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Orange Future of

Football report

In association with the

Welcome to the Orange Future
of Football Report 2008.

This report charts key topics that Orange currently provides the
football fans, journalists and experts most comprehensive mobile
are constantly discussing as the coverage and club content
game moves towards this year’s of any operator in the UK. What’s
European Championships and into the more, we have first-hand experience
second decade of the 21st century. in providing communication solutions
for organisations such as FIFA, and
Over the next 10 pages, we chart football clubs including Manchester
expert opinion to reveal the central City FC, who we’re working with
role advances in communications will to trial a service that allows their
have on the game, benefiting players, fans to enter the stadium using
referees, managers, and fans alike. only their mobile handsets.

On behalf of Orange, I would like to This is just the start. We’ll continue to
thank The Future Laboratory for its work with the leading experts in football
expert guidance in producing this and continue to keep customers
piece of research. I would also like updated – feeding their football fix.
to thank Stage One Storyboards for
its unique snapshots of the future. Enjoy the report.

Graham Fisher
Managing Director, Orange
Research & Development

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04 Executive Summary
05 The Fan
09 The Business

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the executive

In this report, we examine how football could look in 2020 from a fan and business
perspective, as the introduction of technology changes the face of the great game.

New and emerging developments Meanwhile, the business of

for fans include: football is fast evolving too:

Holographic viewing Microchip managers

3D TV and computer-generated characters will Managers of the future will have a host of
be used to enrich the viewing experience. technological and artificial intelligence aids at
their fingertips to help make tactical decisions.
Stadium living
Being able to live in and around football grounds The 22nd-century pitch
– the ultimate display of team loyalty. Meanwhile, Robotic linesmen and referees, spotlight systems
the ultimate stadium environment could have its and intelligent pitches will look to eradicate
own mirco-climate system, using cloud seeding human error made by human officials.
to set off any heavy rainfall well before the game.
On-field communication
The interactive stadium The pitch will increasingly be a ‘live’ arena, as
New technology will allow miniature monitors at sophisticated on-field communication allows
every seat, the introduction of in-seat delivery players to connect with one another and
services of food, drink or merchandise, and become ‘active nodes’. Managers and referees
vibrating seats designed to get the crowd on will link directly to the teams as they play.
its feet. And stand by for the scented stadium.
The mobile stadium Nanotechnology will be incorporated
Those unable to make the game will be able into football apparel to help heal minor
to watch special versions on their mobile scrapes and improve shirt visibility.
phones, then upload them to their PC or games
console – and even join in the virtual action. Peak performance
Advancements and the synchronisation
Fan ownership of nutrition, technology, data and genetics
More demand in how their clubs are run, with will enable the player of the future to reach
evidence already of clubs being taken over by ultimate peak performance, way beyond
schemes such as MyFootballClub, linking up with what today’s players could ever imagine.
Blue Square Premier club Ebbsfleet United and
the setting up of FC United when Manchester Stem cell banking
United was taken over by the Glazer family. We will see gene therapy being used to treat
injuries in the future, speeding up recovery times.

Bespoke kits
Rapid prototyping technology will be used
to create boots to fit a specific player’s foot;
goalkeepers will benefit from protective suits
that prevent injury; new protective kit will be
lightweight, effective and won’t restrict movement.

Female takeover
The increased attention and attendances
of the women’s football will see the stature
of the women’s game elevated.

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The Future
of Football: The Fan

Holographic pitches, interactive super-stadiums and fractional ownership

of football clubs: all these might be part of how football will look in
2020 for the fan, as the introduction of technology changes the face
of the game. As the fan becomes all the more demanding, engaged,
knowledgeable and collaborative, clubs, players and stadiums are set
to enhance their strategies to appeal to the 21st century spectator.

In the future fans will be able to watch

live football on 3D TV screens without
needing to wear coloured glasses.

Holographic viewing Crowd generators

‘We could have scenarios in the future where no As part-time fans who leave before the end of
one goes to watch sport live, preferring instead to the game become prevalent, Graham Fisher
watch it on television,’ says Roy Jones, professor believes that we may see computer-generated
of sports technology at Loughborough University. characters appear on televised footage to
A member of our LifeSigns Network took their create the impression of full stadiums.
daughter to a football match and she couldn’t
understand why she couldn’t rewind the action, However, as football pundit and author Tom Watt
as she was used to watching football on Sky+. points out: ‘If you’re bringing up kids on televised
As there are not sufficient spaces at stadiums football, there may well be a sense that the live
to fulfil demand, clubs and broadcasters will event is not as good. The problem is if you kill the
look to creating richer viewing experiences for live event you will also kill the television event.’
fans. ‘We will watch TV in 3D in pubs, giant
screens outside stadiums and eventually in the
home, all without the need for funny coloured
glasses’ comments Graham Fisher, Managing
Director, Orange Research and Development.

