As Roberto Mancini departs Manchester City FC, there is a new arrival in the shape of stadium wide WiFi for its supporters.

Following close on the heels of the announcement by Liverpool FC, Manchester City FC is rolling out high-density WiFi at its Etihad stadium, allowing fans to use their mobile devices to surf the web and to share their live event experiences.

In the coming weeks, the 47,000-seat stadium will be wired up with Cisco’s Connected Stadium Wi-Fi solution.  The high-density WiFi network will be delivered by mobile operator O2, which will equip the Etihad Stadium with technology that significantly improves mobile phone connectivity, allowing fans to make calls and send text messages without interruption.

Fans will also be able to use the service to surf the web on their mobile phones and share their live event experiences or to interact with football fans around the world via social media platforms.

“We’re a Club that is passionate about innovation and which prides itself on constantly looking for ways to enhance our supporters’ experience at the Etihad Stadium.” said Tom Glick, Chief Commercial & Operating Officer for Manchester City Football Club.

“Live games and concerts are highly enjoyable social events and we are delighted to be able to offer supporters a system that allows them to better utilise their own mobile devices when at the Stadium.

Given one of the key benefits is social media engagement, I feel the addition of a social Wi-Fi layer would offer significant incremental benefits here; the fan benefits from a better user experience of easy login, no new passwords to remember and the club gains a more insight about its fans and visitors as well as increased exposure (through Likes/Follows and Posts) via its social media channels.

There are a huge number of opportunities offered by providing in-stadium WiFi from sponsorship of the splash page login, at seat ordering, betting, ‘in the moment’ engagement and most importantly, the added intelligence about the fan base and just as importantly non-match day visitors. Strong WiFi Analytics are essential to really understand what fans are doing on-line as well movement around the stadium, dwell times in particular areas and recency and frequency of visitors.

Of course, Stadium WiFi requires significant investment so maximising the opportunities and return on investment to the club and its partners is critical to make it viable.  This is a good win for Cisco/O2 and it is clear that more clubs will follow.  Will they realise the full potential?  We shall have to wait and see.