UCFB student Simon Li enjoyed the enviable experience of joining 60 digital experts from around the world to take part in a ‘hackathon’ at a leading Premier League club.

Simon, who’s studying MSc International Sport Management at UCFB Wembley, took part in the three-day event on behalf of Manchester City. The aim of the hackathon – HackManCity – was to help the club decipher its digital data to find out more about its fan base. It’s hoped that by doing this the club will uncover ideas to enable them to engage with and foster an online ‘community’ among its global fan base.

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Encouraged to apply for the event, which took place at the club’s Etihad Stadium – part of the UCFB Etihad Campus, by lecturer Simon Mitton, Simon (Li) was able to highlight his previous work in sport related digital innovation in Asia, Europe and America to City to earn a place at the hackathon.

Manchester City, just like all big football clubs in the 21st century, are big business with fan bases in every corner of the globe. Commenting on the experience, Simon said: “There were three key things that I took away with me from this experience. First, the challenges that a football club or any sport organisation faces in engaging with and developing a sense of community among its local and global fans is more complex than I imagined.

“Second was the importance of listening to and deciphering what the fans really desire when thinking of a solution, then diving deep into the research data and insights to validate these ideas. Lastly was that technology and innovation is at the heart of designing new experiences to enhance global fan engagement, and to foster a sense of being part of the club no matter where a fan is based.”

Like other MSc International Sport Management students, Simon is currently preparing to head out to Madrid for three months as part of his studies thanks to an innovative partnership UCFB has with the Real Madrid Graduate School – Universidad Europea, the education arm of the 11-time European champions.

As for his plans post UCFB, Simon said: “While I have a strong interest in innovation and entrepreneurship, I firmly believe that football and sport is a catalyst to enhance societal values and sustainability. I want to pursue opportunities within the sport industry that would allow me to do this by leveraging innovation, my international commercial partnerships experiences, and my research on this topic.”