 | the Orange Future of Football report 2008

Football stadiums of the future Stadium living Space grass
will become more self-sustainable, Fans will be able to live in and around football Strict hosepipe bans will mean that grass pitches
eco-friendly sports villages.
grounds as the ultimate display of loyalty, an will become expensive and untenable. We will see
honour previously reserved for groundsmen. artificial pitches replace grass because of their
As clubs move to the suburbs to find the space resistance to the elements. FieldTurf, a synthetic
for bigger grounds, they will look to rejuvenate grass – don’t dare to call it Astroturf – is made from
areas by creating villages complete with retail reused car tyres. ‘FieldTurf is designed to drain
and residential areas. Residents would never vertically so there is no surface water,’ says John
have to leave these mini-communities and Gilman, CEO of FieldTurf Tarkett. ‘In areas where
would be totally immersed in the club. water is in short supply, collectors are built into
the system and the water can be redistributed.’
Portsmouth FC is already doing this as It would also be easier to incorporate intelligent
the club moves to a site near the naval lighting systems into synthetic pitches than grass.
dockyards. The waterfront complex will
feature not only the stadium but also 1m Micro-climate systems
square feet of apartments and a public For stadiums looking to beat the weather, there
space with restaurants, cafés and shops. is always cloud seeding, which induces rainfall
by launching substances such as silver iodide or
Green response dry ice into clouds to encourage condensation.
Solar panels on the roofs of stadiums could Stadiums will be equipped with dry ice rockets to
generate electricity for the stadium itself and for set off any heavy rainfall well before the game.
surrounding buildings. Waste water could also
be collected for use throughout the community.
In a world where climate has changed drastically
due to global warming, how will football stadiums
contribute? We have already seen green
initiatives by clubs such as Manchester City
and Portsmouth (installing wind turbines and
not having parking spaces at their new ground
respectively) but this could be too little too late.

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Fans will be able to order food, The interactive stadium Fragrance house
drink and team merchandise A further generation of improvements will be Fragrances will be pumped through stadiums to
from a virtual waitress, as well as
included in new stadiums. Tom Watt can imagine excite the crowds. ‘Certain odours make us feel
watch replays of the action, all
from the comfort of their seat.
a day when there are miniature monitors all around calm and relaxed while others are stimulating,’
the ground, maybe even one per seat. Graham says Roja Dove, bespoke perfumer. ‘Spicy
Fisher predicts having a choice of camera angles fragrances such as nutmeg and black pepper
to complement each seat. ‘We could see the can create a need to be active or move.’
rise of in-seat services, with people pre-ordering
by phone food, drink or merchandise, which is The mobile stadium
delivered over broadband to their seats,’ he adds. Those unable to make the game because they
are travelling or at work will be able to watch
Standing songs special versions on their mobile phones. ‘Players
‘The sedentary nature of the crowd means the could be extracted as different coloured markers
atmosphere has suffered at some grounds,’ from camera footage,’ says Graham Fisher. ‘In
says Dr. Rogan Taylor, director of the Football the future it is not impossible that what you’ll be
Industry Group at the University of Liverpool. seeing will be an avatar-based representation
‘Even at churches people stand up to sing.’ of the game rather than a video version. From
While stadiums use technology to recreate the that point of view, you could choose where
armchair experience, they will simultaneously try you were sitting, choose your viewing angles,
to create an atmosphere with the intensity of the choose to be in your favourite stand as it used
terrace days. Architects will fit in more seats and to be when you were allowed to stand.’
decrease legroom, making standing a preferable
option, especially as spectators get taller. Other
ideas include pint-sized ‘perching posts’ or
vibrating seats which are not very comfortable.
Obviously these would stop vibrating at half time.

