UEFA: Always Knowing the Score
Founded in 1954, The Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) has gone from success to success, expanding in size and recognition along its journey; to its modern-day state, hosting eighteen different tournaments.
The most famous of which is the UEFA Champions League, which has enormous reach as a global sporting event with an estimated 380 million viewers tuning in to watch the climatic finale of the UEFA Champions League.
As well as the flagships of the annual Champions League and the quadrennial UEFA European Championship (‘The Euros’), the organisation hosts a selection of different competitions such as beach football and youth leagues. With such a diverse mix of tournaments, combined with such widely covered media events, UEFA manage a large library of content: which is ever-growing, always in-demand and needs to be accessed by a range of different organisations.
With the assistance of Picturepark’s high level of connectivity and API-first design, UEFA are pursuing exciting new avenues in digital asset management. Following exciting new progress in the abilities of image recognition, they are automatically tagging thousands of visual assets by harnessing the power of AWS Rekognition, which can identify football players and much more. As well as integrating online content management systems like EIDOS, making distribution between systems seamless.
Usage at a Glance
- An expansive archive of images: over 2.4 million content items and increasing.
- 10TB of data stored, different content in a variety of different formats.
- 25,000 users: including a range of associations, sports clubs and publications.
- 18 competitions: always adding more, with a new league to be introduced in 2021.
- Internationally watched: broadcast rights generate billions in revenue.
- Thousands of images processed by AI, saving major amounts of time.
Securing a Scalable Solution
A digital asset management system that is natively scalable is not just a ‘nice to have’, it’s a necessity for UEFA.
UEFA’s requirement from Picturepark reflects the differing levels of demand which it is often under. Much like the quick-paced action directly on the pitch, UEFA require a content management solution that can keep up with its rapid go-to-market speed. This means always being able to cope under pressure, with rapid fluctuations in demand which occur during key events of tournaments.
During events of the Champions League, new items of content being uploaded to Picturepark can easily more than double in quantity from the usual of 10,000 to over 20,000 per event. Due to this, a digital asset management system that is natively scalable is not just a ‘nice to have’, it’s a necessity for UEFA.
Flexibility Meets Agility
UEFA have a complex information architecture, which requires a high level of flexibility. Both in terms of data modelling and when it comes to an ability to connect to different platforms.
A key benefit of Picturepark is that it allows for growth and adaptation along the way. This is a perfect match for UEFA, as an organisation with data models that are changing and with new ones being introduced. Instead of starting with a rigid data structure, Picturepark allows for a data model that is based on a MVP (minimum viable product) model and can grow organically.
Picturepark’s API-first design opens up the door for high levels of connectivity. UEFA take advantage of this via their integration with EIDOS Media, a web content management platform used by leading news and publishing companies. This integration enables UEFA to transfer content of their choice from Picturepark to the UEFA Website: the goto-platform for sport fans.
An AI-Powered Footballing Future
UEFA continue to implement innovative features of Picturepark, with even more made possible by their migration to the new Picturepark Content Platform in August 2020. A key area of which is the use of facial recognition, powered by AWS Rekognition - a long-standing leader in the field of artificial intelligence, for images of football players. This highly capable artificial intelligence integration currently enables UEFA to auto-tag players, from their large player collection: saving them sizeable amounts of time and costs associated with manually tagging content.
Such a workflow, driven by AI, enables even faster go-to-market speeds.
Taking advantage of such integrations, it is possible to use custom face recognition models for football players. Such a workflow, driven by AI, enables even faster go-to-market speeds. Additionally, the integration opens the door for other areas; in addition to players, there is the potential for the automatic recognition of logos, sponsors, stadia, jerseys and much more.
Playing Ball with Business Rules
A key aim in the ease of use of Picturepark at UEFA is the ability to tag multiple pieces of information using only one identifier. For this, they take advantage of Picturepark’s powerful Business Process Engine, which allows users to define conditions, based on which third party systems or built-in workflow tasks can be triggered.
In the case of UEFA, a unique identifier of a “transmission reference” in an image is used to trigger a business rule on import. Providing just one transmission reference intelligently instructs Picturepark to provide a wealth of information. On a photo of a football match in a UEFA tournament, the transmission reference helps to lookup additional information including: the event, the teams which are playing, the date of the match, the name of the stadium where the event took place and much more. Much like a product code which unlocks information about a product line, its cost and target markets.
The above entity relationship diagram shows how providing one transmission reference unlocks a range of information related to content, providing useful to a range of parties.
The use of business rules and sound data models in the background have a variety of applications for those many users searching Picturepark as UEFA’s Media Library. For example: stadium sponsors can easily find all content that shows his logo across the different matches, seasons and teams.
Press Ready: Automation & Complex Workflows
As an organisation so internationally known, it is not simply the football games themselves which are so highly anticipated and widely watched. Legions of fans and interested parties are eager to find out the results of live draws, where balls are drawn randomly to decide which teams will play each other in coming matches.
Picturepark’s ability to act as a rapid-response content routing platform is vital here: it allows for content to be automatically distributed to a series of organisations.
The ball draw is a time when Picturepark is utilised by UEFA as a hub for data enrichment and automation. Photos taken during these events must be rapidly distributed to different channels such as social media, news outlets and apps. Picturepark’s ability to act as a rapid-response content routing platform is vital here: it allows for content to be automatically distributed to a series of organisations, helped again by intelligent usage of Business Rules.
As the balls draws are fast paced events, speed is very much of the essence: UEFA trust Picturepark from the perspectives of reliability, integration to other apps thanks to an API-first design.
See below for a visual representation of how images from UEFA’s ball draw are rapidly distributed as part of an automated workflow.
Guidance: On and Off the Pitch
Just like effective guidance from the pitch sidelines can lead to exceptional performance in matches, the same philosophy applies to guidance for uploading and updating content on Picturepark.
When a new piece of content, such as a head shot of a player, is uploaded; the user doing so can simply provide just a small but key piece of information such as the team name that the player belongs to. Doing so adds far more information than just the player name, thanks to Picturepark smart tags. Then, they are guided by a schema in completing metadata, though a selection of drop down entries presented to them.
This user friendly approach makes it easier and faster for those tagging content but it also adheres to Picturepark’s deeply-held data philosophy of being strictly structured, offering guidance and ensuring consistency.
Keeping Up With the Players
In football, especially the top leagues, it is typical for players to switch between different clubs. For the player in question, this might mean a change in the leagues played in, the sponsors worn on their outfit and even their nation of residence.
This user friendly approach makes it easier and faster for those tagging content but it also adheres to Picturepark’s deeply-held data philosophy of being strictly structured.
It’s key for UEFA to be always able to stay up to date with which player is where and they do this by maintaining a master record of individual players within Picturepark. Each player has a unique ID, meaning that even if the details that are associated with a player change: they, as an individual along with their assets, will always be easily trackable for UEFA within Picturepark.
Special thanks go to the UEFA team for providing information and feedback about this case study.