With Euro 2016 less than two weeks away, head of ICT Daniel Marion seems surprisingly relaxed as his team prepares for the biggest European Championship tournament of all time, which will be played out in front of an increasingly connected, content hungry and mobile audience.
One thing this audience won’t be able to get their hands on just yet is virtual reality (VR) football. Uefa first trialled recording football with VR cameras during the Champions League final in Milan over the weekend and will be testing the technology during the Euro’s this summer.
Uefa has chosen Nokia to be it’s VR partner for these tests, using their state-fo-the-art OZO cameras to record live footage. However it won’t be available to consumers yet.
The tournament will also see goal line technology by UK-firm Hawk-Eye being deployed at a major international tournament for the first time.
However, Marion says the company doesn’t require Uefa IT support for this. Hawk-Eye uses seven cameras per goal and plugs into the existing infrastructure at the stadiums to feed back to a central system which uses vision-processing techniques and software to track the ball and whether it has crossed the goal line or not.
Marion’s remit ranges from the hugely popular Uefa.com website and mobile apps, to providing toolkits for broadcasters and rights holders to push out content, stats and highlights to second screen apps.
Uefa also provides a white label offering for live streaming and mobile app providers. His team also manages the core football administration management environment (FAME) system for operations like ticketing, logistics, media and referee accreditation.
Ninety eight percent of these IT services and the undermining infrastructure resides in the cloud, through UK telecoms company Interoute.
When it comes to connectivity Uefa works with third parties, such as Orange in France, to extend 3G and 4G connectivity to stadiums and fan zones, but Marion admits this can be something of a challenge: “When it comes to fans we do provide connectivity indirectly through the mobile operators in France to maximise the public ability at stadium - when there is no public wifi - to stay connected and access internet services.
"This normally is very complicated when you have a packed piece of concrete and people wanting to use their phones so we will have to see how this plays out."
All of the venues are equipped with a 100GB connection, supplied by Orange. “Of the 100GB, TV takes ninety of that and the ten remaining is for the internet and data traffic. This is about 20 percent more than was required for 2012.”
Marion was also keen to speak about a trail Uefa is running at two venues which do have public wifi: Stade de France and Lyon, where they will trial an app which allows fans to get food delivered to their seats “in some areas of the stadium”.
Marion says that the mundane issue of staffing has been causing him the most headaches in the build up to the tournament.
"It is bigger and we have more venues, so we need more people and people are a scarce resource. Even if were look at large vendors to help the IT setup will need more than 1,000 people, maybe 1,200.”
“For all of the organisation it has been challenging to source appropriate individuals, as you need a lot of skills and experience.”
Another important part of Marion’s role is cyber security and governance.
During the tournament Uefa operates a security operations centre, which receives bulletins from French intelligence authorities as well as listening to the dark web. Marion is specifically aware of DDoS attacks and has put in place protection around this, IPS and a standard web application firewall.
“We have what we need in place to be secure today,” he said. “'One hundred percent secure' today doesn’t exist, but we have taken all of the measures we can to get as close as possible.”
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