stadium offers more than just hosting football matches during England’s winter months, with AGS regularly holding summer concerts for major artists which allows several hundreds of thousands more fans to attend, boosting the stadium capacity to more than 34,000.

For a 24/7 multi-purpose venue that needs to cater for a variety of people, it comes with a complex network and service environment supporting sports, hospitality, conferences and large-scale events.

Upon linking up with AGS, Zeetta identified that it is a complex enterprise environment. The stadium’s public Wi-Fi network on its own is a multi-vendor network with more than 300 network elements and is designed to support crowds of high densities.

There have been a couple of access points added from two vendors located in different areas. A high-density Wi-Fi installation from Ruckus is found in the bowl, while Edgecore access points have been installed in hospitality areas and the concourse. By placing these vendors in specific areas that are easily identified, this creates a better efficiency and up to a 30% reduction in CAPEX (the costs associated with setting these connections up).

With the ability of the network to support a range of services, it can extend to electronic point-of-sale (ePOS) terminals in bars and concessions to CCTV surveillance to electronic turnstiles and IPTV distribution systems.

As mentioned before, the quantity of events on a yearly basis at AGS means that a strong and stable network like Zeetta can match the demands that come with a large number of users.

In 2018, Zeetta launched their NetOS® technology to AGS. NetOS is a software defined networking (SDN) orchestrator, based on the industry-standard OpenDaylight controller based on the Linux Foundation®. By using the SDN technology, IT teams have ultimate control of their network operations and lets them concentrate on constructing services according to what the user wants, rather than how the network presents its capabilities.

For a complex network infrastructure that AGS contains, Zeetta proved that in a large-scale demonstration of the capability and scalability of their technology, they could manage this network in a vendor-agnostic way that reduces CAPEX and OPEX, to provide a single-pane-of-glass visibility and control. Found within AGS’ network is the two populations of Wi-Fi systems, CCTV, IPTV displays and other IoT devices and sub-systems.

Zeetta’s execution of its NetOS technology to AGS delivered an intelligent network automation for a complex enterprise network to support multiple mission-critical and business-critical services running in areas of high crowd density and the applicable demand for digital connectivity, dependant on the number of visitors.

Sports stadia across the globe struggle with connectivity and real-time evaluation of data. I believe we are just scratching the surface of what this NetOS platform can deliver,” AGS chairman Martin Griffiths said.

For more information on Zeetta’s products, technologies, solutions and case studies, you can find it here.

Liam Watson is a Senior Journalist with Soccerscene. He reports widely on international football policy, industry matters and industry 4.0

W-League big winners in new CBA, as greater contract freedom for A-League clubs beckons

A new collective bargaining agreement has been struck between Professional Football Australia and the Australian Professional Leagues.

Equity in high-performance standards in the A-League and W-League, a 32% increase in the W-League salary cap floor and an increase in the A-League salary cap floor are the highlights of the new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) struck between Professional Footballers Australia (PFA) and the Australian Professional Leagues (APL).

The new five-year deal was described as “ground-breaking” by a joint statement between the two bodies, in an announcement that highlights the newfound confidence in the economic environment for professional football in Australia.

Much of that confidence can be linked to the new five-year broadcast agreement with ViacomCBS and Network 10 and it is no surprise that this new CBA has been deliberately linked in length to the broadcast deal.

PFA Co-Chief Executive Kathryn Gill explained that being able to achieve this agreement was a huge milestone for the professional game in Australia, after such a long period of uncertainty in recent years due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the end of the previous broadcasting deal with Fox Sports.

“The players’ vision for the negotiations was economic security and stability for the clubs, the leagues and the players. This agreement is a foundational step towards this objective and our leagues will be stronger as a result,” she said via the joint statement.

“It has been an incredibly challenging time for our game; however, we believe the CBA will provide a platform for our leagues to be re-launched and for a genuine partnership between the clubs and the players to be forged.

“I would like to acknowledge the work of Greg O’Rourke, Danny Townsend, Tracey Scott, Chris Pehlivanis and John Tsatsimas for their efforts and commitment during the negotiations and especially the players who participated so actively throughout.”

PFA President Alex Wilkinson noted the immense sacrifice made by many players to usher the game through the COVID-19 pandemic, which he says helped pave the way for this agreement.

“This generation of players, club owners and staff have been asked to make immense sacrifices to preserve our sport during unprecedented times,” he said.

“As a result of these sacrifices we have been able to take an important step forward and provide greater certainty for the clubs and players and make important progress in areas such as our high-performance environment, player welfare whilst further embedding our commitment to gender equity.”

Under the new CBA, genuine equity in high-performance standards in the A-League and W-League have been entrenched in order to create a “world-class workplace” for all of the country’s footballers.

This CBA will be the first to deliver common standards across higher performance and medical departments across both the W-League and the A-League.

