From music to transportation, from the hotel industry to commerce – in the digital age, whole industries are being disrupted by companies that use technology to deliver on customer expectations, then exceed them in a way that keeps them ahead of the competition. No one should assume football is immune from similar disruption.

Words: Jim Aylward, Media & Entertainment Advisor at The London Football Exchange


Of course, football is already undergoing a period of significant change. Digital technology and the rise of social media has seen engagement with major leagues across Europe soar – as fans across the world consume football through a range of new formats.


The sport has become truly global to the extent that a fan in Thailand can now as involved in the fortunes of their team in the Premier League as those who live in the proximity of the stadium.


But true disruption of industries usually takes the form of a technology that improves the service offered, either by pushing down prices, offering a better service, or creating a deeper bond. In fact, some of the most successful companies in existence today deliver all three.


So let’s take a look at a range of technologies changing football today, and the extent to which they are benefitting its customers – the fans.


Disruption on the field

Leading football clubs nowadays use a wide range of technologies to analyse players’ performance on the pitch. In fact, all 20 clubs in the Premier League – and many in the lower divisions – employ data analysts to make sense of this information.


But it seems the influence of analytics over football has only just begun. A group of sports scientists from the respected John Moores University in Liverpool argue the use of artificial intelligence is about to revolutionise football management and reveal the true impact of each specific player on the outcome of a game.


Just last month FIFA approved the use of Video Assistant Referees (VAR) which will see technology used to assist referees make decisions in-play, it is the biggest shake up in football’s rules for many years and is likely to lead to an intense debate about the extent to which it is improving football.


Entering the fray

The disruption to the status quo of football broadcasting in the last twenty years has unquestionably transformed the quality of British football being served up to fans.


The Premier League has become the main beneficiary of the global football broadcasting boom, with three-year television rights recently being sold for around £4.5billion to Sky and BT. Meanwhile, Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Netflix and other international media giants could be waiting in the wings for the next wave of disruption.


This has led to soaring wages for Premier League footballers, and an influx of international stars. Arguably, a better standard of football is being witnessed. And stadiums have been modernised too.


More disruption is needed

Yet in other areas not much change has occurred at all. The way that tickets are sold and distributed has barely changed for a generation. Most football clubs are outsourcing their match day and season ticketing processes to third party platforms with fees of up to 5%. At the top end the game is more plagued by touting than ever before. This is leading to ever growing disgruntlement from fans.


While fans in football stadiums have always carried significant power – with their collective support or disapproval often making or breaking the careers of managers – the real power in football has always resided with the club owners. Fans increasingly report that they feel divorced from the ownership of their club, and when they do want to get involved are excluded from meaningful engagement including realistic ways to support clubs they own through fundraising initiatives.


How technology can assist

Now new Blockchain technology could change that. The technology gives clubs a new opportunity to implement a range of initiatives that will provide better services to fans and improve levels of engagements.


This includes modernising ticketing arrangements and creating a financing infrastructure that gives fans an opportunity to have a stake in their clubs. The savings and investments this creates will allow more money to be invested in developing the football producer such as improved facilities, more youth training and savings even to be passed on to fans.