Manchester City FC kick starts virtual stadium metaverse race
Manchester City FC, in partnership with Sony, have stated their intentions to launch virtual football stadiums to allow fans from all over the world to attend matches remotely.
The move reflects the growing significance of the metaverse and virtual spaces, as well as the emerging relationship between sports and cryptocurrencies. Over the last year there has been a growing significance placed on virtual spaces, with remote working seemingly here to stay and interest in metaverse projects on the rise.
The project will aim to create a virtual Etihad stadium that could be filled “many times over”, allowing the club to increase ticket sales and revenue following a period of financial difficulty for football clubs after the 2020 season was disrupted by covid lockdowns.
Using motion-capture technology from Hawk-Eye, a subsidiary of Sony, the club is hoping that a virtual stadium can be filled many times over to maximise fan engagement and boost revenue.
Tickets for football games, as well as tv packages, have seen large increases in recent years leaving many fans around the world priced out. A virtual stadium could have an unforeseen impact on broadcasting deals, such as the premier league’s £2 billion deal with NBC until 2028. Although pricing details for virtual tickets are yet to be announced, this proposal will make it possible for Man City to sell tickets directly to fans and sidestep broadcasters. Theoretically, the best seats in the virtual Etihad could be sold and filled several times over, leading to a more competitive market.
If virtual tickets become a reality, it could force reform for how broadcasting rights are sold, with rights currently bundled together and sold by the premier league to broadcasters.
Speaking to i, Nuria Tarre, Man City’s marketing chief said that “The whole point we could imagine of having a metaverse is you can recreate a game, you could watch the game live, you’re part of the action in a different way through different angles and you can fill the stadium as much as you want because it’s unlimited, it’s completely virtual,”
Tarre added that he believes virtual viewing will become the standard way to watch football matches in the next five to 10 years, saying that “we truly believe in the opportunity to enable fan connections globally, digitally, in a new way.”