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This article was written by Laurence Norman, VP Sports Technology at NTT DATA UK.

Throughout the pandemic, rapid technological innovations in all sectors allowed the company to continue to function. But sadly, many industries have had to shut down in an attempt to tackle the virus. The sports industry, as well as other live events and entertainment, has suffered greatly.

However, with a return to full capacity events in the UK and partial capacity in other European countries, the euphoria, passion and thrill of live sporting events is back. Once again, technology has enabled this, and it will be essential to ensure that this continues in the months to come, especially as the colder seasons approach.

From data analysis to distributed antenna systems, different technologies have helped stadiums regain their full capacity. In addition to providing vital protection against the spread of the coronavirus, they also allow sites to become more profitable and improve the fan experience.

Serve COVID-19 a red card

When the coronavirus emerged in early 2020, governments had the difficult choice of temporarily halting events in stadiums in order to slow the spread of the disease and protect the public. However, as the pandemic showed no signs of slowing down, large-scale sporting events remained closed for several months. With visits dropping from tens of thousands to zero overnight, stadiums have lost their main source of income.

Although the pandemic had a devastating impact on these sites, they were able to gradually reopen with the easing of lockdown restrictions and solve many of the different challenges of the pandemic by adopting innovative new technologies, which are now propelling them into the future. .

Before the pandemic, sports fans had to show a physical ticket to someone at the stadium entrance. Now, using a combination of digital tickets, facial recognition technology, health status information and barcode reading equipment installed at the point of entry, fans can easily verify their identity, perform key health and safety checks before leaving their homes, prove their COVID -19, and safely check sports venues without needing to contact stadium staff. This process is more efficient for the supporters and helps the stadiums to ensure a safe and secure environment for all.

Another technology that reduces human contact in stadiums, while providing key information to fans, is indoor navigation. Tracking technologies can direct fans to key points of interest around the stadium, such as entrances, exits, seats, toilets and food stalls, so they don’t get lost and come into unnecessary contact with the others by asking them their way. In a post-Covid world, this improves the fan experience, ensuring they enter the stadium at the best location, enjoy an efficient exit, and are able to find the right – and closest – facilities quickly and easily. when they are in the stadium.

In addition, data on the movements of supporters in the stadium and the people around them ensure the success of contact tracing initiatives. When stadiums use these solutions, they can help control the spread of the virus, protect supporters and avoid having to downsize or shut down again.

The back of the net for businesses

Since the start of the pandemic, stadiums have used a range of technologies to help fight COVID-19, keep fans safe and ultimately stay open. But it should be remembered that the technology is incredibly versatile and can offer huge benefits at stages long after the pandemic is over.

By leveraging tracking technology and data analytics, stadiums are able to radically transform the way they manage staff, control inventory levels, and manage crowds and on-site facilities. By analyzing the data that provides key insights in these areas, stadiums can increase efficiency, lower operating costs, increase sales, and find other areas for improvement across the site.

Stadiums are also increasingly investing in the latest Wi-Fi technologies and distributed antenna systems to improve on-site connectivity. This allows spectators to follow the game from across the stadium and allows dispersed employees to communicate more effectively with each other. At the same time, stadiums can offer new features such as digital ticketing and e-commerce opportunities through better connectivity.

However, the technology does not only offer operational and business advantages. Thanks to the latest advances in infrastructure, advanced analytics, robotics and artificial intelligence, stadiums can also make more informed decisions when it comes to creating sports strategies and tactics.

Fan engagement score

Fan engagement is one of the biggest areas stadiums can transform through the use of technology and analytics. For example, personalized feeds that provide real-time updates on matches, teams and athletes are a great way to improve interaction with fans around the world.

These systems can analyze various data points, including player metrics, rankings and averages, and turn them into interactive infographics accessible through mobile devices. This way, fans can find out what information is provided when watching at home at an in-person event and can also follow matches that they cannot attend in person up close, while still getting an experience. unique personalized.

Mobile personal news feeds are also great for spectators who have been to a stadium to watch a game, but are sitting away from the sporting action or who decide to take a toilet break or a refreshment while the game. still takes place. And, of course, stadiums can display key sports metrics on large screens for everyone in the stadium to see.

The reality is that fan engagement technology is surfacing right now. Over the next few years, advanced technologies such as holograms, AI, and drones will help create an even more immersive experience for sports fans. One day, fans will be in the comfort of their own homes and will feel like they are watching a match live in a stadium thanks to new sports technology.

It’s fair to say that the coronavirus has been an extremely difficult time for the sports sector, especially stadiums and other venues that host large crowds of spectators. But what is certain is that technology has provided a lifeline to stadiums during this difficult time and will continue to play a vital role in the industry in the future.

Laurence has been a technological leader in both consulting and industry for over 25 years. Over the past 3 years he has focused on using NTT DATA’s unique technologies to enhance the fan experience at key sports properties (related to sponsorship) and to showcase NTT as a global innovator of confidence.


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