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Fantasy football runs and compare data with friends or other local
This rendering version of the game could be runners. They can use BiM to compete with their
saved on the phone for fans to load onto their friends despite running routes at different times.
PC or games console. They could then use the
data to play a particular character and see if Graham Fisher believes that in the future amateur
they could change how the match turned out. footballers will be able to compare their personal
‘How many people say “I could have saved that” best data with that of their football heroes. ‘Why
or “I could have scored that”?’ asks Graham shouldn’t we see amateur players comparing
Fisher. ‘It’s easy to put accelerometers in things. themselves with Premier League professionals
They have been put in phones, they can be put like Frank Lampard?’ Technology should be
in boots. You could easily work out how hard about giving incentives to people to participate
the ball was kicked, the angle it was going at, in sport. ‘I think the direction we’re moving in
and then, using 3D technology, transfer the with Wii is very positive,’ says Graham Fisher.
incident to a game.’ This level of involvement ‘Think about if you could upload what you were
into the game expands a spectators’ experience doing in real life. Data from your run could be
beyond what is currently imaginable. And uploaded to a game to strengthen the character.’
through a mobile device one can begin to see
how the 21st century fan will enjoy the ultimate Fan ownership
after-experience on-the-go and with friends. In his book Going Down: Football in Crisis, Simon
Banks writes that to supporters their club is ‘a
Home comforts historic institution firmly rooted in a community’.
Graham Fisher also believes that the technology However, the modern fan, no matter how ardent,
to make 360-degree images will become is powerless to influence the club’s decisions.
increasingly popular for those watching at When Manchester United were taken over
home. ‘People watching remotely can select by the Glazer family, against the wishes of the
their view, zoom in, pull out, each watching fans, some supporters took the initiative to set
their own personalised footage, increasing up their own team, FC United. ‘The aim of FC
the level of participation,’ he says. United was to bring back the community spirit of
football, offering those who could be financially
IMS services that allow phones to multi-task could disadvantaged the chance to follow a team
see football content become more widespread. without the burden of cost. We wanted to bring
‘The IMS service Share the Beautiful Game is a the club to the people of Manchester,’ says Vasco
sharing space that people can use in the pre-match Wackrill, a founding board member of FC United.
build up to decide where to meet and so on,’ FC United were promoted last season to the
explains Graham Fisher. ‘While at the game they Unibond League Division One. Who knows, one
can pick up the experience, statistics and chatting day we could see a United vs United cup final.
between a small group of friends.’ Services like this
will create a totally inclusive experience for fans, In too deep
but they are not simply limited to supporting their Fans want to be involved in every aspect of their
team. Sunday league players, for instance, can use club. Many supporters admire the ownership
this network of friends to organise games easily. model of FC Barcelona where the democratic
structure keeps ticket prices low. In the UK,
Close connections the MyFootballClub scheme raised £1.75m to
Fans will also use technology to develop stronger buy a football club. The 50,000 members each
links with the players on the pitch by comparing paid £35 to be part of a supporters’ trust and
their own training regimes with those of their have a say in how the club – Ebbsfleet United
favourite players. The application developer Bones – is run. We will see fans increasingly demand
In Motion (BiM) has created tools that allow runners to be more involved in the ownership of their
to use GPRS-enabled phone technology to keep clubs or threaten to withdraw their support.
track of the distance, speed and map of their

 | the Orange Future of Football report 2008

The Future
of Football:
The Business

Football governing bodies have Data salaries

tended to remain traditional, but they ‘In South African rugby union, some clubs
will come under increasing pressure are basing players’ contracts on how they
to change their stance on a range of perform objectively, using ProZone data,’ says
issues that involve fans, players and Barry McNeill, business and development
clubs. From technological ingenuity manager of ProZone. This kind of analysis will
to the reality of guaranteeing future become normal in football, as Premiership
of generations of super-player, wage bills look set to soar over the £1bn mark,
the business of football has new according to the Deloitte Annual Review of
opportunities and challenges ahead. Football Finance. Wages for squad players in
particular, who are not major transfer targets,
will be determined on performance data.
Microchip managers
Managers of the future won’t simply trust The 22nd-century pitch
their instincts, but will rely on technology and The pitch of the future will be alive with technology
artificial intelligence to make their decisions. to help referees make the right decision and
‘With cameras, you can extract an awful to keep spectators informed, including robot
lot of information, for example gait analysis, linesmen designed to spot an offside and
from quite average CCTV footage,’ says light-emitting pitches. The exact point of throw-
Graham Fisher. ‘There are intelligent CCTV ins could be worked out by radio frequency
cameras that spot unusual behaviour.’ identification (RFID) chips in the balls or even by
the camera technology described above. Spotlight
As systems such as ProZone evolve, intelligent systems similar to giant laser pointers could
cameras will make decisions on which players mark out the exact place where free kicks need
are not putting in sufficient effort – and will advise to be taken, or a circle marking out 10 yards.
their substitution. These cameras will also use
computer data built up over a player’s career Ref’s little helpers
to reach an informed decision. For example, This information could also be transmitted via
if a player tends to flag midway through the light on an intelligent pitch embedded with LEDs
game but comes up with last-minute goals and able to communicate with impact sensors in
assists, they may be allowed stay on the pitch. balls and boots. Before the game each player
The cameras could also use gait analysis to would register their boots as home or away; this
understand which players are getting angry by would mean the pitch could recognise which
noticing differences in the way they walk, and team’s player had kicked the ball in an offside
alert the manager or captain that they might decision. If players were offside the pitch would
get sent off. A supercomputer built to pick light up in the line where they were, giving the
teams based on data from ProZone, Datatrax exact spot for the free kick to be taken. Tiny
or Opta Index could match players best suited shock-measuring chips embedded in socks
to coping with the opposition. While such a and shinpads connected to the RFID chip will
system would never solely be used to pick the be able to detect impact, sending a signal to the
team, it could provide an effective back-up. referee’s watch to tell him whether there was
contact or not and exposing diving players.

