LONDON: Leading football clubs in England and Scotland are developing wi-fi networks in their stadiums as they seek to develop new commercial opportunities and enable real-time marketing opportunities for sponsors.

Manchester City, Liverpool, Celtic and Rangers are among the first to have built systems, with a further 15 English Premier League clubs poised to follow suit.

Josh Robinson, director of creative and integrated solutions at Sports Revolution, the sports marketing business, told Marketing Week that such networks could open up a "slew of monetisation opportunities" during games.

"If you think about flagship stores, where you have highly promotional environments, which are absolutely soaked in atmosphere, that's what stadiums are," he said.

But he warned that when clubs and their partners were creating campaigns over wi-fi networks they would "need to be cognisant of the fact that fans are at stadiums to watch the match not buy products".

He outlined his company's work with Scottish club Celtic, where it has created an app enabling sponsors to serve branded targeted content to fans. In addition, there are opportunities for sponsors to cultivate their own initiatives, such as loyalty schemes and real-time promotions.

Betting services are likely to be seen as a priority for many clubs, given their widespread involvement with the gambling industry. The English Premier League has noted that most clubs are "associated with a betting firm, whether as a major partner, or a simple billboard sponsor".

This development comes amid grumbling by fans over ticket prices and as clubs hold these down they are looking for alternative revenue streams on match days.

One issue that may lead to disputes in future is ownership of the data thus acquired.

"It's a contentious issue and one that clubs have to be particularly careful about," said Adam Bull, senior consultant for the Sports Business Group at Deloitte.

"If the clubs themselves can own that data then it becomes very powerful for them when negotiating sponsorship contracts," he added.

Data sourced from Marketing Week, EPL; additional content by Warc staff