The English Football Association (FA) has claimed a world first after it deployed its Virtual Replacement Technology during a pre-FIFA World Cup friendly at Elland Road.

The warm-up match in Leeds between England and Costa Rica last week was the first time this LED-driven technology has been in full live, commercial use in international football.

The advertising seen on the LED perimeter boards in the broadcast coverage was different in the targeted territories to the messaging that fans in the stadium and across ITV’s domestic coverage and the World Feed could see.

The FA’s senior broadcast manger Tom Gracey said: “The potential for Virtual Replacement Technology is substantial. Perimeter LED displays have become a fundamental platform for activating brand partnerships in sport, so the ability to change that message to make it relevant for different fans around the world is hugely appealing for us and our partners. We were delighted to be able to collaborate with various stakeholders in order to deploy it on this occasion.”

The virtual feeds were delivered for the FA by domestic rights holder ITV in partnership with Supponor, who have pioneered the technology, together with stadium technology specialists ADI.

The Virtual LED solution, installed at Elland Road during last season, is the product of a partnership between the two companies to integrate Supponor’s virtual advertising replacement and ADI’s digiBOARD technologies, and is now rolling out further across top-tier sports markets.

Supponor’s chief executive, James Gambrell, said: “We’re extremely pleased to see our Virtual Replacement Technology being deployed on the international stage. The work we’ve done with the FA follows a number of significant developments, including approval of our system for use in Germany’s Bundesliga as of next season. We look forward to helping the FA to continue to innovate and be at the forefront of driving value for its partners around the world.”

UK-based sports media group Interregional Sports Group (ISG) has managed the commercial rights. ISG secured the rights from the FA to deliver the virtual perimeter advertising for the game and commercialised two concurrent virtual feeds, one being delivered to the Americas and the other to Asia, Australasia and parts of Europe.

“Working with Supponor we delivered two virtual feeds,” said ISG joint chief executive Tony Ragan. “One feed carried advertising specifically focusing on fans in Costa Rica and the Americas region and the other carried adverts of a broader international appeal as a result of teaming up with our sales partner Sportseen.

“We are technology agnostic. We look at what is the best solution for a specific rights holder and match the technology to that requirement and found Supponor’s digital billboard replacement (DBR) to be the best technology for this fixture”.

Image: TheFA