Sunday was a big day for the World Wide Web: AC Milan’s home game against Fiorentina became the first football match ever broadcast in the metaverse. If the Rossoneri faithful were focused on taking another step towards the Serie A title, outside of Italy, this game marked a leap towards the new frontier of a 360-degree virtual experience that claims to be the next revolution in our everyday lives.
Serie A announced the news with great pride: “We present ourselves as pioneers of a phase in history full of technological innovations that pave the way for revolutionary broadcasting possibilities, reaching and involving more and more young fans around the world,” said Luigi De Siervo, CEO of Serie A. In short, after so many international setbacks (not least failing to reach the World Cup), Italian football has been able to ride the metawave in advance, joining the (few) other innovators in the entertainment world by propositioning itself in the same way as virtual concerts, private events and everything that revolves around shopping, social life and work. So far, so futuristic. Unfortunately, the initial result was a bit of a flop.
Match at the pub, version 2.0
If we ask you to conjure up images of a football match broadcast in the metaverse, you’ll probably think of a pretty revolutionary experience: whether in terms of viewing the match, inconceivable interactivity, shots impossible to see on TV or, even more simply, the ability to travel inside the stadium in real-time, allowing virtual fans to really feel part of the event. In reality, none of this happened.
Milan-Fiorentina in the metaverse was transformed into a virtual room in which the match was streamed and accessed with an avatar, giving users the ability to interact with others by inviting them to chat or send reactions. By downloading a free NFT, you could cop some Serie A merch – which seems to indicate that virtual club scarves and shirts are around the corner. Besides that, it was basically going to the pub version 2.0, with no major technological innovations.
When will we be able to watch all the games in the metaverse?
The potential is enormous: both because the metaverse is now considered the next step in the development of global technology, and because this unexplored terrain could enable new levels of creativity. Why not combine the images of all the cameras to let the viewer choose exactly the shot they want, like a futuristic version of the A-League’s “Heskey Cam”? Or program the sensors worn by players to appear in augmented reality data, with the information updated instantaneously?
English clubs are getting in on the action. Manchester City has just hired a metaverse director (obviously), and Birmingham City has become the first EFL club to ‘enter the metaverse’, partnering with an esports company to digitally map St. Andrew’s. Spurs even offered something similar a few years ago, during the building of the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
Away from the nascent steps of English clubs, the metaverse experience from last weekend was reserved for audiences in the Middle East and North Africa, and it’ll most likely be some time before we see it in Europe – where the battle over broadcasting rights will reach its peak. Until then, there’s plenty of room for improvement in metaverse football: clubs shouldn’t worry about empty stadia just yet.
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