By Jeremy Page

Supporters of Frickley Athletic, a West Yorkshire team which plays in the eighth tier of English football, can hover their smartphone over a page in the matchday programme to watch match highlights.

The club's programme sales have increased since Augmented Reality was introduced at the start of this season, leading to interest from Football League outfits as they explore ways of sustaining a tradition of the game which is coming under increasing pressure from new forms of media.

Chris Medwell, co-editor of Frickley's programme, sees this as a way of keeping the traditional matchday programme alive. And if league clubs with more money want to use this technology then the options are endless.

Beattie’s very own Digital Communications Director Jessica McAndrew explained: “The recent Apple software update on September 1 has changed the game for Augmented Reality accessibility.

“Previously, the barrier to entry for AR was the fact that users would need to download a specific application to use AR - similar to how QR codes used to work.

“But with the new Apple release, every iPhone user can automatically access AR features straight from their phone. This will soon be released on Windows and Android devices through Near Field Communication (NFC) chips.

“There are some brands already capitalising on this new release, and I look forward to introducing it to some of our clients.”

Pokemon Go made Augmented Reality famous in the mainstream, blending the real world with computer graphics. That’s what AR is all about

Medwell, a lecturer at Doncaster College, started using the technology to engage his teenage students and improve their learning experience. And when he was asked to co-edit the Frickley programme, he thought it would lend itself perfectly to football.

Using free web-based software, Medwell creates a 'trigger image' which is printed on to a page in the programme and recognised by a smartphone app to play the video - filmed by his students - on screen.

Frickley supporters simply have to download the free app, pay £2 for their programme and then watch.

Clubs down the English league pyramid face a constant battle to keep the books balanced as they operate on relatively small incomes. Frickley, like all Evo-Stik League clubs, are required by the league to produce a matchday programme. But it’s often expensive, and takes a lot of time for a volunteer.

Frickley, with an average attendance of about 300, introduced the concept for their opening home match of the season against Cleethorpes and sold out of programmes.

They increased the print run for their next game - and sold out again.

This cost-free feature has caught the imagination of fans who - unlike their Premier League and Football League counterparts - do not have instant access to match highlights through websites and social media.

Not only is it the talk of the town - boosted by increased sales – but it has opened up commercial opportunities with local companies expressing interest in putting video adverts in the programme.

Other non-league teams, keen to discover new ways of boosting programme sales and engaging fans, have contacted Frickley to tap into their knowledge, while a Championship club have also been in touch.

While Frickley uses AR to show match highlights, this might not be a selling point for fans higher up the pyramid who can watch more established broadcasts, such as Match of the Day, through their mobile phone.

But there is the possibility of showing exclusive interviews with players or managers, or presenting data and stats. Big clubs would also have the opportunity to build AR technology around their stadium, so fans could go to certain points to interact with it and discover more information. This would be especially useful on stadium tours.

Programme sales are falling, in an age where most youngsters are digital savvy. But like all forms of media, matchday programmes are constantly evolving and looking for ways to attract new audiences.

And AR has more than delivered.


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