Fulham FC: Sticking IT in the goal


It has been a great season for Fulham FC, with a decent finish in the Premier League, manager Roy Hodgson receiving an abundance of praise and now a Europa League final.

As the team gets ready in Hamburg for the biggest game in the club's history, one man going over to cheer them on will be Fulham's IT manager Nicholas Pendlebury.

IT PRO caught up with the man himself to talk about why it isn't just on the pitch where the club has been enjoying success in recent times.

Out with the old

In both football and IT, when things are not working, they need changing. For the latter, the cost of not making alterations to the infrastructure can prove disastrous. Fortunately for Pendlebury and his small team, the problems were noted and suitably addressed in time.

The area that the IT manager was experiencing problems with was the local area network (LAN) and Ethernet switches in particular. Around a year and a half ago, the club had switches from a variety of vendors, meaning there was no standard across the board and the IT team was "very limited" with what they could do, Pendlebury explained.

The switches in place were not capable of delivering the technologies that the organisation wanted to help improve performance, benefit customers and reduce costs.

Pendlebury was also seeing increasing demand for LAN bandwidth from the ticket turnstiles, television networks as well as media commentators.

Both the capacity and resiliency of the network had to be enhanced so that match days, when traffic is significantly higher, went smoothly. Video and data traffic crossing the LAN needed to be prioritised as well so that visiting media companies were given a top service.

And it was not just Craven Cottage that needed attention, as the Cottagers' training facilities required an improved network infrastructure as well.

In with the new

It was for these reasons that Pendlebury and his team decided to bring in a new LAN infrastructure deployment using Juniper Networks EX3200 and EX4200 Series Ethernet Switches.

"We went to tender, we ended up with two vendors, with Juniper being one of them. We chose Juniper due to the switch specifications, [which offered] more than anyone else," Pendlebury explained. He also pointed to the power consumption of the switches, which the IT manager said were lower than anything else on the market at the time.

"A key driver for me was the single Junos operating system across all the different switches we have, whereas the other vendor had three different operating systems for their solution. So, it is a lot easier for myself to manage the things that we do manage."

Pendlebury also called on Scalable Communications, Juniper's preferred partner and a convergence solutions provider, to help implement the new infrastructure. The tech was rolled out at both the training facilities and the ground in just two days.

Results on and off the pitch

Following the introduction of these services, the IT operations at Fulham have been especially fluid, much like the team's smooth passing game on the pitch.

While it used to take more than two hours to produce a video replay of the match for player analysis, it now takes only 15 minutes. Match days, meanwhile, are considerably less stressful for Pendlebury and he claimed there has not been a single failure since the Juniper equipment was installed.

Since the implementation of the new infrastructure, the team has also achieved an average cost reduction of 30,000 a year, which had gone on operating and maintenance costs for the old system, according to Pendlebury. "For us, this was a massive saving," he explained.

"The new system has given us a lot more stability, which we didn't have. We were having a lot of network problems and downtime. It's made a huge difference."

Fulham's IT future

The change in switches has also enabled Pendlebury to look into other areas for future development. "We are now looking to implement IPCC TV, which will give us 160,000 saving over three years from our current system," he said.

He is also looking to bring in a new Wi-Fi network with power over Ethernet (POE). The current Wi-Fi is somewhat dated and other POE technology is needed to help power it, Pendlebury explained.

Fulham FC is close to achieving PCI Compliance in the near future as well, Pendlebury said, and the new Ethernet switches have been essential in this. "There are a lot of changes you have to make securing data, monitoring and Juniper has helped us with the tools it offers in its suite to achieve compliance."

IT the great enabler

IT is a key enabler for business success in numerous ways and football clubs are no exception, with Fulham being a case in point. Leaving systems alone can result in a plethora of problems and the alterations at the club have shown how being brave and making changes can provide two of the most valuable business commodities around: time and money.

Whether the team can defeat Athletico Madrid tonight or not, it can rest assured that the IT set-up at the club will have its back for the foreseeable future.

Tom Brewster

Tom Brewster is currently an associate editor at Forbes and an award-winning journalist who covers cyber security, surveillance, and privacy. Starting his career at ITPro as a staff writer and working up to a senior staff writer role, Tom has been covering the tech industry for more than ten years and is considered one of the leading journalists in his specialism.

He is a proud alum of the University of Sheffield where he secured an undergraduate degree in English Literature before undertaking a certification from General Assembly in web development.