Legendary Italian soccer club Juventus FC launched a virtual reality app Thursday with four episodes taking users onto the match-day pitch, behind the scenes at training and into the middle of its Serie A championship celebration last season.

“The potential [for VR] is enormous for a club like Juventus, where 80 percent of our 50 million followers on digital platforms live outside Italy,” Juventus’ co-chief revenue officer and marketing head, Federico Palomba, wrote in an email to SportTechie. “Not all of these people are able to travel here for matches, so with this virtual reality app, we are breaking down geographical barriers in order to bring them closer to the club without having to physically be here.”

This VR app is the latest digital endeavor for Juventus, which in recent months has unveiled an on-demand livestreaming service for international fans called Juventus Pass and announced a Netflix-produced docuseries slated to premiere next year.

Virtual reality has been gaining a foothold for sports performance training for years, through companies such as STRIVR and EON Reality, but is increasingly being used for the fan experience. Among other examples: Intel has broadcast Major League Baseball, NCAA tournament and PGA Tour events in VR; the Boston Red Sox, Detroit Tigers have installed VR batting cage experiences among other fan entertainment uses; and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg said Wednesday that his company was developing a VR app called Venues that lets users watch live sports and concerts in a shared environment.

“It’s another example of how VR is going to bring us closer together in ways that might not be possible in the physical world,” Zuckerberg said.

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The Juventus app is initially available exclusively on Facebook-owned Oculus devices but will soon be made compatible for Google’s Cardboard. In time, the club would produce and release more episodes.

“Juventus VR is also a crucial way of appealing to a younger demographic of fans, who enjoy interacting with their team increasingly in a digital context,” Palomba wrote. “These days, watching matches on TV is not enough to grow your fan base and clubs have to keep thinking outside of the box.”

Juventus FC poses during a Champions League match against Olympiakos Piraeus in Turin, Italy. (Photo by Pier Marco Tacca/Getty Images )

Goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, who captains both Juventus and the Italian national team, and exciting young forwards Paulo Dybala and Juan Cuadrado are a few of the players directly involved with the production of the VR app. While there are constraints of VR — there’s no ability to zoom in and capture soccer’s finer match details, Palomba noted — the medium can provide unprecedented access, such as an early episode in which cameras joined Juventus’ league title-winning festivities.

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“As a fan, it doesn’t get any better than celebrating silverware with the players on the pitch and in the changing rooms,” Palomba wrote. “That is why the standout episode in the Juventus VR app has to be the 2017 Scudetto party at Allianz Stadium – the crowning moment of a legendary sixth consecutive Italian league title, retold by captain Gianluigi Buffon himself.”

Source: Sport Techie