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Beyond the Pitch: Football Innovation in Wales

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In this blog, Tom Burke, M-SParc’s Digital Innovation Manager, chronicles his recent journey across Wales to unify technology and sports with the Football Association of Wales (FAW) alongside Aled Evans, our Football Innovation Officer.

Innovating Across the Nation: My Journey with M-SParc and the FAW

In the ever-changing world of sports, staying ahead with innovation isn’t just an option; it’s essential. I’m Tom Burke, the Digital Innovation Manager, and together with Aled Evans, our Football Innovation Officer, we recently took a significant trip to Cardiff. Our mission? To strengthen the partnership between M-SParc and the Football Association of Wales (FAW). But this wasn’t your typical business trip—it turned into an exciting exchange of ideas, possibilities, and partnerships.

Cardiff Calling: A Step Toward Stronger Partnerships

Our adventure began with a meeting with Gareth Rogers, the Digital Engagement Officer at FAW. This set the tone for what was to be a fruitful collaboration. As we arrived at the Cardiff City ground, the scene was set against the backdrop of the buzz for the upcoming European qualifier between Wales and Poland. Here, Aled and I jumped headfirst into the world of football innovation with FAW.

At the Heart of Football: Discussions on Innovation

A tour around the FAW’s setup at the ground opened our eyes to the advancements in paperless ticketing through the Cymru Tickets app. But our conversation didn’t stop at ticketing; we explored how to make fan experiences more interactive during matches through the app. The idea of incorporating wearable technology came up as a promising avenue for enhancing fan engagement and providing detailed analysis of player performance.

The highlight of our trip for me was attending Wales’ Euro 2024 qualifying play-off final against Poland in Cardiff, and what a heartbreaking end to a tight game it was; to lose on penalties with the last kick.  The atmosphere was amazing and we’re very proud of our boys for doing as well as they did. After meeting the somewhat sombre staff and seeing the facillities at both Hensol and Colliers Park the following day, it’s clear there is a burning desire within FAW to not just be competing with the best in the world on the pitch, but to be leading innovators off it too.

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Aled Evans
Football Innovation Officer, M-SParc

Exploring New Opportunities Beyond the Pitch

Our journey didn’t end at the pitch. We visited the FAW Hensol site, where we discovered what the future holds for events and admired the state-of-the-art football facilities. The discussion naturally led to the VAR system, where we talked about its future, how to make it more accessible, and the idea of working with academic institutions and M-SParc tenants to adapt VAR for smaller venues, opening new doors for innovation.

A Night Filled with Passion and Performance

Experiencing the Wales vs. Poland game was a highlight. The electric atmosphere and the heartfelt singing of the national anthem truly showed the deep connection between sports and the community. Even though Wales didn’t win, the undying spirit of resilience and passion was palpable.

Morning Reflections and Looking Ahead

The next day, as we made our way back to North Wales and stopped by the FAW facility in Wrexham at Collier’s Park, we delved into the latest in training facilities. We brainstormed on integrating wearable tech and real-time player data analysis into coaching strategies. Inspired by various sports domains, we imagined a future where innovation breaks all barriers.

Esports Wales: Forging New Frontiers

Our final stop was in Rhyl for a meeting with John Jackson, CEO of Esports Wales. We discussed the ARFOR project – Esteddfod, the creation of a Welsh language league, and how to effectively manage different age groups and leagues. With a solid plan in place, we’re excited about a collaboration that aims to revolutionize the esports scene in Wales, involving key partners like Haia, M-SParc, the FAW, and Esports Wales.

Conclusion: The Journey of Innovation Continues

Looking back, our trip was a testament to the power of collaboration, innovation, and progress. From Ynys Mon to Cardiff and back via Wrexham and Rhyl, we’ve forged new partnerships and sparked an innovation flame that promises to light up the sporting scene across Wales.

We have a live event at M-SParc in conversation with the FAW, hosted by Business Wales, on April the 17th. We’d love to see you there! It will also be live-streamed on Haia. More details here.

Contact Tom

If you’d like to know more about digital innovation.

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Tom Burke

Digital Innovation Manager

tom@m-sparc.com

Tom used to work at the KFC in his hometown of Colwyn Bay before it mysteriously burned down. He then spent several years “on the lam” in East Germany, where he worked as an animator in Berlin. When the wall fell, Tom came home.

He enjoys climbing and hates ice-skating.