INTERVIEW: UEFA head of ICT Daniel Marion talks about providing the infrastructure to support European football and plans for Euro 2020
In three years’ time, football’s European Championships will take place in 13 cities across 13 countries.
Usually the event has one or two hosts (France held it in 2016 and Ukraine and Poland co-hosted four years prior), but Euro 2020 is to be a celebration of football across the continent.
This gives Daniel Marion, CIO at UEFA, the governing body for football in Europe, the challenge of providing the IT infrastructure that will connect cities as sparse as Dublin and Baku.
Twenty years ago, and without the advent of cloud and networking enhancements, the task would have been daunting – even if the Internet was in its infancy back then.
But UEFA does have experience. Unlike FIFA, UEFA doesn’t outsource the IT for its events to the organising committee because it needs partners every year for the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League club competitions.
And in Marion it has a CIO whose remit covers every area of the organisation.
“The job itself ranges from what I would consider standard corporate IT like the workplace to the B2B part,” he tells Silicon.
Internally, he and his team of just 100 people based in Nyon, Switzerland are responsible for every single IT service. They work with clubs, anti-doping authorities and other bodies, run event services like accreditation and ticketing, and with broadcasters and sponsors.
They also run digital platforms like the official website, applications and social media, while they also offer streaming services for broadcasters who don’t offer it themselves.
Alongside the senior European Championships, UEFA runs tournaments for various age categories, and each one is different. All might use UEFA’s Football Event ERP system, but the needs of the U-17 Championship are likely to differ from a full-blown European Championship like Euro 2016.
The European Championships are a massive event that sees thousands of additional staff hired and the scope of IT increases greatly. But Marion believes UEFA’s model is easier than that of FIFA’s because it doesn’t have to ‘reinvent the wheel’ every four years.
“Generally speaking we start planning a Euros five year before the tournament,” he explains, adding that this gives him an idea of the budget.
“Three years before we start to get our concept ready for all areas [as] IT will support activities across the board and work with the vendors. Eighteen months to a year before we start implementation as most of the IT tools are there. We enhance them as they already exist.
“The Euros are very much about infrastructure. We are building a company of 9,000 people for just six weeks. We get the stadiums a month before and we have to do all the cabling and then have to do all the logins. It sounds straight forward but t at this pace it’s not always as easy as it sounds. That’s the hardcore part.
“We build a contribution network. It’s a network in France with Orange, 100Gbps (80Gbps)network for TV signals and for the last 20Gbps has the other content. On that network we have all the equipment in the stadium. All the routers and networks are usually in with months to go and are in test mode to check for packet drops.”