For those unaware of FOOTLAB, could you tell us what it’s all about, how it was created and why?
Paulo Almeida: Footlab is the first performance and entertainment park in the world and it started from an idea to bring to life a blend of eGames, real Football and Technology. In different stations, all connected in a digital ecosystem, players can train, compete and at the same time track their performance data like never before.
We’ve created single and multiplayer stations to test, train and evolve technical, psychological and physical skills and, at the same time, develop player’s coordination and numerous other football skills. Footlab was designed for the future of football players and it’s also a global connected community that competes against peers all over the world.
Can you tell us a bit about the technology behind Footlab, and how it is used to aid its users? Especially the biomechanical motion data capture…
Tiago Barros: Since the beginning of our research for this project, we became aware that we needed to design and develop our own hardware and software. Although there were some products available on the market, none of them met our requirements.
As we aim to deliver a seamless experience in all game activities and in all Footlabs across the world, we meticulously reviewed every detail in our technology stack. Having our own R&D and development team gave us the freedom to tailor the whole experience in such amazing ways that, we believe, makes this the greatest gaming and performance ecosystem in the world.
Nonetheless, what we have accomplished so far, we are really excited with what lies ahead, as we are already working on new stations, services and unique experiences over the next five years.
Just how important is this kind of big data in football and why has it become so integral to every aspect of the game, from broadcasts, to betting, to player analysis, scouting and everything in between?
Paulo Almeida: Well, without data we are just another person with an opinion. The more data we have, the closer we will be to extract insights that help us to better understand the consumer, the players, their characteristics, behaviours and evolution, in a factual way and not only based on intuition. It allows us to identify patterns and is increasingly fundamental in supporting decision-making processes.
You began life in Lisbon but have since opened up a new venue in Dubai. What made the Middle East appealing as a venue for you?
Paulo Almeida: Today Dubai is one of the main cities in the world, it’s located at a strategic point and the population is passionate about football, so for that reason it was part of Footlab´s expansion plan.
We launched the franchise model between the third and fourth quarter of 2020, and with Europe closed, Dubai was the perfect choice. The success that Footlab is having in this region and the large number of requests we’re receiving from other cities in the Middle East confirms that our decision was the right one.
Are there further plans to expand into the GCC region?
Paulo Almeida: After the amazing feedback following the launch of Footlab Dubai in June 2021, we’ve captured the attention of all the Middle East and we’re already working on the next Footlabs for Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar and Egypt.
Portugal legend Rui Costa inaugurated the first integrated sports entertainment complex in the Middle East "Foot Lab", and Dubai hosts its first international headquarters outside Europe, at Inspiratus Sports, pic.twitter.com/KoE84jWCjZ
— Dubai Sports Council (@DubaiSC) June 9, 2021
You have a franchise model in place, can you tell us a bit more about that and how it works?
Paulo Almeida: Sure. The model is quite straightforward. Basically Footlab has three types of model: the Franchise such as Dubai, White Label products for football clubs and shopping malls, and our Pop-ups that are developed for roadshows and activations.
There is a fee to enter the business and for the implementation of all the technology, and we provide all the necessary information and training to make sure that every franchise becomes a success. Footlab has been designed to have several sources of revenue, so for that reason we have a very good payback time, that depending on several variables can go from 24 to 36 months. I would say that is a no-brainer decision to invest in a Footlab.
As a European company originally, are there plans to further your footprint across Europe?
Paulo Almeida: Definitely, we’re not stopping in the Middle East and the goal is to have one Footlab in every key city in Europe. We have already signed agreements and several cities in Europe are being negotiated.
How can clubs and players (both amateur and professional) benefit from FOOTLAB venues and its technology?
Paulo Almeida: Most football clubs don’t exploit their stadiums to their full potential outside of match day. Footlab White Label was designed specifically to generate more revenue to football club venues – seven days a week, 365 days a year.
It’s easy to implement and set up and it can complement the other typical sources of revenue of football clubs venues such as stadium and museum tour, generating more traffic, data and revenue. Of course, it can also be implemented in football club academies to track the skills and evolution of players. The role of Footlab, in addition to providing moments of fun between friends and families, is also to democratise access to cutting-edge technologies for its athletes, whether they are amateurs or professionals.
Also, one thing that is very important for us is to open Footlab to the community and allow the less fortunate ones to enjoy Footlab. At least for one day each month, we invite these kids to come to Footlab, try out our amazing products, and have some fun.