Old Trafford, the hallowed home ground of Manchester United, can fit in a raucous 75,635 fans on any given match day. But even one of the largest football stadiums in the UK isn’t quite enough for the English club, one of the world’s richest footballing establishments.
After all, Manchester United has some 659 million fans (and counting) across the world. And every one of them wants a piece of the action.
In an effort to satiate its global fan base’s unending appetite for the club, Manchester United has announced a partnership with HCL Technologies—India’s fourth largest IT services company—to build digital products that’ll help supporters connect better with Old Trafford and the team.
On Sep. 02, HCL and United announced the establishment of a co-innovation lab housed within Old Trafford, where both will work together to “explore revolutionary ways in which the club uses technology to create a unified fan experience for supporters.”
To begin with, the partnership will create a new mobile app and a website for Manchester United, before exploring other products.
“Our partnership with HCL is a first for Manchester United,” Manchester United’s group managing director Richard Arnold said in a statement. “Through digital transformation we hope to change the way in which our fans experience and interact with Manchester United.”
HCL, on its part, hopes to turn the partnership into a “prototype for successful digital co-innovation” across industries and geographies, it added in the statement. An email request to HCL seeking more information on the partnership went unanswered at the time of publication.
Although ranked as the world’s most football club—worth over $1.2 billion—by brand valuation consultancy Brand Finance in 2015, Manchester United’s popularity seems to have waned a little. In recent seasons, the club’s fan base fell by 19%, according to the Spanish newspaper Sport, even as their big local rivals Manchester City saw support swelling by over 500%.
The drop in support may well have been a result of the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson, the club’s legendary manager, which was followed by a season of uninspired football. But at a time when a global support for European football clubs is becoming increasingly important—driving everything from merchandise sales to sponsorship opportunities—HCL’s digital toolkit could be a shot in the arm for Manchester United’s brand-building machine.