Premier League Champions Chelsea invited Comms Business Magazine to Stamford Bridge to see how Ericsson was going to kick off a planned match day digital transformation for fans – starting with social media experiences based on state of the art, stadium wide Wi-Fi.
From the outset, I have to declare a vested interest in this DX. A lifelong, third generation fan, I attended my first Chelsea old First Division game with my dad and uncle on 19 August 1961 to watch a 2-2 draw being played out against Nottingham Forest. As well as wanting to find out what was in store next season I actually needed very little encouragement to attend this launch.
Having had football stadium tours at half a dozen top clubs over the years – the last being the opening of the comms and press room at Arsenal’s new Emirates a few years ago I was keen to see how things were progressing. The days of press journalists fighting over land lines to call in their copy have long gone – laptops and 4G connections are the most common forms of connectivity for both reporters and photograpgers.
Chelsea has now appointed Ericsson as their ‘Connected Venue’ partner, a move that sees Ericsson designing, building and operating a carrier-grade Wi-Fi network.
In practice this initially means that free Wi-Fi coverage will be provided via the Small Cell as a Service connected venue business model. As a result, Chelsea FC will be able to provide fans throughout the stadium with a richer experience that enables them to interact digitally with each other, the club, friends and family.
In winning their fifth Premier League title in 2016/2017, Chelsea FC sold out every home match day at Stamford Bridge. Many fans used their smartphones to share photos and videos via social media, often stretching cellular networks to the limit. To ensure visitors can enjoy a seamless digital experience, Ericsson will design, build and operate a carrier-grade Wi-Fi access network and then manage it on Chelsea FC’s behalf.
Chris Townsend, Chelsea FC commercial director, says, “We look forward to a rich partnership with Ericsson which will directly assist the thousands of fans who come regularly to Stamford Bridge. Ericsson leads the way in providing innovative digital solutions and we welcome them to the Chelsea family.”
Arun Bansal, Senior Vice President, Europe & Latin America, Ericsson, says: “Our research indicates that people want to use their digital devices wherever they go – and the urge to connect is even greater at a Chelsea FC home game. Through this partnership, we will ensure the connectivity at Stamford Bridge matches the quality of the football and look forward to exploring further options that will enable Chelsea FC to take the digital experience to the next level.”
Small Cell as a Service supports service providers’ cellular go-to-market models, enables businesses to monetise Wi-Fi, provides a business case for network build-out and improves end-user experience.
Ericsson has a pedigree in this type of deployment.
In 2015, Legia Warsaw became the first football club in Europe to sign a Small Cell as a Service contract with Ericsson. In 2016, Ericsson became the connectivity partner for the Ricoh Arena stadium in Coventry, England, home to Aviva Premiership rugby team Wasps and Wasps Netball.
Through four weeks of football mania in Brazil in 2014, the Nordic World Ski Championships in Sweden in 2015, the 2016 European football tournament in France, and the 2016 summer sports event in Rio, Ericsson ensured the networks kept pace with the fans. Click here to read how we connect the most popular venues around the world.
Chelsea FC has ambitious plans for their fans digital experiences and this access network is just the start, the building blocks on which applications will be built up quickly for all match day visitors.