UEFA showed its commitment to using innovation and technology to stay ahead of the game by inviting seven start-ups to see how their expertise can be implemented to help shape the future of football.
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As part of its drive to be at the forefront of using technology to benefit football both on and off the pitch, UEFA is determined to generate a platform to cultivate ideas and knowledge-sharing.
The aim is to tap into the wealth of innovation and ideas that exist among thousands of start-ups and small businesses across the globe in addition to the work currently being done internally.
In order to facilitate this, UEFA has been giving seven start-ups from around the world the chance to demonstrate their groundbreaking technology in order to help develop the game further for both players and fans as part of the UEFA Start-Up Challenge.
"This was the first time we've tried anything like this, and we're absolutely delighted with the outcome," said UEFA's managing director of financial sustainability and research, Andrea Traverso.
"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."
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 UEFA 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 sport. Its aim is therefore to use technology to create a culture of innovation in order to ensure that UEFA maintains its position as a forward-thinking organisation.
The challenge was launched in November 2018, with seven of the best start-ups then given the opportunity in February to look to integrate their technology into UEFA's competitions and digital channels.
The diverse group of projects chosen this year will help UEFA to create innovative solutions for a broad range of topics such as developing grassroots football and improving matchday experiences for fans at football matches.
• Second Spectrum – a state-of-the-art optical tracking and analytics platform
• Signality – a fully automated tracking data solution
• Snaptivity – which uses AI to capture live fan moments
• WSC Sports – an AI-based platform that generates customised sports highlights at scale for digital platforms
• Formalytics – pioneering ball-tracking and analysis on a mobile phone
• LiveLike – an interactive chat functionality that integrates into OTT platforms
• My Coach Sport – a digital assistant for football coaches
During the UEFA Start-Up Challenge, the seven start-ups were provided access to live UEFA events – including European Qualifiers, Youth League and Champions League matches, and the Champions League festival – as well as access to achieved insights and data to test the applicability of their innovative technologies.
By doing so, UEFA has been able to assess the ability of the start-ups to deliver in real UEFA environments and tackle identified business needs which include improving grassroots football, enhancing access to educational material for coaches and players, and increasing fan engagement, among others.
"The UEFA Start-Up Challenge was not only a fantastic opportunity to immerse yourself in a multicultural context, but also it gave us the opportunity to challenge ourselves in accelerating our own ideas," said Thomas de Pariente, director of strategy at My Coach Sport. "From well-expressed expectations, we were able to deliver within a three-month period an app fully adapted to UEFA's needs."
UEFA will now assess the performance of the start-ups during these tests along with business needs and strategic goals in order to determine the value of continuing these partnerships.