The UEFA EURO 2020 will be held from 11 June to 11 July 2021. It was already a huge challenge to organize it in 12 European cities. "The postponement in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 epidemic, has only added to the level of complexity for all parties involved," says Nicolas Bourdon, President of Agoria Sport & Entertainment Technology. Of the 12 sites initially selected (including Brussels), only 11 have been definitively approved by UEFA.
Brussels is no longer among the host cities for this Euro. "This is an obvious disadvantage for our Red Devils, as they will have to play two of their three opponents on their home turf," says Diego Algaba, manager of the Sport & Entertainment Technology club. The club therefore fully supports the new 'Golden Generation Arena' project in Brussels, an initiative of the Royal Belgian Football Association and the Van Damme Memorial.
Major events traditionally serve as a catalyst and driver for innovative technologies, and it is no different this time around. “Quite the contrary," says Nicolas Bourdon, "because of the pandemic, the organizers of major events and the industry have had to adapt to additional challenges.” Yet despite all these obstacles, many Belgian companies have succeeded in having their technological skills recognized against the backdrop of EUFA EURO 2020.
The regulars at these major international sporting events include companies such as:
- EVS (Liège) - Live video production solutions,
- NEP Belgium (Londerzeel) - Technical support for TV broadcasting in the stadiums of Amsterdam, Seville, Munich and Copenhagen. (196 operators and 160 cameras in all),
- WNM (Liège) - provides UEFA with 6 qualified sound engineers to broadcast the international stream in the following stadiums: St Petersburg Stadium (7 matches); Parken Stadium (4 matches); Puskas Arena and Baku Olympic Stadium (1 match each, including a quarter final),
- PRG (Haacht) provides A/V equipment to various stadiums and the Glasgow Fan Zone,
- Barco (Kortrijk) provides a lot of audio/video equipment through rental partners,
- BICS/Proximus (Brussels) is managing the roaming networks to ensure optimal access for all teams, staff and fans across Europe,
- The St. Petersburg stadium, where the Red Devils will play their first match against Russia, is equipped with ladders and perforated cable trays as well as mounting systems provided by Atkore Vergokan (Oudenaarde).
- The Liège-based company Schréder equipped the Wembley Stadium en the Stadium of Budapest (Hungary) surroundings, while Brussels-based Signify upgraded the lighting installation in the stadiums in Rome, Munich, St. Petersburg, Amsterdam, Bucharest and Budapest.
Pitch technology is also a Belgian speciality. PitchTecConcept (Lede) is involved in the complete reconstruction of the grass pitch at Wembley in London where the EURO 2020 final will be played (new substructure, heating system and hybrid turf). PitchTecConcept has also installed a hybrid pitch at the Ferenc Puskas National Stadium in Budapest, Hungary and the Johan Cruijff Arena in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. By way of reminder, ten Euro matches will be played in these two stadiums. Sibelco of Lommel has delivered 3500 t of drainage sand for Wembley Stadium
In cooperation with GrassMax (Zele), PitchTecConcept also implemented a hybrid turf system for the goal areas of the two new training pitches of the Red Devils in Tubize. Raw Stadia (Hasselt) provides advice on the construction and maintenance of the pitches of the Puskás Arena in Budapest and on the maintenance of the Johan Cruijf Arena in Amsterdam.
Another classic is the spray marker and its case, which has become a standard piece of equipment for referees. They are supplied by Expo-Line (Tessenderlo),
"We are also discovering new suppliers in areas that are of interest to us," says Nicolas Bourdon.
- In the field of security: Pitagone (Anderlecht) will secure the surroundings of the Wembley stadium in London and the Football Arena in Munich during 12 matches, including the quarter, semi-final and final matches.
- Pro Soccer Data (Dilbeek) has developed a scouting module that enables the sports department of the Belgian Football Federation to score all their potential future opponents. They provide a personal scouting report that allows the scout in charge to analyse the strategy and tactics of the opponent: individual analysis, offensive and defensive organization, imposed plays, transitions, expected formations, conclusion.
- Dreamwall (Charleroi) has a cooperation arrangement with the RTBF (Belgian French-speaking Broadcasting Corporation) regarding the Fan Zone.
- Animotion (Zottegem) virtual reality animations, Content Stadium (Bruges) 'live app for branded activity', HD Ledshine (Denderleeuw) will provide giant screens at the various Fan Zones, while the installation of a basketball game at the UK National Football training centre hotel by Recreational Systems International (Sint-Niklaas) holds a very special experience in store.
E-sport is also registering unprecedented growth in our country!
Initially dedicated to the promotion of video games, e-sport, which represents all online competition activities, has developed rapidly to reach a market volume exceeding €1 billion per year. Competitions organized all over the world bring together millions of fans on connected platforms (such as Twitch, Luckbox, Facebook live) or in the world's biggest arenas. Teams compete on stages that can rival the biggest music concerts or international sports events. Developed first in certain Asian countries, North America and Eastern Europe, the e-sport market is now invading all continents as well as our country.
Since the end of 2019, Belgium has seen the creation of national and regional federations (BESF, VESF and WalBru Esport), and is expanding its ecosystem to a significant number of participants, with no fewer than 37 game developers in Belgium, 11 official annual competitions, 8 teams of players active on the international scene. E-sport also attracts the major Belgian football clubs (no fewer than 13) that have created their own e-sport teams, as well as the traditional media, which devote their own channels thereto, such as Esports Prime, etc.
In addition a large number of Belgian companies have wagered on this growing sector for several years now and have developed a solid reputation in such varied fields as advertising (Adshot, Influo), bookmakers (Betcenter, Golden Palace), data analysis (Statrics), live video production (EVS) and merchandising.
Since this year, Agoria's Sports and Entertainment Technology club launched a new cluster this year focused on the e-sports sector, and publishes a detailed report on technology and innovation activities in this market.