As part of its commitment to using technology and innovation to stay ahead of the game, UEFA has signed three start-ups while also launching its own Open Innovation platform in order to help shape the footballing vision of European football's governing body.
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The world is experiencing unprecedented change, bringing great opportunities for football, and UEFA is determined to maintain its position as one of the most forward -thinking organisations in regards to innovation.
Following the recent Start-Up Challenge, which was launched in January 2019 by UEFA's Innovation Hub, three start-ups have been given the opportunity to see how they can help European football's governing body shape the future of football.
The three start-ups – WSC Sports, which creates and distributes automated highlights packages for any digital platform; Honer (previously Formalytics), which has produced an app which allows players of all abilities and ages to monitor and improve their footballing skills; and LiveLike, which offers fans a platform to increase engagement around football matches – were the companies who were offered the opportunity to work with UEFA.
UEFA has different audiences around the world, who are interested in different parts of a particular match. WSC Sports has provided UEFA with the perfect technology in order to customise footage for different regions, through their automated highlight creation, which also resonates with the changing digital viewing habits of a younger audience.
"Together with UEFA, we started to ingest UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League games into our systems," said WSC Sports' Barak Jacob. "The footage was then analysed in order to automatically create highlights which are customised for specific markets.
"So actually creating Brazilian player highlights for the Brazilian market or French players highlight to the French market, and doing that in real time. So we are giving fans the ability to watch whatever they want, whenever they want, in any length they want to watch it."
'A forward-thinking organisation'
The idea behind creating a UEFA Innovation Hub is to support the UEFA Strategy, which was unveiled at the UEFA Congress in Rome earlier this year. Innovation is not just about the latest technology and the digital world; through the various schemes deployed by the Innovation Hub, UEFA sees innovation as a cultural shift to enhance and shape the sport of the future alongside our partners, leveraging our ecosystem both in and outside the industry.
Its aim is therefore to create a culture of innovation in order to ensure that UEFA can adapt to changing fans and new technologies to maintain its position as a forward-thinking organisation. In order to generate a platform to cultivate ideas and knowledge-sharing, UEFA is inviting start-ups and other organisations to get in touch in order to see how they can work alongside European football's governing body.
"This is the first time that we have given start-ups the chance to become integrated into UEFA and help our organisation explore exciting new pathways," said UEFA's director of financial sustainability and research Andrea Traverso.
"We are delighted with having the opportunity to sign three start-ups, with potentially more to follow in the future. At UEFA, we need to create platforms for innovation, research and development as well as supporting the use of modern technologies and use of data in order to improve our business working model and create better engagement with our fans. By doing this, we will be ensuring that the future of football stays healthy for our organisation and UEFA's 55 national associations."
Grassroots and participation are the bedrock of football because if people are not actively playing, then the sport will cease to exist. Honer is looking to use next generation motion tracking software and technology to help support grassroots players who only need to download an app in order to measure their core footballing capabilities and attributes simply by using a mobile phone.
During their pilot stage with UEFA before signing a permanent contract, Honer had the chance to showcase their technology at the UEFA Champions League festival in Madrid, with some football legends trying out their MyKicks penalty-taking app, which calculates the accuracy and speed of a penalty in order to give players a mark out of 1,000. To build on their successes, Andrew Hall, Honer CEO and co-founder, has big plans for the future in cooperation with UEFA.
"We came to a shared common vision with UEFA in regards to creating a real-life player card and this is what we are developing next," Hall explained.
"It is a combination of ball tracking and people tracking and any grassroots player with a mobile phone can effectively get their player card score. Our partnership with UEFA has accelerated our product and technology to become a world leader in player development and fan engagement."
UEFA's competitions are watched by hundreds of millions of people around the globe, although with changing viewer habits it is essential maintain a leading position in this field. In particular, this includes catering to millennials, who want different viewing experiences compared to the 'Baby Boomer' generation and Generation X, such as watching matches on their mobile devices, while having the chance to interact with friends and fans at the same time.
LiveLike allows for the creation of interactive, participatory live viewing experiences through its technology platform. By integrating LiveLike SDX into their digital offerings, broadcasters and organisations can increase engagement with the audiences through community-driven and gamified experiences.
This can mean viewers can create their own user-customisable interface so they can choose what they do and do not want to see. They also have the ability to set up private, group and public chats while also watching the match unfold.
"Being a part of the UEFA innovation journey gave LiveLike an inside look at the challenges and future ambitions of a global organisation such as UEFA," said Miheer Walavalkar, the CEO of LiveLike.
"Through collaborations between international associations like UEFA and companies like LiveLike, we can work towards the best possible future for fans and the sporting industry as a whole."
The UEFA Innovation Hub is constantly on the lookout for new partners in order to ensure that UEFA stays one step ahead of the latest footballing trends. UEFA invites start-ups and other organisations to get in touch at any time and apply to work with UEFA through its Open Innovation Portal.