In an exclusive interview with The Digital Post, Gianluca Vialli speaks about Tifosy, the crowdfunding platform he co-founded which is specifically designed to help football clubs raise financing for their projects.
What is Tifosy about, and how did you come up with this innovative concept?
Tifosy is about helping football clubs become more sustainable and closer to their supporters. Our purpose is to to unleash the huge potential of fans and clubs working together in partnership to develop the game they love. The concept is actually not mine, but I met the CEO Fausto last year and decided that this can be a great way to improve the game and I wanted to be a part of it.
Football nowadays goes way beyond those eleven men who wear the club colors and fight on the pitch every week for their fans; indeed, it is increasingly becoming a real business. How do you think Tifosy can make a difference in the future of the Beautiful Game in this sense?
What we hope to be able to do is to help football clubs become more sustainable in the way they do business. We do this by helping to raise the finance needed to invest in the future – for example in training facilities, or in improvements to the stadium – which can improve the club’s performance on the pitch or simply help them develop commercially. A properly-run football club needs to get itself out of debt and have be self-sufficient, and we try to help them set that up. The final point is that football clubs must start to listen to their fans. If they do that, and gain their loyalty and trust, the fans will always be there and happy to support when you need it most.
The ongoing digital transformation, along with the technology that fuels it, has enabled supporters to interact with their clubs beyond the ninety minutes of the matches. What strategy/model should football business actually follow to make the most of today’s digital opportunities?
They need to see their fans not as numbers on a web page or through the turnstile. Football fans need to be partners with the club in the future. This means building a strong connection and relationship between fans and club, and being open and transparent about how the club is being run. In terms of digital opportunities, the internet gives clubs all the tools they need to create a dialogue, involve fans in the running of the club, and ask for their support when needed. Most clubs aren’t doing those things yet, but it’s starting to change.
Both digital world and football industry are growing truly fast. How do you see this relationship evolving ten years from now, and how can these elements help each other thrive?
If you look at the US sports market, they’re already way ahead of us in terms of how they are using digital to dramatically improve the experience for fans. Football is playing catchup, but as the world’s biggest game it’s only a matter of time before it gets back to being the leader. In 10 years I think we’ll see a much more involved and immersive experience for fans, and an even closer relationship with the clubs. It’s going to be the people’s game again.
Gianluca Vialli is an Italian football manager and former footballer who played as a forward. Since retiring, he has gone into management and punditry and is a commentator for Sky Sport Italia