Published December 8, 2022

4 minute read

Game On: How Technology and Innovation are Revolutionizing the Sports Industry

Leagues and clubs are shifting towards direct engagement with fans through the use of technology.


Key Takeaways

  • Leagues and clubs are shifting towards direct engagement with fans through the use of technology, as opposed to relying on sponsors to do so. This has enabled clubs and leagues to collect data from fans in order to increase their share of revenues.
  • There are three ample avenues for innovation in sports: player data, ticketing/stadium access, and fan engagement. Technology can be used to develop these areas, but many clubs and leagues, due to several blockchain technologies still not reaching enough maturity and penetration.
  • Technology allows for diverse engagement between fans and clubs; for example, they can invest in their favorite player’s performance in the form of a stock market. This dynamic can help monetize partnerships with the players for the clubs, benefiting both parties rather than only the players.
  • Innovation can be applied to various aspects of a club, such as talent development and revenue generation. For example, simulation technologies can help to train players in a realistic setup, and clubs can invest in other revenue-generating activities.
    The challenge and opportunity for leagues, clubs, and investors are managing and harnessing the increasing fan data, which can be facilitated by adopting innovation and new technologies, such as blockchain, to engage with the community and provide authentic sports entertainment and information.

Football is one of the most popular sports globally, with an estimated 3.5 billion fans worldwide. As a result, it has become a multi-billion-dollar industry, with the football market value predicted to reach $22.5 billion by 2026. However, as the sport grows, so do the challenges facing it. During a recent panel discussion, football executives and industry experts explored how technology and innovation can enhance the sports experience on and off the pitch, covering topics such as Financial Fair Play, player health, and the governance of world professional football.

The panel included Federic Chesnais, Chairman and CEO of Crypto Blockchain industries, Aymeric Granet, General Manager of Royalties, Piotr Rutwoski, President of Lech Poznań, and Juan Anton de Salas, Commercial Director of Villarreal CF. The moderator for the discussion was Philippe Bruet of PB MediAs.

One of the key takeaways from the panel was that with the adoption of innovation and technologies, the role of leagues is changing. Previously, leagues sold rights to sponsors who were the link to consumers, but today clubs and leagues want to engage directly with fans and obtain their data. However, despite this, leagues and clubs remain cautious of new technology applications, with many blockchain technologies still not reaching enough maturity and penetration.

Innovation can change many processes within a club, not only in fan engagement but also in building talent through simulation technologies. Revenue-generating activities that clubs have on the side can also benefit from technology applications. The three big avenues for innovation in sports are player data, ticketing/stadium access, and fan engagement. Leagues, clubs, and investors have an opportunity to use technology to engage directly with fans so that they can have a bigger share of the revenues that currently go exclusively to individual players who have built extreme fan loyalty.

Juan Anton de Salas shared that their priority is developing talent and using innovation to improve their academy. Villarreal CF strives to have innovation in all the processes in the club, including the ceramic production company they have. It is not only the technology but also the spirit of improving and changing every day.

Piotr Rutwoski shared that their priority at Lech Poznań is strengthening and developing their younger players to gain higher value. They have invested in a simulator that can help players train in a realistic setup. There are many applications, and they hope this innovation will lead to progress.

Federic Chesnais, from an investor’s angle, highlighted three ample avenues for innovation: player data, ticketing/stadium access, and fan engagement. He stressed that there is plenty of money going on in transfers and technicalities, while player data is a significant avenue to develop. Fan engagement is a complex topic; they want to engage with fans not only before and after the game but also throughout the week.

In terms of financial fair play, the panel discussed the question of whether the richest clubs should have control over the sports rankings. Aymeric Granet pointed out that many top players today have built up a larger fan following than the clubs they play for and are therefore, able to monetize their personal brand and partnerships outside their club’s revenue streams. He suggested that one way to address this issue would be to allow fans to invest in the performance of their favorite players through a form of the stock market, with clubs taking a commission based on performance.

While this idea was met with some skepticism from Piotr Rutwoski, who questioned the potential hazards of such a stock market, the panel agreed that there is a need for more innovative approaches to financial fair play that address the changing dynamics of player loyalty and monetization.

In terms of changing the governance of professional football, the panel discussed the need for more collaboration and transparency between leagues, clubs, and governing bodies. Frederic Chesnais pointed out that blockchain technology could be particularly useful in this regard, as it allows for transparent and secure recording of transactions and data.

Juan Anton de Salas also emphasized the importance of fostering a culture of innovation and continuous improvement within football clubs and leagues. He noted that Villarreal CF had made a concerted effort to incorporate innovation into all aspects of the club’s operations, from its ceramic production company to its football academy.

He also added that innovation in stadiums and facilities has a significant impact on the health and safety of players. For example, new materials can improve the quality of the playing surface, reducing the risk of injury. Technologies such as wearable sensors can track and monitor players’ physical exertion levels, helping prevent overexertion and injuries.

Finally, the panel highlighted the many ways in which innovation and technology are driving change in the football industry, from fan engagement and talent development to revenue generation and governance. While there are challenges to adoption, such as data privacy and security concerns, the panel agreed that there is a need for more collaboration and transparency between clubs, leagues, and governing bodies to create shared standards and drive innovation forward.

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