Sunderland AFC are a professional football club who play in League One of the English Football League.
Established in 1879 the club has a strong history having won 6 top-flight titles and winning the FA Cup twice. They have an incredibly loyal fanbase and have record breaking numbers for League One with over 32,000 fans in attendance at their home matches at The Stadium of Light.
In response to lockdown rules implemented as a result of COVID19, Sunderland AFC, were faced with the challenge of delivering live football to their loyal fan base of over 30,000 regular matchday attendees in the event of stadiums remaining closed for the new season.
Sunderland are known for having one of the largest and most loyal fan bases in the country; a band of avid supporters who represent not just a key revenue stream for the business but ongoing support and an undying love of the club. In light of the new season being around the corner Sunderland needed to act fast to develop the best possible solution to enable broadcasting and live streaming, in order to offer these loyal fans their weekly football fix and ensure their relationship with the club could be maintained. The prospect of the season starting without the ability for fans to watch their team was not an option – Sunderland felt fans had already lost so much with the behind closed doors end to the 19/20 campaign and did not want to devastate fans further by them not being able to support the club and watch as the new season kicked off.
The ability to live stream games would bring a significant and increased demand to the SAFC website, which was expected to place strain on their existing network, prompting concerns about the legacy infrastructure. Of primary concern was the availability of their online presence, quality of live video broadcasting, stream interruptions – all which could be detrimental upon fan satisfaction and ultimately brand reputation and have the potential to result in lost revenue.
COVID-19 and the strict lockdown and social distancing regulations, which were brought into effect as a result of the pandemic, necessitated that live football was paused for a 3-month period, and all stadiums were closed. When sport was allowed resume for the remainder of the 2019-20 season this was under strict guidance to be behind closed doors with no fans allowed in the stadiums. Pre-empting that this would not be a short-term restriction; the club had to quickly establish a new way of showing live weekly matches to their 23,000 season ticket holders. This would enable them to maintain a sense of connection with their loyal fans. The customer challenge was to plan and implement a new broadcasting platform, enabling season ticket holders to watch matches via live streaming. This meant using a legacy network and systems that were not designed for heightened levels of traffic at key peak times.
- Time sensitive project to ensure SAFC were ready for the new 20/21 season and to protect revenue
- Ability to support an increase of over 10x in daily website traffic
- Increased performance, capacity, and availability of underlying platform
- Ensure that complicated software licencing requirements were adhered to for compliance
- IT resilience and business continuity, performance, simplicity, and scale on demand were all key to the success of the project
“No one could have anticipated the events of 2020. It was imperative we worked with a technology partner who could move quickly with us and support our goal of ensuring our loyal season ticket holders could continue to watch live matches. M247 quickly understood the issue and what was required, implementation was straightforward, and the support received fantastic. What’s more we now have an infrastructure that is flexible and can scale with the club’s growth”
Head of Media, Sunderland Association Football Club
With a ticking clock to have live match streaming in place ready for pre-season friendly matches, the IT team at SAFC worked closely with the M247 technical, project and account teams.
The project kicked off with a range of time-sensitive requirements, that would ensure service continuity, recovery, resilience, and redundancy through the following key milestones/objectives:
- To scale up and create a future-proof system architecture
- To increase capacity of streaming on the web platform and serve 10 times more viewers daily
SAFC leveraged M247’s resilient and robust 247Cloud platform to solve the business and technical challenges they faced.
The platform brings together multiple features into an agile, converged infrastructure. Guaranteeing improved network performance, flexibility of scale and high availability for customer streaming requirements as they evolve over time
The club can now ensure that its fans can remain connected, in real time, and at full throttle, without missing any of the action!
“Our strategy software partner, Flipside, were incredibly complimentary about the M247 team. The response times, on hand support and advice that both our internal IT team and Flipside received was second to none.”
IT Manager, Sunderland Association Football Club
Results and benefits
As part of a consultative engagement, M247 spent time to assess the existing infrastructure, understand the business challenges and ensure the project and migration were carefully planned and executed. The result: a comprehensive, world class, highly available, highly performant, software defined solution, implemented quickly.
The club now has a platform that can scale as fans log in, enabling them to receive a live stream of the matches being played, and supporting the club’s ability to provide a service that meets the demands of its fan base.
- Highest levels of performance
- Instant scale to support demand
- Guaranteed availability
- Improved network redundancy
- Reduced latency during live streams
- Reduced streaming interruptions
- Satisfied fan base and increased brand reputation
SAFC successfully streamed their first match of the 2020-21 season to over 10,000 season ticket holders without any hitches or delays.
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