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Technology in football: How far do clubs have left to go?

In this article on the use of technology in football, Jesper Frederiksen, VP EMEA at DocuSign (opens in new tab), looks at the areas where clubs are excelling...and where there is room for improvement.

Football is big business. The broadcaster battle for rights to Premier League matches reached new peaks as Sky Sports and BT Sport splashed out a gigantic £5.136 billion for matches from 2016 to 2019.

This makes the English Premier League the second-most lucrative sports league in the world behind the NFL, which generates £4.5 billion each season.

Industry analysts will be monitoring to see if this money trickles down to the benefit of club fans throughout the league, particularly in regards to one critical area of cost: ticket prices.

Fans have long complained of price hikes for football matches, claiming it is widening the gap between clubs and their loyal supporters. So how are these complaints handled?

Clubs getting social

A quick look at the ‘Contact Us’ page of Manchester City’s website will inform you that for fans making enquiries, use of the Twitter hashtag #mcfchelp (opens in new tab) is the means of communicating with customer service officials.

It’s interesting to see football clubs adopting a modern social communication tool in Twitter to handle customer complaints. Football, an industry long thought of as a slow adopter of modern technology, seems to be making great strides in certain areas of technological optimisation.

Vanishing spray and goal-line technology have been introduced on the pitch, and now clubs like Manchester City are recognising that other tools can be brought into the back-office to assist administration.

As a public forum, the use of Twitter to handle customer complaints encourages swift and effective responses from organisations; lack of or ineffective customer service can be identified and shared more widely and rapidly amongst other Twitter users.

Manchester City also uses the hashtag to disseminate relevant information amongst its supporters - an innovative way of reaching its audience.

Striking a sponsorship deal

It isn’t just customer service where clubs are making the most of social media.

Hull City has recently used Twitter to promote the opportunity to sponsor new striker Dame N’Doye. The message put out on the social networking site encouraged prospective sponsors to contact the commercial department and highlights another innovative means of reaching a wider target audience.

In fact, the player received sponsorship within a few hours of the update, which was similarly announced through the site.

Once again, a football club has shown how innovation and the use of modern technology can aid its business - so where are other clubs still going wrong?

Faxed off

Deadline day and the wider transfer window continues to present a headache for clubs and fans alike.

Including the 2014 summer window, during the 2014/15 season clubs spent £950m on acquiring players, easily surpassing the 2013/2014 season's record of £760m. With so much money going through on the wire, clubs are facing influxes of paper which they cannot handle.

The use of outdated technology like fax machines to process player trades is slowing down the whole process exponentially, making players miss their contact signings, managers lose their hair and for some clubs, even costing them their season.

Other industries are speeding up business processes through the use of Digital Transaction Management (DTM) technology, the cloud service designed to digitally manage document-based transactions.

The likes of Virgin Holidays and Halfords are all making the most of the digital technologies available to them for faster speed to results, lower costs, and a better transaction experience for their customers, partners, suppliers and employees.

How long until football clubs get in on the action?

Whilst clubs are innovating through technology in some areas, they are lagging years behind other sectors in certain back-office processes.

Clubs need to identify areas where they’re seeing success in business and implement the technology more widely, for other use cases.

Put simply, it’s time for clubs to ditch the fax and go digital.

Jesper Frederiksen, Okta’s GM for EMEA, spent four years prior to Okta with DocuSign, leading the company’s expansion across EMEA as VP and GM. Before that, Jesper held leadership roles at Parallels, Symantec, Google and NetIQ.