Euro 2012 is in full swing now, and while we’ve seen some exciting games already, perhaps the most remarkable thing is that it’s actually the first chance UEFA has really had to demonstrate its mobile skills at a big tournament.
After all, the last competition, Euro 2008, came to an end a fortnight before Apples’ phenomenally successful App Store for iOS launched. As the first games got underway, we went behind the scenes to see how the app came together.
If you’re a football fan and you haven’t given the official UEFA Euro 2012 app a go, give it a whirl now. It’s been designed for iPhone, iPad, Android phones and tablets, Windows Phone and BlackBerry mobiles, and is surprisingly useful whether you’re heading out to the tournament or watching from home. You can tailor alerts to specific teams, read news from each camp as well as find bars nearby showing the games.
But developing this is quite the challenge, when you’ve never really had the opportunity to create an app around such a huge sporting event before – UEFA only released Windows and Mac applications for Euro 2008.
“We saw a really good opportunity to deliver a really strong digital experience around UEFA,” explains John Constantinou, head of global sponsorships and partnerships at the Orange Group. Orange is a sponsor of the games and provided much of the IT infrastructure for UEFA in host nation Poland, and also developed the app for the championships.
Things have changed drastically in mobile in the four years since the last tournament. “Even if you go back to 2008, the last Euro, people really weren’t talking about social networking,” he says. To that end, the two organisations have tried to bake in Facebook support. You can check out the Euro Facebook stream from the app, as well as see where your friends are on a map.
But that’s not the only trend we’ve seen since then: mobile video and augmented reality have grown in tandem with smartphone usage, and UEFA and Orange have introduced these technologies as well. The latter is surprisingly well implemented: with a tap, arrows are overlayed over your phone’s camera to guide you in the direction of venues showing the game.
The mobile video’s no afterthought either. All of it is processed and broadcast straight from the International Broadcast Centre, just as the footage is for every channel airing the game around the world. Last week we were shown around the IBC, housed in a convention centre on the edge of Warsaw (No cameras allowed, sadly): it’s an enormous operation, with room after room of people hunched over monitors and AV equipment. There are 65 people on hand just to deal with any IT issues alone.
For what is essentially a first attempt, the app’s performed well. Constantinou is open about the numbers: as of last week, the figure stood at 740,000 downloads in total, although the estimates published on the Google Play Store now suggest the Android version alone has surpassed this.
Constantinou says that despite the four year wait for each tournament, UEFA were keen to embrace modern smartphone apps. “I think they understood the importance of it, we had to push them a little bit,” he says.
What’s harder to say? What the smartphone space will look like when Euro 2016 kicks off in France.