VR to place Premier League football fans inside grounds
Football fans from around the world could soon experience the atmosphere at the ground of their favourite Premier League club – without ever setting foot in the stadium.
That’s the aim of a Liverpool-based start-up, which is in discussions to use virtual reality technology to transport fans virtually to the stadium on matchday to sample what it’s like at Old Trafford, Etihad Stadium, White Hart Lane or Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium.
The company is run by highly-rated former BBC Sports and The Times journalist Ben Smith, who said the company was in “active discussions” with a number of Premier League clubs.
Laduma already has a partnership with Major League Soccer franchise LA Galaxy which has seen it transport fans virtually to the stadium on matchday, into the Hollywood hills and inside the home of their then star player Steven Gerrard.
It has also produced 360-degree VR content for the Wimbledon tennis championships as well as NFL giants Jacksonville Jaguars and Denver Broncos.
Smith told BusinessCloud: “The Premier League is an incredible beast of an organisation now. It would be obvious to work with those guys because there are fans all around the world who will never get the chance to go to Old Trafford or Liverpool or White Hart Lane or the Emirates.
"If you can give these fans in South East Asia and around the world the chance to sample what it’s really like to be there, why wouldn’t you?
“The Premier League struggles to monetise these fans at the moment: they might watch a game or buy a fake shirt on the black market, but that’s the extent of it.
“If you build that loyalty and sense of belonging with those fans and engage with them in a way that is hard to do on TV or via social media, you’ve got a chance of converting them into lifelong fans.
“VR can bridge that gap. And that’s a huge opportunity for every single one of those Premier League teams.”
One of its VR experiences places the user in front of the hardcore fans behind the goal at LA Galaxy’s StubHub Center. Smith would love to do something similar at Anfield.
Smith has been joined by Alex Kunawicz as its VP of strategy. He previously worked as head of content at Liverpool Football Club and at the BBC.
BusinessCloud tried out the technology and was impressed by the immersive nature of the experiences when using a smartphone-powered Samsung Gear headset.
Laduma’s content, delivered via tailored Android and iPhone apps, can also be experienced on higher-end devices such as the Oculus Rift.
“Placing someone on the Kop at Liverpool is absolutely priceless – and timeless as well,” said Smith. “When would a father not want to show a son what it’s really like, why that club’s special? Manchester United fans would say the same about the Stretford End.
“Every club has something unique that makes them special and so much of that is focused around matchday, the feeling you get when you go to the ground.
"That’s so hard to capture because television never does it justice: it doesn’t give you that spine-tingling feeling that all kids get when they see that green field for the very first time."