A-League clubs needing inspiration? Look no further than new MLS outfit LAFC, which has successfully forged a fan-driven club at a brilliant, tech-savvy boutique home stadium.
As LAFC’s chief technology officer Christian Lau tells FTBL: "Ultimately, it has everything to do with eliminating friction everywhere we can [at the stadium].
"All technology we deploy is all informed by the customer.”
This “friction” as Lau notes refers to what many fans in the A-League (and globally for that matter) have become resigned to experiencing for too long.
Queues for everything from ticketing at turnstiles to food and beverage to merchandise stands, bathrooms, and tech problems such as slow WiFI (or none at all).
This can all be par for the A-League course.
LAFC's stadium the Banc of California Stadium - or just “The Banc” - is a work of art, turning those ideas on their head.
The uber-cool, high-end home deck situated just south of downtown LA is a 22,000 all-seater with a safe standing area for the club's active fans.
“Fans say the stadium has a resort feel,” notes Lau. He’s right. And it's pimped up with the latest in tech.
The MLS outfit is finessing a ‘touch-free customer journey' with the help of its tech partners whilst also enabling a crowd intelligence platform for its operations team at the Banc.
All fortuitous timing given the pandemic shows no signs of slowing as it causes havoc with MLS games in their version of the A-League hub in Florida.
After all, who wants to line up with hundreds of other fans in close proximity even when the pandemic is over?
The MLS franchise uses digital tickets on mobile devices and is soon to roll out facial recognition with ticketing and payments as well as designated special access turnstiles for wheelchair users when fans return to the arena.
“We’ll have elevated temperatures sensors as well as a mass detection camera [similar to airports] so the turnstile will open, the temperature of the fan is taken instantly.
"We’ll need this for up to the next 24 months. It shows to the customer that we’re taking their health seriously,” Lau adds.
The Banc is also a cashless venue.
“We’re working on the mobile device and mobile ordering, the pandemic has simply sped up plans for mobile ordering.
“The priority will be mobile ordering because customers don’t want to stand on line to order,” Lau, a former US Navy Intelligence specialist who manages the implementation of technology across the MLS outfit's enterprise, adds.
IoT (Internet of Things) is another focus for LA's newest MLS operation, enabling LAFC to, for example, assist with toilet dispensers and hand sanitizer levels (AI technology alerting operations staff when the levels are getting too low).