BY THOMAS WOOD
Giving a Voice to Women’s Football
FIFA recently released a FIFA Hackathon competition ‘Give Voice to Football’ with the intention of looking at innovative ways to integrate voice assistants with Women’s Football events and data, due to the sharply rising proliferation and usage of voice assistants such as Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri and Google Assistant.
With the basis of this campaign and the recent publicity surrounding women’s football—with the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2019 proving to be more popular than its predecessors—we were inspired to find a way in which the technology and the sport could be integrated in order to educate and inform a younger female demographic about women’s football, with the hope to inspire the next generation going forward.
I distinctly remember watching my first world cup as a child. The excitement and magic that it invokes can lead to a deep-rooted passion in the world of football. The most vivid memory I have about my first world cup was in 1998 when England played against Argentina in the last round of 16. That straight red card for Beckham, after the incident with Simeone and the inevitable defeat on penalties; 4-3. Every World Cup and Euro Championships afterwards had me hooked, each holding similar thrills and spills that can go on to bring a whole nation together.
Unfortunately, the same can’t be said about women’s football, not because these events aren’t full of their own drama, fantastic football or joys and jubilation, but mainly because women’s football isn’t as popular or as much a social norm as the men’s game is. This also creates a divide between males and females from a very young age, stemming from as far back as the school playground.
“Boys are telling girls that football is a boys’ game and that they can’t play”, said The FA’s National Women’s Football Participation Manager, Rachel Pavlou. “It’s still happening that boys feel that girls shouldn’t play, for whatever reason, and girls are picking up on the fact that this isn’t for them.” The impact of playground sexism is startling. By the age of 10, 95% of boys will be playing some form of football, compared to only 41% of girls of the same age. Added to that, only 65% of those currently playing girls’ or women’s football in England started before they were 10 years old. — Independent
With the men’s sport having a bigger presence as a whole, young children grow up with the impression that football is a boys sport. The FA Women’s Super League, founded in 2010, is the female counterpart equivalent to the Premier League, however, with average crowd attendance being around 900, there still remains a lot of scope for growth.
“Women’s football is the fastest growing participation sport among girls in the UK, there is an unquenchable thirst to expand. I genuinely believe that women’s football can be the first female team sport to break through into the mainstream,” said Kelly Simmons, the Football Association’s new Director of Women’s Football.
The Use of Voice Assistant Technology
Voice assistant technology is a rapidly growing market and one that has been fully adopted by the UK. In 2018, 9.5 million people in the UK used a smart speaker, up 98.6% over 2017. More than two-thirds of those users (68.0%) will use an Amazon Echo, while 26.2% will use a Google Home. It is estimated that by the end of 2019 the number of smart speakers in the UK will grow by almost a third. Amazon Echo is the most popular speaker of choice, according to eMarketer’s inaugural forecast on smart speaker usage in the UK.
“The use of voice assistants is set to triple over the next few years, according to a new forecast from the U.K.-based analysts at Juniper Research. The firm estimates there will be 8 billion digital voice assistants in use by 2023, up from the 2.5 billion assistants in use at the end of 2018.” — Tech Crunch
It’s not just smart speakers that are seeing a rise in adoption but it is also predicted that smart TV’s will become one of the fastest-growing categories for voice over the next several years. However, due to the sheer price difference in an Amazon Echo or Dot in relation to a Smart TV, the former is much more accessible to the average consumer—allowing them to get accustomed to the technology without breaking the bank.
It’s clear to see that voice assistants are developing at a staggering rate. It’s easier than ever to gain immediate access to a multitude of information just by asking a voice assistant. There are numerous ways in which voice assistants can be integrated into our lives to help make tasks less cumbersome or information more accessible and intuitive. Allowing a user to naturally engage in conversation as opposed to endlessly searching for information on a desktop computer, laptop, or smart device is one of the huge benefits for voice controlled devices.
If you would like to know more about VUI’s (Voice User Interfaces) and how they can be used within your organisation we’d be happy to open a conversation with you to see if we can assist.
Keeping the Conversation Alive
There is a great opportunity to use the capability and the vast instant knowledge of a voice assistant connected with FIFAs APIs, which contain data from past and current competitions; information about the players, coaches, stadiums, matches etc. in order to allow younger children to engage in a conversation with a voice assistant. This allows them to learn more about women’s football, with an emphasis on educating and keeping them informed about the sport after the Women’s World Cup ends.
The aim is to ‘keep the conversation about women’s football alive’ using voice interactions that allow a child to converse with a voice assistant about the FIFA Women’s World Cup and women’s football beyond that. Each answer given from the voice assistant will lead to another string of conversational events asked by the voice assistant, as opposed to giving a single response with no other alternative conversation path to take. This is to avoid ending the conversation after each answer, allowing for a more natural and informative discussion around women’s football.
The focus demographic for this concept would be predominantly aimed at young females, aged 8 – 12 onwards, who may just be starting to take an interest in football and want to know more about the women’s game. As well as the second category looking into young males, in order to help break stereotypes of the past.
The idea is to use the data from the FIFA Women’s World Cup as a starting point, eventually allowing the user to learn more about the FA Women’s Super League, ran by the Football Association under the UEFA confederations, one of the six federations ran by FIFA, as well as future tournaments. This allows for each event to stay topical. using the FIFA Women’s World Cup as the foundation to help build awareness of the women’s sport as a whole—helping younger women to understand that they can be as involved in football as males are, and educating young males about the relevance of female football.