Combining technology and soccer to a next level

Becoming the next Arjen Robben or Lieke Martens might be the dream of many soccer players in the Netherlands. However, these dreams not only concern those aiming for the top, but also those who play for fun. You do not need to win an award to play sports. Ensuring that good coaching and advanced sports technology are available to all soccer players, is an important goal.

The Netherlands is well-known for its knowledge and experience in soccer, including development and training of youth players. Currently, West-China is quickly developing its sports facilities. In 2021, Xi’An will host the National Games of China and is going to build 64 sports accommodations. Chongqing, a province with more than 49 million inhabitants, is also planning several stadiums with capacities ranging from 3.000 to 60.000. All these projects need to be realized within 5 years, so it is the perfect time for a Dutch sports business mission to these regions.

One of the participating companies is TNO’s Sport and Media Technology branch. Mr. Paul Valk, Head of Sport and Media Technology, explains that “TNO is already active in China with technologies in different industries. However, we are not yet on the market with our innovative sports technologies. By participating in this mission, we expect to find the right partners to get started since there is a lot of demand for high-end technology in the sports field.”

Technology and innovation in soccer

The Dutch government actively encourages research and innovation in sport. Not only to boost performances at the elite level, but also to increase participation in sport and to promote vitality and health. This is an essential aspect for TNO, as mr. Valk emphasizes that “scalability is one of our key focuses. We want our technology to be available for everyone, so amateurs can have the same prospects as professionals.”

China is aiming to make soccer facilities widely available throughout the country. In the coming years, more than 20.000 soccer schools will be built where 30 million Chinese soccer youths should be playing. By 2020, the number of players should have grown to 50 million with an availability of 70.000 soccer fields.

Mr. Valk mentions that “for many technological sports and management equipment, now is the right time to be introduced. There is a real demand for our technology and systems. By working together with other Dutch parties, we can get the Chinese accustomed to our technology and ensure that the right infrastructure is available. For soccer, we mainly focus on video and the app through which the recorded images can be viewed. These are then combined with sensors and we can easily localize this or make it available in Chinese. Furthermore, we base ourselves on existing, proven soccer coaching formulas from for example Feyenoord.”

Working together is key

The combination of technology, knowledge and application is another important reason to come to China with a mix of companies and organizations. TNO connects other companies to deliver added value. Mr. Valk stresses that cooperation is one of the key factors for innovation and success. “Working together also ensures that different demands and requests can be fulfilled.”

In the end, mr. Valk realizes that starting on the Chinese market is a long-term process which requires time and effort. “We started our separate sport and media technology branch only a few months ago. What makes the combination of sports and technology a challenge, is the budgets. If you want to be able to provide high-end technology to a large audience, you need to find a way to keep costs low. This is of course very relevant in China and we really want to get to know potential partners during this mission. With current plans for these 64 new complexes, it is an ideal moment to get started.”