The stadium is set to be the central hub of Manchester City in a virtual reality world which will use image analysis and skeletal-tracking technologies created by Hawk-Eye, a subsidiary of Sony.
What will it look and feel like?
City Football’s Group chief of marketing and fan engagement officer, Nuria Tarre stated, “The whole point of having a metaverse is that 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.
“But also you’re in control of what you want to be watching at that time. There’s not one broadcast point of view, you can look at it through any angle of the stadium. The sky is the limit”.
Manchester City’s club officials who are working on the project envisage a time when the club can fill a virtual Etihad Stadium several times over. Now fans who may never have previously had the opportunity to watch live matches at Etihad for real, can attend games from the comfort of their homes anywhere in the world.
City have penned a three-year deal with Sony and, though the work is still in its early stages, teams of the company’s experts have paid a visit to Etihad in order to map it digitally and create a reimagined stadium in virtual reality.
Buy virtual merch and meet your heroes
Other interesting ideas that are being explored involves fans meeting their favourite players in the metaverse, interacting with these players and purchasing products that can’t be bought (or could exist) in real life.
Tarre went on to comment, “I think the traditional image of someone sitting on a sofa, watching a screen, is something we cannot imagine is going to still be the reality. Not even in 10 years, maybe in five years’ time already. Things move much faster than we think.
“For many fans the first contact with football is actually through FIFA – that’s a video game experience. Then they actually enjoy it [and] then come to the real game. We need to be very open-minded about the opportunity this gives for the future fans.”
Tarre concluded by commending the beauty of experiencing live games in person. “We still want people to meet each other! And I think this is the beauty of live games and fans in stadiums. We saw when fans were not in stadiums [due to Covid] and the experience is not the same. You need to fake the sound almost to make it exciting. I think it’s a balance of both things that makes it exciting.”
Spanish giants, Real Madrid recently added an AR viewing option to its in-house streaming service, and Manchester City now aims to be the first football club to build a stadium within the metaverse.
Football enters a league of its own
Furthermore, if football does take off in the metaverse – and after all, why shouldn’t the world’s biggest sport be a major part of the action? – it will most likely transform the concept of broadcasting rights too.
Expert developers who are working within football and VR believe that the technology could even allow matches to be replicated in a digital form, such as how the FIFA video game looks. The capability therefore is that fans could not only watch real games played within a virtual stadium, but even take part in them in future.