C-level briefing: Daniel Marion, head of ICT at UEFA, talks to CBR about what it takes to make a major European sporting event IT resilient while keeping fans engaged.
The 2016 UEFA European Championship is at full speed across ten different cities in France, and until the grand final on July 10, the ICT systems keeping the largest sporting event of the year in Europe are running under huge amounts of pressure.
For the first time ever, 24 teams are competing in the group stages and the whole tournament itself will comprise up to 51 matches.
The IT needs are such that UEFA’s ICT team has been expanded from its normal 80 staff members to over 1,000 during the championship.
Speaking to CBR, Daniel Marion, head of ICT at UEFA, said: "UEFA is an association of associations and the core business is not really technology, it is football. We try to keep enough knowledge internally to pilot and actually drive the managed services, because we do not really want go to full-outsourcing, it is more about managed services.
"We keep the resources to drive design, and then the operations and the build will be done – even though supervised by us – by partners. That includes is infrastructure and the same goes for development."
To help the association keep up with the pressures of hosting a championship in an ever more digitalised world, UEFA has signed a contract with telco company and cloud provider Interoute.
Marion explained that Interoute’s networked cloud hosts most of the association’s IT services, including back office applications and digital media services.
He said: "For a competition like the European Championship we are quite risk averse. And we had to take the decision some years ago to where and how we would operate the tournament from an infrastructure perspective."
In fact, Interoute is responsible for hosting 98% of UEFA’s ICT business applications and systems, including the UEFA.com website and its Football Administration Management Environment (FAME) application, used to manage all elements of tournaments like EURO 2016 including, players, sponsors, broadcasters and stadiums.
Marion said: "IT is quite resource intensive. UEFA is still a small business but has quite big IT needs. We cannot have people looking after servers and building racks and stuff like that, it is not really what UEFA’s core business is about"
Nevertheless, Marion claims that UEFA is more hands-on than other football associations and that is the reason why UEFA "does not outsource or out-task everything to third parties".
He said: "We keep control but we would source help to the different partners we have and that is why we also have partners for a long time because we also go through a quite extensive educational period, kind of both ways to ensure we get an operating model that fits our operating model and our challenges."
So what about the 2% not on Interoute’s cloud? Marion said these are the services where UEFA uses SaaS services. The reason why they are not sitting on Interoute’s data centres is because it does not make sense to have those services on premise if a SaaS solution is being used.