FA ready for kick off with SharePoint 2010

Microsoft Office 2010 will also be match fit for this year
Written by Tim Ferguson, Contributor

Microsoft Office 2010 will also be match fit for this year

The Football Association (FA) is planning to roll out Microsoft's SharePoint 2010 and Office 2010 technology in the coming months.

The FA is the governing body for football in England, overseeing clubs in the Barclays Premier League, Football League, Football Conference and the three Conference feeder leagues. The FA Group, which covers the FA and Wembley Stadium, employs around 600 people and also works with staff from around 50 regional FAs.

It recently piloted Microsoft's newly launched SharePoint 2010 and Office 2010 during a four-week trial that finished earlier this month.

The FA's remit includes promoting the development of football, regulating the game and overseeing the disciplinary system - where the organisation put SharePoint 2010 to work during its pilot which involved one club from each of the Barclays Premier League, Football League and Football Conference.

The FA works closely with clubs during the disciplinary process if a player has been called up for improper conduct on or off the pitch, reviewing decisions and passing them to a disciplinary panel if they feel the decisions need to be changed.

During the process, clubs and the FA will be able to submit evidence in the form of videos, images, and documents such as reports from officials and testimonials from the players involved.

Wembley Stadium

The FA moved its operations to Wembley Stadium in 2009 and is planning to use Microsoft SharePoint 2010 and Office 2010 to improve collaboration within the organisation and with partners
(Photo credit: The FA Group)

The FA is expected to produce a rapid response to disciplinary incidents which requires the association to have easy access to data and to be able to manage information effectively. This needs to be done across a secure and shared system - which is where SharePoint comes in.

Saty Gahir, enterprise content and training manager for the FA, told silicon.com that SharePoint 2010's tag cloud and search functionality mean files relating to particular cases or those which have been viewed previously can be found much more easily.

The organisation has implemented the hierarchical search and a managed metadata facility, according to Gahir. "The massive advantage is the search," he added.

The addition of Silverlight streaming technology coupled with greater use of broadband by the football clubs also means video evidence can be accessed online, rather than physical copies being sent between the FA and clubs.

From the pilot, the FA estimates it will save around 75 per cent in courier costs in disciplinary cases due to the improved way in which documents can be distributed and accessed.

As well as helping the FA collaborate with football clubs, SharePoint will also allow the association to work with partners such as Carlsberg, E.ON, McDonald's and the National Express. Each partner supports different aspects of the FA's work - for example McDonald's helps fund and promote school and community work - and so need to work on shared documents with the FA to co-ordinate these activities.

According to Gahir, SharePoint's provenance helps users feel at ease with the software. "Because it's Microsoft, a large portion of people that we're talking to now, they already use Office 2007 so they're familiar with the ribbon and the toolbars."

The FA used SharePoint 2003 at its old Soho House offices before upgrading to SharePoint 2007 when it moved to its new headquarters at Wembley in August last year. Following the successful trial, it now plans to implement SharePoint 2010, along with Office 2010, before the end of this year.

The software suite's online functionality is of particular interest to the FA. "We do have a huge requirement for Office 2010 as well. A team of people are going over to South Africa for the World Cup and they need access to documents on the network. Depending on their location, the web functionality of Office 2010 would be a huge benefit to us," Gahir said.

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