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An artists impression of the 22nd Robotic linesmen ‘This will mean that players can actively contact
century pitch sees increased At the University of the Witwatersrand in South their managers via mobile devices located on their
prevalence of technology in the game: Africa, scientists have developed Aiden, a bodies’, says Richard Crane, principle researcher
robotic linesmen, LEDs in the match
computer card-playing programme that has at France Telecom Research & Development.
ball and a techno-pitch will all help
with referees’ decision making. taught itself to bluff – a human personality Team captains in particular could report on tiring
trait. ‘This demonstrates that computers players and relay information to managers to
can learn this peculiarly human behaviour by pre-empt injuries and coordinate the field.
generating strategy from play – a very human
way of learning,’ says computer scientist ‘Global positioning systems (GPS) like the
Philippe de Wilde in New Scientist. In the future, upcoming European Galileo positioning system,
robots could replace referees, using artificial will enable real time connectivity between all
intelligence to make judgements such as components of the game, and eradicate human
whether or not to play the advantage or what error. Making the wrong the decision about
level of punishment to give unruly players. offsides and the ball going out of play will cease
to exist because officials will receive accurate,
On-field communication instantaneous feedback about a player or
The pitch will increasingly be a ‘live’ arena, as ball’s unique position on the field’, says Crane.
referees, players, managers, fans, apparel, goal ‘This technology and connectivity will aid the
posts and the ball all link to each other in real time overall flow of the game, and enable officials to
via digital technologies. On-field communication make correct decision in real time, and lower
will immerse and connect players to one another the frustration of the fans’, adds Crane.
as they become ‘active nodes’ with managers and
referees linked directly to the teams as they play.

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Nanoshirts Peak performance
Nanotechnology will be incorporated into football Strength and power training will be revolutionised
apparel to help heal minor scrapes and to improve by new integrated systems which test, monitor
shirt visibility. Agion antimicrobial technology is and adapt to the individual as they train. These
already used in shoes to keep them clean and intelligent strength training systems, which will
help prevent athlete’s foot. Nanotechnology use electrical stimulation and super-fast motors
could allow shirts to be made of fabric that can instead of weights, will comprise a single unit for
destroy airborne germs and pollutants. Such each player which will initially assess the players’
fabrics have already been created by Professor metabolic and nervous system capabilities. The
Juan Hinestroza of Cornell University. system will then optimise the workout according
to the goals for the player and his current status,
‘Several leading footballers are already using taking all the guesswork out of training.
nutrient-releasing patches during play which
replace the minerals lost by the body during Performance plans
sweating,’ says Nick Barber of Umbro. ‘It Combined cryotherapy and magnetic therapy
is technically possible, through the use of chambers will cut recovery times by as much
nanotechnology, that such minerals could be as 300% facilitating much faster recovery
incorporated into the fabric of a football kit and between matches and giving the ability to train
absorbed in the same way. However, this would more often. ‘The advances in genetic and
only work if the kit was in continuous contact metabolic typing will also give rise to completely
with skin so it would have to be tight-fitting. It individualised pre-match drinks and non-invasive
would also difficult to monitor the quantities of ‘electrosonephoresis injections’ which will optimise
minerals being absorbed and there could be energy levels. Timed release nutrients will ensure
issues with allergies, so it would probably mean energy is optimised throughout a game and
each player would need their own bespoke kit.’ the concept of fatigue resulting from depleted
glycogen stored will become history’, says David
Billboard futures Reddin, a sports consultant for Catalyst and a
‘There are all sorts of light-emitting and colour- performance consultant working in football.
changing fabrics available,’ says Graham
Fisher. ‘Advertising messages could certainly be Super super game
uploaded to shirts.’ In the future, footballers’ shirts ‘The players will be genetic super-athletes covering
will scroll through advertisers, thus maximising ad up to 50% more distance than today’s players
revenue. Brands that want an exclusive advertising – up to 20km per game, speed of movement will
deal with a club will have to pay a premium. increase by 10-15% owing to advances in power
training, over-speed training and nervous system
Chameleon kits nutrition’, comments Reddin. Injuries will be almost
Light sensors incorporated into kits could adjust non-existent due to advances in gene therapy
the hue of the shirt to maximise visibility for and the ability to predict an injury before it occurs.
spectators both at the ground and at home. This Even during a game sensor technology built into a
would be especially useful for teams with green- player’s kit will measure forces and tolerances and
coloured kits or when playing in bright sunlight. allow managers to proactively manage their team.

