“Football is nothing without the fans”
For those of us who spent lockdown watching as many games as possible, we will have grown accustomed to the likes of Gary Lineker and Martin Tyler repeating this statement as if it were a mantra. It was a strange sight to see previously bouncing stadiums empty and quiet, a sight which is now hopefully behind us for good.
As fans now return to full capacity stadiums in the UK, and increased capacity across Europe, they will be expecting to see the standard technological measures in place to protect themselves and others against COVID-19.
What fans might not be expecting, however, is how this new stadium technology will be used to enhance their experience.
We’ve been facilitating this return via our Back2BigEvents platform, which is designed to integrate testing and vaccination statuses with access controls and a ticketing platform, as well as using advanced in-building navigation technology to ensure fans get to their allocated – and socially distanced – seating as quickly and efficiently as possible.
In a post-COVID world, this technology can be used to make the sometimes-scrappy experience of getting to, and into a stadium, finding your seat and then getting home easier and more pleasant. In the future this will be integrated to food and beverage ordering, hospitality and other uses, all of which will work together to both improve the fan experience, along with increasing revenues for stadium owners.
Football and data
Football as a sport has taken massive strides in its use of data over the last five years. Clubs are aware they can find bargains in the transfer market by approaching it with an analytical and statistical approach. It’s how Liverpool FC was able to see that Scottish left-back Andy Robertson, who at the time was playing for relegated Hull City, possessed tremendous talent and was being overlooked by other clubs. Managers themselves now have their specialised analysis teams that can use technology to draw live insights from players during a game, informing the halftime team talk and the post-match tactical breakdown.
As supporters have grown more accustomed to this data and the new statistics it presents - such as expected goals - there is a growing appetite among match goers to have access to these insights wherever they are watching the game. Through the use of pioneering fan engagement technology, this sort of data will soon be readily available to fans in stadiums.
The future of the stadium experience
These data insights are a frequent part of the viewing experience for those fans who can’t go to the match that day, with Sky and BT Sports commentators rattling off live statistical updates as they come in during the game. The future of fan engagement involves bringing these insights in real-time to those fans at the stadium.
NTT DATA has already enabled fans to see this kind of data at other live sporting events. The NTT DATA Wall has been a mainstay of The Open since 2014, displaying information that fans will never have had access to before, such as the angle, spin and speed of each individual shot.
Many football stadia are investing in state of the art WiFi6 and other wireless connectivity capabilities, some of which were installed to help with COVID-19 tracking measures. This new connectivity can enable live analytics to be brought to fans in stadiums through mobile applications that analyse footage in real time.
NTT DATA has previously integrated its Smart Platform into the IndyCar app which helped to significantly promote and maintain fan engagement, by displaying live analytics on driver performances on user’s mobile phones. With stadiums now armed with the new internet capabilities, these sorts of metrics can be delivered to match going football fans as they happen, making them feel like part of the manager’s analysis team sat in the dugout.
Bringing the stadium experience home
One of the joys of returning to football stadiums is the shared experience of watching a match with thousands of others. This shared stadium experience, however, no longer has to be limited to those able to attend the stadium on match day.
NTT DATA has partnered with Major League Baseball (MLB) to deliver the fan experience solution of Ultra-Reality Viewing. Based on our Kirari! technology, we can synthesize footage from multiple camera angles into super wide images in real time and then transmit them to different locations, creating a life like stadium atmosphere for the remote viewer.
The season of the empty football stadium is behind us, but the at home stadium experience will soon be here.