Since the dawn of their ownership in 2005, the Glazers have been at the helm of Manchester United, facing scrutiny for what many perceive as a distant relationship with the club’s fanbase. In a recent development aimed at bridging this gap, Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s INEOS group has taken a 25% ownership stake in the club, a move that awaits formal approval. Although INEOS is set to oversee the football operations, the Glazers are not stepping away entirely.
Their commitment to the club’s future is underscored by their interest in leveraging cutting-edge technology for fan engagement. Specifically, they are exploring the potential of augmented reality (AR) to revolutionize how fans experience football matches.
According to a source familiar with the Glazers’ plans, as reported by Mark Ogden of ESPN and relayed by Sportbible, the idea is to equip players with AR-enabled bodycams. This innovation would allow supporters to virtually step into the shoes of their favorite players during live games, offering a unique, immersive view of the action on the pitch.
“The big idea, or maybe the big hope, that the Glazers have – and this was driven by Ed Woodward – is the emergence of Augmented Reality,” the source explained. They further elaborated on the concept, saying, “The technology is already out there, whereby a player could have an AR wearable on his body and a supporter anywhere in the world could pay a small fee to experience a game through the eyes of his favourite player.”
The potential for generating revenue from this global fanbase is significant, with the source positing, “Just imagine how much United could generate from their huge global fanbase if supporters were able to pay to be Marcus Rashford or Bruno Fernandes for 90 minutes?”
The Glazers are no strangers to pioneering AR in sports, as their NFL team, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, was the first in the league to adopt this technology in 2016. While AR has seen application in football, mainly in pre-season games, the International Football Association Board (IFAB) currently prohibits its use in official matches. This regulatory stance presents a hurdle that Manchester United and other clubs interested in integrating AR into live games must navigate.