Football used to be a traditional, offline experience, but the emergence of mobile devices during the last decade and the availability of increasingly fast Wi-Fi and 4G Internet has transformed how players, fans and media interact, engage with and enjoy the beautiful game.
There are now more than 2.6 billion smartphone users across the globe and each and every one now has the ability to follow their favourite sports team in new and exciting ways. Before the 21st Century, football fans generally had to rely on newspapers and other offline resources to consume the latest information about their club, read match reports, browse upcoming fixtures and check league standings.
The digital age has repackaged all these essentials into intuitive mobile apps, accessible on pocketable smartphones anywhere, at any time. The next generation of mobile networks, 5G, could take small screen experiences to the next level by enabling fans to tap into virtual reality cameras for views from different vantage points in a stadium, while allowing them to access real time replays for every goal and major incident.
In terms of the live broadcasts, smartphone users now have more flexibility in how they view matches. Fans were previously constrained to living rooms and local bars, often with a cramped view of a small TV, but the recent £5.14 billion deal signed by Sky Sports and BT Sport for Premier League rights has brought live sport on the go to the masses. The BT Sport app, for example, offers live streaming and catch-up video for English and Italian matches, so football lovers never miss a goal.
Digital tech has also changed the relationship between players, teams and fans. Cristiano Ronaldo’s management group were sceptical about the ability to reach and engage with scores of people on social media 10 years ago, but the multiple Champions League winner now has more than 100 million followers on Facebook. It is now easy for every fan to read and comment on personal posts, images and videos from their favourite football stars across a variety of social platforms, on their smartphones.
Managers, such as former Inter boss Jose Mourinho, are tapping into the mobile craze by fronting games that enable fans to create and manage their own teams, while sponsored UK online slot and other casino games are delivering experiences that supplement the match day routine perfectly.
Mobile culture is now becoming more ingrained in the sport due to the staggering array of football-centric platforms, apps and games available. Serie A giants Juventus are among the elite clubs taking advantage of growing smartphone audiences by giving fans intimate glimpses behind the scenes. The current champions of Italy posted a video of Andrea Pirlo sitting near the Sydney Opera House, with a unique hashtag, and it has since been viewed almost a million times on YouTube.
Manchester United showed the importance of social media by teasing Paul Pogba’s announcement for days and unveiling it with a personalised hashtag. Milan have taken to live-streaming Press conferences and player contract signings on Facebook, ensuring the supporters get to experience these moments in real time without the filter of a reporter’s write-up.
Mobile has changed the football experience forever. Fans are now always connected and sharing their thoughts and views, so big moments, such as winning a league or cup, are that bit more special. New tech promises further exciting and engaging developments as the big game becomes even more accustomed to the small screen.