Ajax, Arena, KNVB and Manchester City join forces to fill the stands

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The KNVB, the Johan Cruijff Arena, Ajax and the City Football Group will jointly look for the best innovations to ‘smartly’ bridge the corona period in football.

As of today, these parties, under the name ‘Football Innovation Platform’, are calling on the global business community to submit ideas as a remedy against atmospheric stadiums, forced fans staying at home or complex people flows around a football match.

Good and less good ideas

The platform will be open for the next six to eight weeks. The first experiments are already expected in mid-August (during the friendly matches cycle and at the start of the first division) or no later than September (at the Nations League and the start of the premier league).

“Recently we have been overloaded with good and less good ideas to fill stadiums again”, says Giel Kirkels, innovation manager at the KNVB.

The Etihad stadium, home of Manchester City

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“One has plans for a disinfection street next to the stadium, the other is developing a super-fast test. All kinds of solutions are also being proposed for problems,” said Kirkels.

“Because how will you disinfect 50,000 pairs of hands in the future? Or how can you ensure that you can organize stadiums as efficiently as possible with the right software? And are there scanners and cameras that can detect or rule out infections within seconds?”

Serious solutions

Henk Markerink, director of the Johan Cruijff Arena, has also seen many ideas. “We have also been overloaded in the Arena with innovative ideas from Jan and everyone in the past period. The omens are favorable and indicate that in the coming period we will find really serious solutions to the problems we encounter in this era of corona.”

Soon there will be an idea that may be worth an investment of a few tons or a million.

Giel Kirkels, innovation manager (KNVB)

At one point, the suggestion box in Zeist even bulged. Kirkels: “Some people think they have the golden egg to solve the corona crisis in football. Now it is time to look at all plans in a structured way. We want to get a good and objective picture of what is possible. Then we will review options and feasibility with experts and professional football clubs. “

“We like to be surprised,” says Kirkels. “But it is not a non-committal initiative. The aim is really to make certain clever things that help football or the atmosphere further operational in the very short term. Time is the greatest enemy in this whole.”

Etihad Stadium in Manchester

Markerink expects a lot from the platform. “Last year we made a similar call to get ideas about fan experience. About 800 people responded to this, although it should be noted that a small percentage is really usable. It did, however, trigger a lot of creativity. into an app to combat black market in ticket sales. “

Manchester City

Previously, the KNVB enviously looked at the protocols and scripts drawn up in Germany to restart professional football. The Germans explained in detail and step-by-step how a professional duel could be played safely and responsibly. “A missed opportunity for us,” said one of the board members internally.

Now that the prospect is clear – when the premier league is resumed, the public is only partially allowed, provided they keep quiet about cheering moments – the union wants to lead the way in integrating smarts that can make a world of difference in the experience of a duel or the safe influx of fans.

Innovation is a top theme for the KNVB.

Giel Kirkels, innovation manager (KNVB)

Kirkels: “Innovation is a top theme for the KNVB. We are now looking for cooperation with organizations that are at the forefront. Among others with UEFA, the French association, FC Barcelona, ​​Manchester City. Together with these parties, we want to lead take.”

“For the time being, only the City Group (of which Manchester City is part, ed.) And UEFA are part of the further Dutch core group. City is a very professional organization that applies a lot of technology to its own accommodation. They are also very far with their service to fans and online activities. “

Pot of money

In the next two months, the ‘Football Innovation Platform’ will therefore be open to ideas. Kirkels: “That does not mean that we also want to wait so long to develop. At best, there is still a good idea that we can get started with right away.”

Who will pay for the costs of all those possible innovative experiments? Kirkels: “This initiative is partly supported by UEFA, the European Regional Development Fund and supported by accountancy firm KPMG.”

“The other part must be funded by the football sector or related organizations themselves. We will look at the costs per experiment and we do not want to commit to anything.”

“Imagine, soon there will be an idea that we can fill all stadiums in September, then it might be worth an investment of a few tons or a million. Then the costs really outweigh the benefits.”


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