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Stem cell banking in the form of a beanie, ‘potentially with d3o
Philip Newton, director of Lilleshall Sports protection sandwiched in between layers to
Injury Rehab, says we could see gene therapy create a solution with a low profile and minimal
being used to treat injuries in the future, weight. Footballers of the future could also be
speeding up recovery times. Footballers seen wearing base layers with protection in key
will keep their children’s umbilical cords for areas such as the elbows and shoulders. With
more than just souvenir purposes and child the reduction in injuries, players will be able to
prodigies will be having biopsies to safeguard perform to their full potential and the standard
against the future, creating a surge in stem of the game will consequently be increased.’
cell banking facilities for elite athletes.
Female takeover
Organ pets Women’s football may benefit from a backlash
Designer Elio Caccavale’s project Utility Pets to the commercialisation and cheating in the
explores xenotransplantation, the transplanting men’s game, although technically women do not
of animal organs into humans. He imagines that perform at the same level as men. The women’s
shortly after birth, people will be given piglets league was founded in the 80s. The success
with their own DNA engineered into the animals. of Arsenal Ladies last season, with four major
These pigs will become an organ bank for their trophies including the women’s UEFA Cup for
owner. Will footballers keep donor pets? In his the first time, has led to increased attention and
project, Caccavale creates objects to keep the attendances, with almost 25,000 at this year’s
pig occupied, such as a low-resolution TV or a pig FA Women’s Cup Final. With England doing well
toy which contains a microphone so the owner at the women’s World Cup it is claimed women’s
can listen to it having fun. The footballers of the football is the fastest growing sport in England.
future will be photographed leaving donor pet
shops with bags full of accessories for their pet. Women’s hour
Currently, the women in football broadcasting
Bespoke kits are pretty blondes or footballing daughters such
‘Gone are the days where you go to the shop as Kelly Dalglish or Gabby Logan (née Yorath).
and you buy a pair of boots and shinpads,’ says Will we see Luna Lampard and Lexie Gerrard in
Tom Watt. ‘It’s now like going to Savile Row the studio in 20 years’ time? The BBC’s decision
and everything is made to fit.’ Taking the idea to employ Jacqui Oatley led to mixed reactions
of personalisation even further, Sumeet Bellara, from those who couldn’t see what the fuss was
design technologist at the Institute of Materials, about, those not wanting to sound sexist and
Minerals and Mining, suggests that in the future those who felt that the commentary box was no
rapid prototyping technology (3D printers) will be place for a woman. It is interesting that some
used to create boots to fit to a specific player’s female fans are also against women in football.
foot. Inexpensive versions where just a bespoke University administrator and diehard Toffee fan
insole is created could be released to consumers. Lucy Lyons, who left an Everton flag at the top
of Mount Kilimanjaro, says: ‘I think that women
All-in-one playing football doesn’t seem right or look right.
Peter Cech may have unwittingly set a trend. The same with the commentary – women
David Baxter of Sells Goalkeeper Products commentators don’t sound right. Women should
believes that in the future, goalkeepers might stick to what they do best and that is being fans.’
wear all-in-one protective suits under their kits
plus headgear ‘covering all vulnerable areas Would it cause so much discussion if former
with no restriction to physical movement’. professional women footballers took a seat
Goalkeepers could then make better saves on the panel? Can stars such as Rachel
with any part of their body as they would be Yankey, Karen Carney or Kelly Smith, who
less injury-prone. According to Richard Palmer have played at the highest level, be the football
of d3o Lab we could see protective headwear presenters and columnists of the future.

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full time

Contributors to the report include:

Roy Jones, professor of Sports Technology, Loughborough University; Graham Fisher, Head of Orange
Research & Development; Tom Watt, BBC Radio presenter & pundit; Dr Rogan Taylor, director of The Football
In Group at The University of Liverpool; Vasco Wackrill, Board Member of FC United; Barry Mcneil, business
& development manager of Prozone; Nick Barber of Umbro; Philip Newton, director of Lilleshal Sport Injury
Rehab, Dave Reddin Sports Consultant for Catalyst and a performance consultant working in football.