Southampton FC is a progressive and ambitious team in the English Premier League, signing outstanding players, developing quality youth players, hiring experienced coaches and using IT to gain a competitive edge on and off the pitch.
“Data is a driving force in everything we do,” said Phil Simmonds, converged infrastructure engineer at Southampton FC. “Data helps us recruit and develop some of the Premier League’s top players, and it supports stadium performance and fan engagement on matchday. Matchday wouldn’t be matchday without data — that’s why it’s so critical to protect it.”
Protecting data was a challenge for Southampton FC.
“Backups were unreliable,” Simmonds said. “They consistently failed and wouldn’t restart, so we had to manually restart them. Recovery was a problem too. It was slow, clunky and frustrating. No one wants to wait 35 to 40 minutes while a server restores, especially if it’s matchday and the server supports stadium turnstiles. You don’t want to inconvenience fans who are trying to get into the match.”
There are 48 floor-to-ceiling turnstiles in St. Mary’s Stadium. Fans scan their tickets and walk through the turnstiles to enter.
“If the servers supporting turnstiles failed, we might not be able to put on a match, which could have huge consequences.” Simmonds said. “At the end of the day, that’s why we’re employed by the club. We all support matchday, and everyone in IT is directly involved.”
Veeam Availability Suite supports matchday too.
“We replaced legacy backup with Veeam, and now backup is 100% reliable, recovery is 94% faster and we save roughly 500 hours each year in troubleshooting time,” Simmonds said. “That’s a massive improvement over legacy backup. Veeam’s interface is a massive improvement too. It’s so easy to use that everyone in IT — whether they’ve used Veeam or not — can recover data in minutes. That’s the kind of peace of mind we need on matchday.”
Recovering data in minutes means data is always available. Veeam backs up 40 TB across 130 Microsoft Hyper-V virtual machines on-premises in St. Mary’s Stadium for fast, local recovery and replicates off-premises for disaster recovery (DR).
“We have to be fully confident our data is being backed up successfully and can be recovered quickly on matchday, and Veeam is spot on,” Simmonds said.
The data Veeam protects for Southampton FC is extensive. It supports player development, stadium performance and fan engagement. Player development data correlates statistics for ball possession, passing and scoring with density of the pitch and intensity of player movement so the club can adjust training regimes to optimise fitness and finesse.
“Developing players is directly related to generating revenue,” Simmonds said.
Football is tremendously profitable. According to the Annual Review of Football Finance 2019 from the Sports Business Group at Deloitte, the European football market was worth a record £25 billion in 2017 and 2018. The Premier League led the way with revenue exceeding £4.8 billion, and Southampton FC reported a revenue of nearly £153 million.
“Player performance is key on matchday,” Simmonds said. “And so is stadium performance.”
Veeam backs up point-of-sale (POS) systems in stores selling club merchandise and in hospitality areas selling food and drink throughout the stadium. Veeam also backs up the servers supporting turnstiles so fans can enter the stadium, and it backs up the telephone system connecting every area of the stadium including first aid areas.
“It’s crucial our phone system is working on matchday,” Simmonds said. “If a fan gets injured, staff have to be able to ring first aid for help.”
Fans mean the world to Southampton FC.
“Saints fans couldn’t be more loyal,” Simmonds said. “Our goal is to understand them better so we can broaden the fan experience. Veeam protects this data as well. Camaraderie, food and drink are important to them, so we’re building a fan zone in one of our car parks so they can enjoy the atmosphere before the match.”
In addition to protecting data required for matchday, Veeam will help Southampton FC leverage data for greater business agility. The feature is called Veeam DataLabs™, and it offers capabilities such as SureBackup® and SureReplica to automatically verify the recoverability of backups and replicas. On-Demand Sandbox™ is another capability. The IT team will use it to create isolated environments for testing software updates before deploying them in production.
“We used to spend hours creating test environments for each update, but it will be faster and easier now,” Simmonds said. “Veeam is an extremely highly functional solution, and it does what it says on the tin. For us, that means protecting matchday data and improving operational efficiencies.”
Southampton Football Club (FC) is one of the English Premier League’s most recognized clubs. The team is nicknamed the Saints because it was founded in 1885 by members of St. Mary’s Church who played along the riverbank. Today, the team plays in St. Mary’s Stadium and is watched by millions of fans worldwide. Southampton FC employs 1,600 people.
Matchday isn’t matchday without the Saints Brass Band, the roar of the crowd and a win for Southampton FC. Matchday isn’t matchday without data either. Data helps the club recruit and develop some of the Premier League’s top players. It also supports stadium performance and fan engagement. If data isn’t available, there might not be a matchday.