FA appoints Cognizant as official digital partner to boost women's game

17 November 2017 Consultancy.uk

The Football Association (FA) has unveiled global technology consultancy Cognizant as its digital transformation partner. The firm will support the football governing body’s new digital engagement programme, as the FA works to up female participation in England’s national sport.

Global professional services firm Cognizant is currently rated by multiple sources as a world leader in information technology, information security, consulting, ITO and BPO services. The firm was recently announced as being in contention for the “Best DevOps Cloud Project”, “DevOps Team of the Year”, “Automic Best Use of DevOps Technology” and “Best Overall DevOps Project – Retail Sector” awards at the annual DevOps awards. The firm works to transform clients’ businesses by assisting them in the leveraging of new operating and technology models for the digital era.

Now the US headquartered group has been enlisted by the English Football Association to help the footballing institution implement a new digital engagement programme. The scheme is aimed at upping the number of girls and women taking part in the beautiful game.

The FA has endured a turbulent 2017 with regards to the women’s game, both on and off the pitch. Following a 3-0 humbling in the semi-finals of Euro 2017 by the eventual champions, the Netherlands, former head coach Mark Sampson was given his marching orders as allegations of racial discrimination levelled at him were confirmed. The claims originally levelled by Eniola Aluko had seen the 102 cap striker effectively blacklisted, as she was excluded from the England squad since 2016 – with the FA standing by Sampson until further accusations made his position untenable in Autumn this year. The Association finally took action, but not before Chairman Greg Clarke had provoked further ire by responding to an email from the players union, the Professional Footballers Association, detailing the case with “I've no idea why you are sending me this.”

Since then, Aluko has testified before the Department of Culture, Media and Sport’s Parliamentary select committee, while the FA has had to examine its internal practices, particularly relating to the female wing of English football. FA appoints Cognizant as official digital partner to boost women’s gameThe FA’s new partnership with Cognizant is central to the Association’s new engagement strategy, which seeks to embrace new digital technologies in order to help players, fans and the sport’s facilitators to get the most from their football experiences, while building for more transparent and meaningful relationships with the governing body and County Football Associations. As part of the relationship, Cognizant will develop, supply and manage new digital solutions to make it easier for people from all walks of life to get involved in the sport, while nurturing footballing communities across the nation.

The new affiliation coincides with the relaunch of the popular ‘Full-Time’ digital service for grassroots football, which will see a new mobile version rolled out. Millennials have notably divested from traditional sports engagement over recent years, and digital platforms offer a potential response to this trend. The advances in the application enabled by Cognizant are intended to provide a step change in the participant’s experience, making it easier than ever for the millions of grassroots players, their families and volunteers to find and favourite their local team via their handheld device.

'For Girls'

Notably, the FA’s improved engagement programme has also launched a ‘For Girls’ digital platform, also created with Cognizant. The mobile-first site is home to the latest news, content and information for female football fans and players of all ages – as the FA works to repair its relationship with the female side of soccer. The FA hopes the platform will aid its aim to double participation in, and support for, the women’s game, as the institution tries to grow the sport, despite a turbulent 12 months that may have put women, particularly those from Black, Asian, and minority ethnic backgrounds, off from engaging.

Clifford Burroughs, the FA’s Chief Technology and Procurement Officer, remarked, “We’re delighted to be working in partnership with Cognizant on our new digital engagement programme. We needed a partner who is a leader in the digital space and can support an organisation like The FA on this journey. The work to date has been establishing ‘For Girls’. ‘Full Time’ will evolve with additional features planned over the next few months. Both projects demonstrate our intention to work together to transform how we engage with everyone involved in football at any level.”

Santosh Thomas, President of Global Growth Markets for Cognizant, added, “We are pleased to be The Football Association’s exclusive digital transformation partner, helping encourage people from all walks of life to take part in the sport. Digital is about being able to access the content you want, when you want it, on the device of choice, all converging to provide an engaging experience. Digital technologies are now central to everything The FA does and, as the digital transformation partner, Cognizant will support The FA as it innovates and transforms, evolves its brands to foster fan loyalty, and drives growth of the sport.”

The consulting industry has been heavily involved in institutional change within global football in recent years. In late 2016, BDO were engaged by the Chinese sporting group who acquired Championship side Reading FC, providing advice on the details of the deal. Meanwhile, in 2015, FIFA sought the services of KPMG, who helmed an internal probe into the audits of the global footballing body, following allegations of massive financial irregularities and corruption. 

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