The Football Association, the governing body for English football, is using Microsoft Sharepoint 2010 to test drive a fast-track system for resolving disputes when players face allegations of misconduct on the pitch.
The project promises to significantly reduce the time taken to reach disciplinary decisions and will cut costs by allowing football clubs, lawyers and the FA to file and review documents, case notes and video footage electronically.
The project is part of a larger IT programme that will see the FA rationalise legacy systems and move to a single Sharepoint platform following its move from its former headquarters in Soho Square to Wembley Stadium in 2009.
Saty Gahir, technology manager for corporate IT services at the FA, said the existing system for collecting evidence in disciplinary cases is slow and expensive.
"We have to turn around evidence very quickly. It might be a VHS tape. We have to copy that a number of times and send it to six or seven people around the UK. That is very time-consuming," he said.
"The club is sending us information. We are sending the club information. Lawyers might have their own evidence. Someone in the spectators might have taken a film from an iPhone. We are trying to streamline the whole process," he said.
The FA has developed an extranet site that will allow clubs, lawyers and the FA to share videos, case notes and other document electronically, cutting out the need to ship documents around the country by courier.
Three clubs, one from the Premier League, one from the Football League, and one from the Conference League, are taking part in the trial.
"They will be viewing Office-based documentation, video files, and uploading information onto it, either Office-based files or video," said Gahir.
The extranet will also allow clubs staff to communicate with each other using private club forums, and with other clubs using public forums,
Separately, the FA, which has a range of legacy systems, is planning a rationalisation programme that will see it standardise on Sharepoint 2010.
The FA's IT department in Wembley provides IT services for 50 football clubs around the country, including IT infrastructure, software and desktop support. It supports 500 users within the FA and 600 at clubs.
It runs an internal internet for its own users, and separate intranet for the clubs. An extranet links the FA with external organisations and sponsors, including Umbro and Carlsberg.
"We are going to try and move at some pace, but try to automate those tasks of site creation, moving permissions over and moving documents over," said Gahir.
The main challenges are not technical, but fitting the work around the sporting calendar, he said.
"We work around two main dates. One is the football season, which starts in August. And the other are the major events held in the stadium. We have to weave and work around those dates," he said.
Another challenge will be training FA and club employees how to use the new platform.
"We care going to make it really easy to use. That is the first thing we are going to do. We can't touch every user with a person, so I am going to suggest we do online training and video," said Gahir.
Moving to Sharepoint 2010 will make it easier for the FA to give remote access to staff supporting the England team, said Gahir.
"We have event managers and an event team that follow the squad around the globe. And they have a lot of requirements for remote access. So that is quite high on the business case list."
At the same time, the FA is evaluating plans to upgrade from XP to Windows 7 and Office 2010, which promises to make it easier for FA staff and clubs to collaborate.
The case study covers:
- BT's plans to roll out of Windows 7
- How Office 2010 will allow BT staff to collaborate more effectively
- Why BT has dropped bespoke IT systems in favour of standardising on Microsoft software
- Links to three free Forrester reports on the business case for Sharepoint 2010 and Office 2010
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This was first published in June 2010