The German Football League (DFL), the organising body for top two tiers of soccer in Germany, has launched a new business arm to invest in technology startups and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
The DFL for Equity program will see the DFL create a portfolio of investments in innovative companies in the media, technology and sports industries as part of its strategy to be involved across the entire media value chain of German soccer.
The new initiative will acquire shares in companies primarily through intangible assets rather than cash, as well as through collaborations with further partners.
The DFL described the DFL for Equity subsidiary as ‘the next logical step’ after setting up its host broadcast arm Sportcast in 2006, global media rights sales business Bundesliga International in 2008, digital media content firm DFL Digital Sports in 2012 and data arm Sportec Solutions in 2016.
“The DFL’s ability to systematically cover the media value chain is what sets it apart in the arena of international football,” said DFL chief executive Christian Seifert. “In the interests of both the Bundesliga and Bundesliga 2 clubs, we want to draw much greater benefit in the future from the positive growth of companies that are closely allied with the DFL.”
DFL for Equity has already made its first investment by acquiring a ten per cent stake in Israeli startup Track160, which will gain access to the DFL’s match database and digital archive to develop its artificial intelligence (AI)-based analytics system.
Track160’s technology is unique in the sense that it uses AI and deep learning to capture the motions of players and the trajectory of the ball without the need for GPS or other wearable sensors, expensive hardware or human operators, making it a cost-friendly option for both Germany’s elite and lower-league clubs. Seifert explained that the company will help the DFL to “find application in future-oriented fields such as match analytics, coaching, sports medicine, media offerings, and gaming.”
“We are excited about the new opportunities our partnership with DFL will open up for us,” added Track160’s co-founder and chairman Miky Tamir. “The sportstech industry is transitioning to a new era, one in which data and AI-based technologies will make fascinating new applications possible. We want to revolutionise the world of sports with disruptive new coaching, media, scouting and gaming applications.”