19 Sep 2019


By Matt Stone

The UEFA Champions League Group Stage returned this week – the biggest annual football tournament in the world with elite stars playing each other in the most popular sport.

So how should the industry measure their digital footprint and engagement? What constitutes success? The classic ‘big number’ on the press release? Or something more granular, showing deeper audience trends and developments.

We’ve often heard the comment ‘we’re not into vanity metrics, we want more than the big numbers, give us something deeper,’ only for the big number requirement to hone back into view once Press Release time comes around.

The pressure to find the reductive success metric is ever-present.

UEFA’s press release this week was interesting, both for its big number lead and its method of calculation. It led with the headline:

‘Over 1 billion social media interactions record at UEFA Champions League final’.

An impressive big number, especially as it was up 110% from the year before.

The 1 billion figure took me back to 2014 when I was Head of Digital at FIFA.

With Mediacells’ expertise, we calculated the metrics for the Global Stadium – the social, online and mobile hub for fans to follow the games live and engage with friends, worldwide fans, players, coaches and celebrities.

The 2019 UEFA figure of 1.09 billion is for interactions which includes all engagements (likes, shares and comments) which were tracked across UEFA’s accounts plus crucially the teams, players and ‘various media organisations’ around the world.

Do you see the Big Number as having a promotional role? What are the most useful day-to-day metrics for digital output? Join the debate here:

So what’s the value in this figure then? It’s all publicity with media value, but the teams and players may have different partners to UEFA and governing bodies cannot monetise these external opportunities.

Mediacells works with partners on granular metrics to enable live changes to be made on the fly, adapting to the audience’s content needs as the action takes place. Engagements per post is probably the most useful in a basket of metrics. But when it comes to press release time, the attraction of the Big Number will probably never die.

Where do you stand on the question?

16 Apr 2019

Spurs’ stadium paves the way for global football

By Matt Stone

Can a fan ever be happy to be called a customer? Do they actually care about anything outside the pitch itself? Can the football business ever build something truly authentic for the devoted hardcore?

Tottenham Hotspur have taken a £1bn gamble that the answer to these questions is a resounding ‘Yes.’ On the evidence of this fan they are being proved right.

I’ve been going to White Hart Lane since 1981. We’ve had good teams, great players and years of being distinctly average. 13 different league champions have been crowned since our win in 1961 while 20 different clubs have played in an FA Cup Final since our last appearance including Millwall, Wigan, Cardiff and Portsmouth – twice!

When I started, you could stand behind one goal in the first half, then walk round and watch behind the other in the second. All-seater stadia locked you into one section. In the new Tottenham stadium the experience is almost like the old days, at least below deck. You can walk round three sides of the ground to meet friends on lower or upper levels.

Tottenham have constantly stressed the ‘fan-centric’ nature of the stadium and the attempt to upgrade rather than replace. Fans have appreciated the old ground’s aggregate being in the new floor and the location of the old centre spot has an Insta-friendly blue plaque in the new South Stand concourse. Huge pictures of former heroes and something which truly resonates – a collage of old programmes – cover the walls. The cockerel on the roof is present, albeit a scaled-up version which contains every bump and scratch from the old one – even Paul Gascoigne’s air rifle dent.

There’s an NFL pitch under the grass and larger changing rooms in the East Stand to accommodate even the biggest squads. Will the ‘event’ offering around the game be influenced by U.S. sports culture? There’s little evidence of that so far, although certainly fans are turning up early. At the City game, plastic bags were tied to seats with rubber bands to spell out the club’s motto ‘To Dare is To Do’. Hopefully fans recycled the bags and Ederson found a use for the bands that came pinging his way…

But it’s probably the beer which has created the most buzz. The Bottoms up technology can serve 10,000 pints per minute, which you would have thought would be enough, but there were reported shortages at test events. What’s unquestionably a great move is the use of the uber-local Beavertown brewery, another ‘Welcome Home’ touch.

The new stadium has data flying off it at all angles, like a Moussa Sissoko left-footer. For a start it’s cashless, which speeds things up and creates streams of data trails, while your season tickets are integrated into the app. 325m² screens fill the corners of the ground – the largest in western Europe and visible in the sunlight (unlike their ‘Jumbotron’ predecessors – state-of-the-art in the Amstrad days).

WHL lloris

Hugo Lloris applauds the 17,500 South Stand before the Champions League Quarter-Final against Manchester City

The next stage is to connect the growing fan base worldwide to the matchday experience and encourage fans inside the stadium to do more than upload pics. The free wi-fi works well and should provide the missing link to digital fan engagement. Joining the dots between over 100k members, millions on social media worldwide and even the players themselves is in its infancy. It’s clear the fans want to talk about the new home though – our research shows that stadium content gets nearly twice as many shares and 70% more comments on the Tottenham Facebook page*.

How do you measure fan engagement? Data will play an ever-increasing role, but the immediate sense of pride, belonging and pure childlike joy is so evident on fans’ faces. Three games in and Tottenham look like they’ve pulled off the holy grail – colossal commercial upturn with intense fan satisfaction. As Daniel Taylor noted in the Guardian, other stadia, particularly Old Trafford, look tired in comparison. This fan hopes that the really key part of the design process – keeping the authentic fan experience in mind – will be front and centre in any new sports build.



* Of 1068 facebook posts since the start of 2017 on the Tottenham Hotspur Facebook page, 53 messages contained the word stadium or its emoji. These messages received an average of 472 comments and 625 shares. The average for all posts was 279 comments and 331 shares.


20 Mar 2019
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