Revolutionising AFL fan engagement through technology

March 7, 2024

UbiCollaborate 2023 finished off with an enticing discussion led by Rob Pickering, the CIO and CTO at the AFL. Rob’s journey, transitioning from IT services to his current role, set the stage for a conversation on the evolving technological landscape within the Australian Football League. 


Navigating Rob’s Tech Realm 

The dialogue seamlessly transitions into an exploration of Rob’s multifaceted role, encompassing collaboration with clubs, management of Marvel Stadium’s technology, and ensuring the seamless functioning of IT operations. Rob sheds light on the persistent challenges of cybersecurity and emphasises the AFL’s strategic focus on cloud-based infrastructure for enhanced security and flexibility. 


Marvel Stadium’s Technology 

The conversation delves into the AFL’s technological initiatives at Marvel Stadium, unveiling fascinating advancements such as the deployment of 5G, autonomous retail experiences, and the integration of Amazon’s innovative Just Walk Out technology. Anecdotes from testing these technologies highlight their positive impact on the overall fan experience, ushering in a new era of stadium engagement. 


Future-Focused Fan-Centric Technology 

Anticipating the future, the discussion shifts to upcoming fan-centric technology, spotlighting a new Marvel Stadium app. This app, featuring augmented reality wayfinding and integrated parking features, is envisioned to create a valuable and immersive experience for fans. Rob addresses potential scepticism surrounding the app’s success, emphasising its role in enhancing the overall fan experience. 


Unique Challenges and Fan Accessibility 

Rob navigates the unique challenges of comparing AFL’s technology to iconic stadiums like SoFi in the US. Emphasising the distinctive nature of AFL’s multi-tenant, diverse events environment, the conversation transitions to fan accessibility initiatives, including the implementation of Field of Vision technology for vision-impaired attendees. 


Insightful Q&A: Score Review Cameras 

During the audience Q&A session, a spotlight is cast on the intricacies of score review cameras. Rob shares insights into the challenges inherent in score review technology in AFL, particularly the complexities involved in determining if a ball has crossed the line. This glimpse into the technological challenges underscores the AFL’s commitment to refining and enhancing the game. 


Navigating the Evolving Landscape of Fan Engagement 

Rob then pivots towards the evolving landscape of fan engagement, recognising the shift in preferences among younger generations. Discussion ensues on the challenges of connecting with fans inclined towards digital platforms, gaming, and NFTs. The overarching goal is clear – delivering personalised content to cater to the diverse preferences of the AFL’s expansive fan base. 


AFL’s Role in Fostering Community and Tradition 

The conversation broadens to encompass the AFL’s pivotal role in fostering a sense of community and tradition. The emotional connection fans have with the sport is emphasised, underlining the unique atmosphere and shared experiences associated with attending AFL games in person. 


International Expansion Efforts and Global Challenges 

Insights into the AFL’s international expansion efforts bring acknowledgment of the difficulties in growing the game globally while maintaining a strong focus on national development. The dialogue reflects on the challenges and strategic considerations involved in navigating the global sports landscape. 


Upholding Responsibility and Future Commitments 

Rob concluded by underlining his responsibility to enhance the game for current and future fans, both domestically and internationally. The discussion briefly touches on the AFL’s commitment to game development, especially in regions where Australian rules football has yet to fully penetrate.  

In essence, the journey through the AFL’s technological evolution and fan engagement efforts paints a vivid picture of a dynamic sports organisation embracing innovation while cherishing its deep-rooted connection with fans and tradition. The continuous efforts to enhance the fan experience underscore the AFL’s unwavering commitment to the game’s enduring legacy. 

Watch the full presentation