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Start-up deals kick-start Uefa’s innovation drive

Liverpool players celebrate winning the Champions League (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

Football’s European governing body Uefa has signed partnerships with three media and technology start-ups and launched its own Open Innovation platform.

The start-ups – WSC Sports, Formalytics and LiveLike – were selected following the conclusion of the recent Start-Up Challenge, which was launched in January by the governing body’s Innovation Hub.

The Innovation Hub was launched last year and the Open Innovation platform gives start-ups the opportunity to submit applications online that are then considered by Uefa before the companies are potentially given the go-ahead to join the body’s acceleration programme.

However, a Uefa spokesman confirmed to SportBusiness that the body does “not take any stake or make any investment into these start-ups”.

WSC Sports creates and distributes automated highlights packages for digital platforms by using artificial intelligence, while Formalytics has produced an application that allows players of all abilities and ages to monitor and improve their footballing skills. Meanwhile LiveLike offers fans a platform to increase engagement around football matches.

Earlier this month, WSC Sports reached a deal with the Japanese Professional Football League to generate highlights clips of the country’s J.League. The Israel-based company, which claims to have doubled its customer base and revenue year-on-year over the past three years, announced that it had raised $23m (£18.9m/€20.5m) in Series C funding in August.

As a starting point, WSC Sports is creating highlights from the Uefa Champions League and Europa League that are customised for specific markets.

During its pilot phase with Uefa before signing a permanent contract, Formalytics showcased its technology at the Champions League festival in Madrid, with football legends trying out the company’s MyKicks penalty-taking app.

LiveLike is also on an upward trajectory, and last month the US virtual reality company linked up with technology provider Deltatre to create a joint solution for sports and entertainment clients.

“This is the first time that we have given start-ups the chance to become integrated into Uefa and help our organisation explore exciting new pathways,” the governing body’s director of financial sustainability and research, Andrea Traverso, said.

“We are delighted with having the opportunity to sign three start-ups, with potentially more to follow in the future. At Uefa, we need to create platforms for innovation, research and development as well as supporting the use of modern technologies and use of data in order to improve our business working model and create better engagement with our fans.”