Increases to minimum and maximum player payments are also factored in during the course of the five-year CBA with a particular focus on an increase to the W-League salary floor, providing another massive boost on the back of the recently announced expansion of the competition to also include Central Coast Mariners, Wellington Phoenix and Western United.

There will also be a reformed contracting model that allows for greater capacity in squad investment for clubs, with an allowance for up to two “Designated Player” spots, which will allow clubs to invest between $300,000 and $600,000 in players whose salaries will be excluded from the A-League salary cap.

These “Designated Players” will be in addition to the current exemptions, such as “Marquee Players”.

Furthermore, there will also be greater capacity for clubs to contract youth players with an increase in the cap on scholarship players.

The CBA also provides for guaranteed funding for player welfare and development programs, as well as greater support for the PFA Past Players Program.

APL Managing Director Danny Townsend said the deal was proof that the APL was living up to its promise of greater investment since taking control of Australia’s professional leagues.

“When APL took control of the leagues, we promised it would herald a new era of investment and this agreement shows the progress that has already been made,” he said in a statement.

“This is a clear example of what can be achieved when we work together with a common vision to realise the potential of Australian football.”

APL Leagues Commissioner Greg O’Rourke added the investments would help clubs deliver a much-improved on-field product.

“Players are partners with us in the game and central to its growth. Having all of our partners on-board with the re-imagined future of the game is vital, and this agreement marks an important milestone in our new relationship,” he said.

“There will be immediate improvements across the men’s and women’s leagues, most notably for women’s football, all of which will flow through into improved experiences for players, and ultimately into growing and improving our game.”

Carlos Salvachúa: “Playing without promotion and relegation is a big problem”

Carlos Salvachúa was Victory assistant coach under Kevin Muscat, before taking over as caretaker manager. He has coached professionally in Spain and Belgium, including six years at the Real Madrid academy, overseeing the development of the club’s rising stars.

He spoke to Soccerscene from Spain about his impressions of the A-League, where it could be improved, and how Australian youth need to play more football to reach their potential.

What were your first impressions of the A-League?

Salvachúa: Sometimes the big issue is knowing if it’s a professional league or not – and definitely the A-League was professional. I’m talking about games, organisation, talking about flights or hotels, and training. I was lucky to arrive to Melbourne Victory – one of the biggest clubs there is – and everything in the club was like in Europe and in Spain. Good facilities, good organisation, and a lots of staff in the office. For me the first impression was really professional.

What was the level of professionalism like compared to other leagues you have coached in?

Salvachúa: Belgium is a hard competition. I’m talking about the games, not about organisation – it’s similar to the A-League or in Spain in the La Liga. The competition is tough in Belgium if we compare the level of the players, the games and the competition.

After leaving Melbourne Victory, Salvachúa was Muscat’s assistant coach at Sint-Truidense V.V. in Belgium.

What were the biggest challenges you faced while coaching in Australia?

Salvachúa: One of the biggest for me was the distance to play a game. It was funny because here with Atlético versus Real Madrid they travel 15 minutes to go to sleep at home, and for Victory we spend three days away to play a game, for me this was really hard. In the Champions League we spent five days away to play a game in China or in Japan. For me and and European players as well this was hard, because it was not easy. I remember the long pre-season because the schedule of FFA Cup was really hard for us. We trained two to three months before the first game in the A-League, just to play one round in the FFA Cup.

How do you think the league could be improved?

Salvachúa: For me, playing without promotion and relegation, is a problem, a big one in my opinion for the league. You need to improve the league from the basement – you cannot start the building of the house from the roof, you must start building the house from the ground up. I’m talking about the NPL. They are tough competitions, and you need to give promotion to the A-League, and I think that the competition will be better with this system like in Europe. I think a competition without promotion and relegation is only working with the MLS in USA. In Australia I think that it would be great to create another kind of competition to improve the league.

Another thing for me that is one of the biggest issues was that sometimes the players were receptive – they are professionals about training and have a good attitude to learn, but for me as a coach sometimes the players don’t know how important it is to win – compared to a draw or a loss. Without promotion and relegation, in some games as a coach, in the second half the players don’t understand how important it is to get a win over one point. I think that is probably one of the solutions to change the model of the competition.

How would you rate the level of young talent being developed in Australia?

Salvachúa: Like in other countries, you have good players with talent at 14, 15, and 16 years of age, but in my opinion they need more games. Some players arrive to A-League at 19 years old – playing 18 to 25 games – and it’s not easiest time for the coaches to start these young players in the first 11. If they are not playing every Sunday, they need another tough competition. You need competitive games with a second team like here in Spain or with the under 18s or under 19s – it depends. I think that they need more games here. A 14 or 15 year old kid normally finishes the competition in Spain with 45 official games. 45 games is more than the professionals in the A-League. I think one of the big issues is they do not have enough games and training sessions to develop the players. But the talent is there like in other countries.

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