From VAR and wearables, to AI tracking technology – it’s safe to say technology has found a home in professional football.
And while grassroots teams don’t have the budgets of major clubs, many of them have a suite of software tools and digital devices supporting their operations.
But finding the right tech is like finding the right pair of shoes – it looks different to every club. As a smaller, community club, Lewes FC can’t just purchase and apply new software tools on a whim. Every piece of technology has to be considered, and should ideally fix more than one problem or support more than one function.
In this guide, you’ll discover how the team at Lewes FC select and implement software that has a tangible benefit for staff, volunteers, fans and the footballing ecosystem.
A dynamic environment
Community football clubs can’t rest on their laurels – preparations for the next game are underway before the current match is over.
At Lewes FC, attendance numbers are impacted by various factors: who the away team are, the weather, and the day of the week. Management has to scale up or scale down resources for every match, relying on historic data and experience to determine the right level of resourcing, stock and volunteer support.
Another factor adding to this dynamic environment is finance. Players are paid weekly, so there’s almost always a pay run in progress. Budgets change every season, and funding often hinges on sponsorships and investments that clubs have to actively seek.
For these reasons, clubs can’t settle for static software. Lewes FC needs tools and devices they can customise easily and implement quickly to keep the club running.
- Digital payment tools that help fans get to their seats faster
- Ticketing software that helps the club plan match day resourcing effectively
- Accurate financial data that enables Lewes FC to set budgets, manage volunteers, and develop financial plans for future seasons
As technology becomes increasingly popular in the beautiful game, clubs need to be able to separate the fads from the fail-safe tools. Let’s explore how Lewes FC do just that.
Performing better every season
Performing well isn’t just about having the right players and a coach who can rally the team. Football clubs must perform well behind the scenes; volunteer and staff systems should be seamless and simple to adopt, fan-facing processes should ease friction and improve their match day experience.
Technology can play an integral role in improving player, staff, volunteer and fan experiences. Starting with on-pitch performance, Lewes FC uses a range of tools to deliver personalised player support.
One of these technologies is an AI-powered sports camera, Veo. The camera and supporting software is fit to help everyone from Saturday morning teams to Premier League clubs capture pro-level game footage, analyse their goals, and see how they can improve. Using AI, the cameras track movement of the ball – so you don’t need an expert cinematographer to capture a match.
As Commercial Manager at Lewes FC, Stef McLoughlin, explains: “It democratises the football world. They’re affordable, and you don’t need someone to stand with it and use it. I’ve even seen myself playing football – which is quite strange!”
Protecting the health and wellbeing of players is another aspect the club takes a tech-enabled approach to. Lewes FC use Catapult, an athlete monitoring system that tracks a player’s vitals using a wearable vest.
“We use Catapult to monitor the speed and distance players are running in both training and games. This helps us monitor their physical performance as well as prevent injury from overloading” Natalie Lawrence, Assistant Manager
And lastly, using Orreco’s female athlete programme, the club is also equipping players and coaches with menstrual-cycle specific support.
“People used to say that equality meant treating men and women equally. But it’s actually treating people in a way that they then become equal to everybody else,” Stef points out. “Our coaching team have all our players in Orreco’s coaching platform, which shows how they can use their menstrual cycle to their benefit – pushing themselves further one week, or knowing when they need to slow down.”
The impressive work Lewes FC is doing for players deserves an engaged audience. There are three stages to growing engaged fan numbers at the club, according to Fan Engagement and Community Manager at Lewes FC, Shrey Nilvarna. The first is using their ticketing software of choice – Ticket Tailor – to assess live purchasing data and apply this to match day plans.
“We can see how many people have bought tickets in a specific month, and the types of tickets the home and away fans have bought – for example, hospitality packages,” Shrey says. “These things are easy to track, and it gives us a better understanding for match day preparations.”
Part of what makes Lewes FC so unique is its fan ownership base. These fans are dedicated supporters of the club, and the team take additional steps to recognise and engage fans in a personalised way.
