Creative Soccer Culture

Man City Are Building The First Football Stadium In The Metaverse

Manchester City are set to be the first Premier League club to join the Metaverse, with news that they have signed a three year deal with Sony that will see them build a virtual Etihad Stadium.

Any of that make sense to you? Nah, us either. But looks like the Metaverse is the future, no avoiding it, so we all better get on board or risk being left behind. With that let’s delve a little deeper into what this is all about. So to start, what is the Metaverse? It’s basically a virtual reality world that you can explore as a digital avatar. Lost again? Avatar isn’t about blue creatures on a foreign planet… well it is sort of… it’s a representation of yourself on the internet or in a video game. Got that? Phew.

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Right, if you’ve seen or read ‘Ready Player One’, it’s like that, and that appears to be the future that we’re all heading for, living in a made up world where we can be whatever we want to be while our real bodies veg out in a dark and dingy room somewhere, all courtesy of Facebook, who appear to be leading the way in building this episode of Black Mirror… Anyway, if Facebook is successful, visitors to these virtual spaces will be able to work, play, learn, shop, and create, among numerous other activities, and that includes football.

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Football has never been left behind, and it appears that Manchester City are going to lead the way into the digital Metaverse, thanks to help from virtual reality experts at Sony, who are recreating the Etihad Stadium inside the metaverse, with the hopes of making it the central hub of City in the virtual reality world. Club officials working on the project envisage a time when City can fill a virtual Etihad Stadium several times over, allowing supporters who may never go to Manchester to watch live games from the comfort of their own homes anywhere in the world. Sort of on a par with when games first got televised way back.

The whole point we could imagine of having a metaverse is 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,” Nuria Tarre, City Football Group’s chief marketing and fan engagement officer, explained to media publication i.

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. That’s the sky – the limit.

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Tarre predicts that within even five years – but at least 10 – watching a live match on television in the living room will not be the most common way to experience football. “I think the traditional image of someone sitting on a sofa, watching a screen, is something we cannot imagine is going 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.

If this is the future of football, then it could have a huge impact on broadcasting rights. Currently, they are sold to broadcasters as a Premier League-wide package, but clubs are now exploring the possibility of selling rights themselves, potentially through their own metaverses.

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A scary prospect for sure, but may as well start to get used to the idea...

Daniel Jones

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