At the beginning of the soccer season, many fans of Serie A, Premier League or Bundesliga are excited for the technological improvements they appreciate in stadiums. Thanks to upcoming 5G connectivity, the Internet of Things and sensor-based solutions, advanced algorithms with predictive capabilities, augmented and virtual reality, the stadium experience has become far more vibrant, offering people many innovative services before, during and after the match.
Think of the viewing experience: although it is basically the same as the Colosseum in Rome, built almost 2,000 years ago, the use of LED technology and augmented reality is literally changing the playing field and providing a completely different way of watching the match and its players.
But the so-called ‘smart stadium’ is also a safer and more sustainable sports arena. Technology allows enhanced asset management and operational efficiency, optimized usage of electricity and water, improved security through accurate access control and video surveillance. Soccer clubs are thus looking at smart technologies as an excellent way to increase fans satisfaction and loyalty, and – why not – generate additional revenue streams.
According to Politecnico di Milano, about 15 billion euros have been invested in Europe in the last 10 years to renovate stadiums. The example to imitate are US leagues such as Nfl and Nba, which managed to transform the stadium into a highly technological and engaging experience. Just to mention one of them, the Levi’s Stadium (home of the San Francisco 49ers) leverages a Bluetooth Low Energy application to direct fans to their own seat, locate emergency exits and the nearest restroom, share real-time information and customized advertisement.
Some exciting projects are coming out in Europe too. Telco operator Telefonica is working with Real Madrid CF to install a highspeed wireless network at future Santiago Bernabeu stadium to be inaugurated next year, while FC Barcelona is kicking off 5G connectivity at Camp Nou to innovate the matchday experience.
Although investments are burdensome for some clubs, the technology-enabled business might be worth the trouble. In Italy only, Politecnico di Milano estimated a business potential of 6.2 billion euros, up to 17 billion euros by 2022.