The club collects data from three platforms: Ticket Tailor, Memberful for fan owners, and club shop purchasing data.
“We realised there could be someone buying tickets who’s an owner, but they’re not buying merch. And we had no way of understanding our fan base and how they’re engaging with the club,” Shrey explains. “We decided to look for a data company, and Data Talks provided us with the solution we were looking for.”
But data alone doesn’t help clubs perform better. As Shrey explains, analysing and embedding that data in club practices and processes is what makes the difference.
“I can go to a fan profile, and see how they’ve interacted with the club over their entire timeline,” Shrey explains. “One of the issues we had before is that we would communicate everything to everybody. But we’ve been able to create segments, so we can invite fans to specific events.”
These integrated tools have enabled Lewes FC to make targeted improvements to fan management. Now, Shrey and the team can deliver personalised experiences for fans.
“Since partnering with Data Talks we’ve seen growth in the open rate of our emails,” Shrey shares. “And that’s crucial, because if you send generic emails there’s less chance people will open them – why would a person in another country need to know about a clubhouse event on a Wednesday evening? If you give fans specific information, you can keep them engaged.”
Building financial confidence
Community clubs need to work with smaller budgets than major teams. Reliance on sponsorship means new cash isn’t guaranteed, and income fluctuates depending on investment and fan attendance.
Budgets are also fairly short – where businesses might have operational budgets that span a few years, these change every season in a football club. Effective budgeting and expenses management is a club essential. Shrey and the team call on a suite of tools to bring about cash flow clarity and confidence.
As Shrey goes on to explain, club environments are so changeable that there are rarely two consistent weeks – let alone two consistent months. Having a live view of club finances is essential for timely decision making.
“The integration of budget and actuals has been crucial for us during the January transfer window,” Shrey explains. “With Xero, it’s so easy and seamless. We can connect our bank account, and once we’ve completed the mapping and accounting, it automatically fills in the other bits – budgets, actuals and cash flow summary. Xero makes it clear in a snapshot: this is what you have available.”
Xero has given Shrey confidence in the numbers, and this feeling has spread to the wider management team. With simple forecasts and reports, Shrey can provide the whole Lewes FC team with reliable numbers to support spending decisions.
“The club bank account is super active. And other software we use like Stripe and SumUp have daily and weekly payouts, so we need to map the flow of money consistently,” Shrey explains. “People can come to me and ask how much we have for, say, a new piece of software. And I can look at Xero and say we don’t have the budget now, but we have something in the next couple of months.”
Digital payment tools play a key role in Lewes FC’s fan-facing operations. As Shrey points out, platforms like SumUp provide an important lifeline should other systems or devices fail on match day.
“We use SumUp at the turnstiles when people walk in to buy a ticket and at the bar when people buy food and drinks. It helps us run the entire match day smoothly. If our other ticketing systems stopped working, people could still buy tickets at the gate using SumUp.”
The fan impact
The right tools and technologies help clubs deliver a better fan experience. As a fan-owned club, Lewes FC prioritises tools that are user friendly and put supporters at the forefront.
“If buying a ticket is a two minute activity rather than five, people would be happy to accept that because they can get in quickly,” Shrey explains. “You can’t just push something that people don’t like, because that would create apathetic people who are unlikely to come back again. You need to have an understanding of what your audience is saying.’’
Making football accessible to all is a critical part of Lewes FC’s ethos. The club assesses tools on their user friendliness – not just for fans, but for the staff and volunteers using them.
“When we choose software that will have a direct impact on the fans, owners and people attending games, we always look into the ease of use,” Shrey explains. “When we use SumUp on a match day, we need to make sure it’s set up in a way that our staff and volunteers can ease into the process.”
The sense of unity fans feel at a game is unmatched. The right tools and software shouldn’t detract from this engagement, but enhance it instead. Lewes FC’s approach to technology helps the club run like clockwork – and keep all eyes on the pitch.
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