This week my cousin John was sent on a mission to interview Robbie Fowler at the launch of the Liverpool FC shop on behalf or GirlyGeekdom. Knowing he is a huge Liverpool FC fan and quite into tech I thought he was the perfect person for the job. As it turns out he was one of the very first people to enjoy the brand-new Liverpool FC Superstore. Located directly outside Liverpool’s Anfield stadium, the new retail space is the latest element of the club’s on-going regeneration of Anfield and the surrounding areas. Here’s what he discovered.
Despite the new building spanning over 19,500 square feet, and the fact it is four times the size of the old club store, it doesn’t look out-of-place with Main Stand and the Kop as its back drop. Inside, technology is at the forefront of the new store’s main goal to outperform its predecessor in terms of efficiency. Alongside the 46 till points available, innovative mobile payment stations will also be introduced when needed. This will allow a flexible solution to ease the pressure of large match day crowds wishing to get their hands on the latest merchandise. It is expected that queue times will only reach 5 minutes thanks to the introduction of this technology and the increase in till numbers. Adopting contactless payments is also another feature staff are looking forward to utilising when looking to decrease queue times.
It is hoped that by giving fans a more efficient retail experience, this will give them the opportunity to dedicate more time to enjoying the various entertainment, food and atmosphere which makes the match day experience so memorable for most fans. The overall design of the store has also kept fans at the very centre. For instance, concepts such as the stadium-styled seating area and the replicated section of the players’ dressing room all add to the excitement and anticipation for fans. The seating area makes use of old seats from the original Main Stand inside Anfield allowing fans to enjoy their favourite moments displayed on an impressive 21 square metre screen inside the store. A section of the store which replicates the players’ dressing room also makes for a great selfie opportunity for fans whilst doubling up as seating for those awaiting printed shirts. Shirt printing is another improved aspect of the new store – in the previous store just 5 shirt printing machines were available! This has now increased to a capacity of 20 machines. It is estimated that waiting times will now drop from 45 minutes to just 15 minutes on average thanks to this improvement.
After a tour of the various sections of the store, I was lucky enough to enjoy a conversation with club legend, Robbie Fowler. Within seconds of meeting Robbie and introducing him to what GirlyGeekdom was all about, roles almost reversed and he began to inform me of what an exciting time it is for female sports. Not only did he express his excitement at female football, but also admitted to showing an interest in the recent success of women’s cricket and rugby.
Despite acknowledging that some of the girls were far more talented than the boys in his own football school, Robbie insisted that his role was now to help all young footballers, male or female. Although confessing that he was using a cliché answer, “practice makes perfect” was the message Robbie had for any aspiring young footballers. Eliminating the stigma and stereotypes that may have stood in the way of aspiring female footballers in the past is a key factor for Robbie. Increasing the opportunities for young people to learn and train will have a massive impact on standards along with participation levels. Robbie spoke about how the recent success England’s own female sports teams have had in recent times has made great strides to help elevate interest and increase coverage of the sports.
In contrast to Robbie’s enthusiasm for female sports, the ex-player did not share the same excitement for technology in football. The most significant technology recently introduced to football is goal line technology. This system alerts the referee as the ball crosses the goal line and has put an end to controversial close calls in this area. While Robbie accepts that this technology is a much-needed solution, he would not like to see technology interfere too much with the game. New video assistant referees or VAR systems have recently been trialled by the sport’s governing body FIFA. This would allow video replays to be used to help arrive at a verdict during a match. Robbie used this as an example of how technology could one day overshadow the game itself. For most fans, one of the most enjoyable parts of following any sport is the debates and controversy with fellow fans. There was concern from Robbie that should VAR be officially implemented, then the competitive conversations and controversial match reports which are loved by so many might no longer be required.
Overall the experience of visiting Liverpool’s new superstore provided such a prime example of the huge impact technology can have in business. It is clear that the scale of new technology in the store now will significantly increase efficiency. As the sport continues to attract large numbers of young male and female fans, there will be no shortage of customers and demand. Robbie also provided a down to earth reminder that there are some areas where efficiency and accuracy is not always an improvement. Uncertainty and excitement are two of the major appeals of all sports, not necessarily technology.