KPMG powers Ajax and City Football Group innovation programme

17 July 2020 3 min. read
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A new initiative by the Johan Cruijff ArenA, Royal Netherlands Football Association, City Football Group, and AFC Ajax is looking to tackle the challenges football faces thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic. The Reimagine Football program is powered by KPMG, and supported by UEFA Innovation Hub and co-funded by the European Fund for Regional Development.

Every industry is currently experiencing a prolonged period of uncertainty thanks to the coronavirus outbreak of 2020; even the once seemingly recession-proof world of elite level football. Due to the extremely contagious nature of the current pandemic, the international machinery of elite football has ground to a halt – something which suddenly exposed the extremely precarious financial situation of even the most lucrative organisations at the sport’s top table.

Broadcast fees had become the life-blood of the teams at the top of the game, but without new matches to screen, many broadcasters were mooting demands for a rebate of the fees they had paid for airing rights. This posed little short of an existential threat for many clubs, a large portion of whom had already spent that money – and so, in a bid to avoid financial crisis, four of Europe’s top five leagues – which commanded the largest TV revenues of the Big Five – resumed their postponed seasons behind closed doors.

Amsterdam Ajax Arena

While in the short-term, the decision to complete the 2019/20 football season in empty stadiums looks set to stave off the collapse of the finely balanced finances of a number of football clubs, however, it does not necessarily provide a sustainable long-term solution. Now, top organisations must find ways to keep their fans engaged while they cannot attend matches in person, as well as facilitated safe ways for fans, players and other personnel to interact. After all, without the universal draw of millions of fans, advertising revenues fall, and with them the fees broadcasters are willing to pay to exhibit competitive sport.

In this context, a number of leading European football institutions, including UEFA; Royal Netherlands Football Association; AFC Ajax; the Johan Cruijff ArenA; and Manchester City, Melbourne City and New York City FC owners City Football Group, have joined forces to tackle the challenges the pandemic has sprung upon football. United under the flag of ‘Football Innovation Platform’, the organisations will work with the broader football community and beyond to find solutions and best practices for the benefit of fans, players, broadcasters, clubs, venues, leagues and associations.

The first challenge the Football Innovation Platform has set its sights on is helping football to recover and grow beyond the impact of Covid-19 on football. The first initiative to this end is called Reimagine Football, and aims to source innovations globally that can contribute to mitigating the impact of Covid-19 on football. The programme, powered by consulting giant KPMG, and builds on the methodologies developed for the open innovation in football by the Football Innovation Platform members, including Change the Game by the Johan Cruijff ArenA, the City Startup Challenge by City Football Group, and the UEFA Start-Up Challenge and Open Innovation scheme.

Reimagine Football will look to trial and scale state-of-the-art concepts at facilities and across organisations all over Europe at pace. Alongside improving the experience of visitors before, during and after a match in the stadium, given the Covid-19 constraints, the Football Innovation Platform has identified three other themes in which it will be looking for smart innovations. These include finding a way to provide added value to commercial and media partners, improving operations and related security processes in order to continue to maintain a healthy and safe environment, and increasing engagement of the amateur and recreational community.