The billion-dollar Smart Stadium
18 Oct 2021   ·   

Tottenham Hotspur FC has taken pioneering decisions and incorporating technology ahead of other football clubs for years. As an example, a press release that went almost unnoticed in 2018, and that today would have great prominence: is its sponsorship agreement with eToro. As other premier league teams nowadays, it accepted payment in bitcoins. That year, this cryptocurrency was just an interesting stock market value for specialized investors. Today, despite its ups and downs, it is a universally recognized asset.

Another example was adopting a monitoring system for its facilities with IoT (internet of things) technology. It checks electricity consumption constantly on matchdays, generating analysis and statistics. Based on this data, the energy supply is shifted to those stadium areas with the most specific demand.

The club was also a pioneer by stating that it could not disconnect its fans from the internet during a match when the network is already an inseparable part of everyone’s daily life.

This early-adopter profile makes Tottenham Hotspur stadium especially interesting as it is a very representative example of smart stadiums. Many of its decisions are the same that are now being made in the renovation of iconic stadiums.

One of the most significant decisions, and only possible thanks to having built it from scratch, is something that only cathedrals and music halls have had until now. The shape of the stadium facades and its indoor space are designed to work as a sounding board. A loudspeaker, which reduces excessive noise in certain areas, redistributes the sound and acts as an amplifier. The architects relied on music concert specialists, such as the consultants for the rock band U2. The result is that even with an average occupancy in the stands, the roar of the crowd creates an exciting and thrilling atmosphere.

In addition to the sound effect, the goal was to make the stadium profitable on non-match days, especially for music events. This dual use is yet to be developed, but it already hosts two annual American NFL tournaments, and recently, for the first time, it has hosted a boxing day.

The way they have created the stadium’s connectivity can also serve as a benchmark. Its infrastructure of connections, integrated into the architecture, serves for a dual purpose. It provides coverage at any point, without shaded areas. And it can be escalated as more equipment is needed for future technologies, such as 6G. No need to start from scratch.

Tottenham did not want to rely on an external partner for their network. They made the decision to own their equipment in order to grant its management to an external company, or to the club’s staff, as appropriate at any given time.

It is also an integrated infrastructure for all uses. There are 1,641 Wi-Fi access points under the stands that serve the fans’ connection; images from CCTV cameras; points of sale; 1,800 screens; and the stadium’s server core. This integration allows the fan experience’s managers to provide specific offers in real-time on matchday, direct the public to the less crowded areas, and identify which products are most popular. The stadium staff also communicates through this network, using their phones, without additional devices. And all the big data generated remains within the club and is used to improve its management.

Thanks to this extensive connection use, one of the stadium’s better-exploited points is its app. It is designed for dual use: to facilitate the attendee’s matchday and keep the relationship with the fans throughout the year. This is without depending on social media although relying on them. On match day, the fan can do everything from this application. Receive the ticket offer together with the transport offer, buy tickets and book transport to get to the stadium; buy in advance or from any point of the stands your food and drinks, and book your pick-up at the place of your choice; and receive information about the game, team, players, and development of the match. All this with cashless and contactless technologies integrated in all processes.

To keep the relationship with fans, the content generated for this app is exclusive and cannot be seen on other social networks. Content is advertised there, but the link to view it always leads to the application. The goal is to take advantage of the engagement to bring fans to their platform, thus obtaining customer usage data, which is now more relevant than ever.

Performance demonstration of the Tottenham Hotspur stadium’s app.

When the renovation works of large European football venues are completed in the next few years, we will see many characteristics like these replicated. The same experts in stadium management recommend that all of them be in the facilities, and reforms are addressed to integrate them if they do not exist. Because now that the public has evolved and understands the game as an experience from which technology cannot be taken apart: all stadiums will have to be smart. Tottenham has taken the idea to the extreme, which partly explains the total cost of £1 billion to build it. The figure is not the most important thing, though, but the management model. Just as important as the technology in a smart stadium, is the use to which it is put. And in this respect, Tottenham Hotspur remains an example to follow.


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