English Premier League football club Everton created history yesterday (Monday) by utilising virtual technology to enable a child to experience the matchday mascot experience, despite being too ill to attend the game.
Everton defeated Newcastle United 1-0 at Goodison Park and Jack McLinden, a 14-year-old from Liverpool and lifelong Everton fan, became the world’s first virtual matchday mascot.
McLinden suffers from multiple health conditions and his oxygen-dependence – and use of a wheelchair – severely restricts his mobility. However, at yesterday’s game he experienced going on to the pitch via a specially-designed telepresence robot carried by Everton captain Phil Jagielka.
McLinden was also able to interact, via the robot, with the players in the tunnel before kick-off, while Everton manager Sam Allardyce took the device into his post-match press conference.
The telepresence robot, called AV1, was designed and manufactured by Norwegian start-up No Isolation to help combat loneliness in children and young adults with long-term illnesses, by allowing them to attend school and social occasions through the device’s connection to a smartphone or tablet.
Everton said yesterday’s initiative was the first instance of a child being able to perform matchday mascot duties ‘remotely’ from his home, with the AV1’s integrated camera, microphone, and speaker enabling the experience of going on to the pitch.
McLinden is currently being given care and assistance by UK children’s charity WellChild, which assisted in setting up the project.
Everton’s head of engagement, Scott McLeod, said: “The most important thing for everybody at the club is that we have had the opportunity, through this amazing technology and the work with No Isolation and WellChild, to do something incredible for an inspirational young Evertonian.
“We are thrilled to have had the chance to do this for Jack and we hope it has provided him with a memory he will always treasure.”
Image: Everton FC