Arsenal has recently moved to a new ground. What was that process like?
We have this summer completed a £450 million move to our new expanded home, the Emirates stadium. We can now seat 60,000 people instead of 38,000 and offer much better hospitality too. In IT terms this has been a huge transformation.
We now have 60 servers instead of 20; 500 networked electronic point of sale devices compared to a handful before – all based on a new network that includes feeds to some 440 HDTV video replay screens in the stadium.
We also support 80 wi-fi points and upgraded our hospitality and ticketing applications since this site offers far greater entertainment and dining options than Highbury. We are managing this using the CA Unicenter management suite.
Has this been expensive?
In terms of the overall project, not really. We committed £16m to the new network but that has to be balanced against Arsenal spending over £50m to build a new waste management facility. That was just one cost of the project, which has been huge, involving regeneration and local housing too. We have kept the IT team at eight, exactly the same as at Highbury.
What has been the overall result?
Let me emphasise the importance of the network. We have to make sure that works as we have only a limited number of opportunities to reach our customers. There are a number of failover and back up servers among the 60 base units, as well as a number for email, file and print, email archiving and running the website. We run Windows XP Professional and Windows 2003 at the server end. Technology wise, this is now one of the most advanced stadiums in the world. IT is seen as important here as it is in any other commercial enterprise.
What do you mean?
IT is an enabling factor in the modernisation and transformation of the club – but to do that it does have to be aligned with Arsenal’s business objectives.
So are you a Gunners fan?
As it happens I am. In the old days back at Highbury, you basically had to be a supporter to get a job here. That’s changed – we even have a Spurs fan in the department now. I started in 1990 in the accounts department and became head of IT through a genuine interest in what it could do.
Does your job include looking after the players’ IT needs?
No, it is an infrastructure role. I once helped Arsene Wenger set up his PC but that was a few years back. My role is to be here on our 30 annual home match days to make sure all the systems work; that the network doesn’t go down; and we provide a good service for supporters, executive visitors and away fans.