Football has become technical in more ways than one. Tech is embedded in the sport today – from software that analyses player performance and guides tactical decision-making, to goal-line technology that determines results in real-time.
With an average age of 25, most of England’s Euro 2020 squad players were born around the dot com boom of the late 90s and have grown up with the internet and tech deeply integrated into their lives. It should come as no surprise then that many of England’s stars have skin in the (beautiful) game off the pitch.
Many are investing in tech startups, promoting the latest gadgets and using breakthrough innovations to recover from injuries and increase fitness levels.
One trend has seen players ink deals with tech wellness firms, which are a natural fit for footballers who are required to recover from injuries quickly and can advertise products to their huge online audiences.
Marcus Rashford was one of several celebrities to invest in US-based massage therapy gun maker Therabody at the start of 2021. His England teammates Harry Maguire and Declan Rice have both been pictured endorsing leg compression devices, with the former using a ProMOTION EV1 powered by a bespoke smartphone app that captures data to help physios programme suitable treatments on-the-fly.
Having been signed on lucrative contracts, footballers are ideal angel investors – and companies have clamoured for England’s stars’ image rights as well as their money. A case in point, Harry Kane, Harry Maguire and Phil Foden made ‘substantial’ investments into Northern Ireland-based performance analytics provider STATSports earlier this year, joining Raheem Sterling who backed the company in 2019.
It is because of that company’s GPS tracking tech that Three Lions boss Gareth Southgate knows that Sterling can run at speeds of up to 34.97kph – about the same as Cristiano Ronaldo but short of Marcus Rashford’s blistering 36.32kph.
The stage is set at Wembley for England’s semi-final clash with Denmark
Tech at the top
Southgate’s tendency to use technology for a competitive advantage fits the entrepreneurial players like an IoT-sensor-equipped glove.
Ahead of the tournament, Southgate collaborated with STATSports analysts in Newry to whittle England’s squad down from 33 to 26 players – no mean feat considering its enviable strength and depth.
And, on the touchline, the former ‘lucky waistcoat’-donning coach has been spotted wearing Hublot’s Big Bang e UEFA Euro 2020 watch. Powered by Google’s Wearable OS software, the £4,800 timepiece displays information such as carded players, substitutions and penalties and goals awarded, along with players’ rankings and their field position.
Supporting local business
In addition to aiming for global superstardom, England’s players have shown a passion for supporting their local communities.
Everton forward Dominic Calvert-Lewin became a brand ambassador for Sheffield-based esports startup Semper Fortis Esports PLC, which operates a professional Rocket League esports team and develops digital tools that contribute to industry standards, in the lead up to the Euros.
Chelsea’s breakthrough star Mason Mount, who apparently has a penchant for playing Fortnite, advertised a gaming PC for Portsmouth-based Novatech in his earlier playing days.
While he may not have seen any action on the pitch, England’s backup goalkeeper Sam Johnstone recently beta-tested and invested in an app designed to help tradespeople agree job specifications and budgets with their customers before starting work. Developed by Chorley-based Kiistone, it releases payments when stages of the work are completed and was used by the West Bromwich Albion shot-stopper to undertake a major refurbishment of his family home.
Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson also showed charitable tendencies by heading up an initiative called #PlayersTogether, which saw Premier League players donate their shirts to be raffled on ebay, raising £4m for the NHS near the start of the pandemic.
Gareth Southgate and his England players will need to once again tap into every benefit that tech has afforded them if they are to break their semi-final hoodoo against Denmark at Wembley tonight. They’ve already supported tech companies both at home and away, and should they succeed on the pitch, for anybody who lives in England, football just might be “coming home”.
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