The Royal Belgian Football Association: Making football more interactive, engaging, and fun with a personalised experience for each fan
customer identities migrated in less than 4 months without requiring customer password changes
login portal consolidating 12 applications and counting, so that customers and other stakeholders can access all they need in one place
employees using Single Sign-On to access business critical applications
- Uniting the Belgian football community
- Scoring two goals with one solution
- Boosting customer experience across 700,000 accounts
- More football, less fuss
- Ready for the future
As Belgium’s governing football federation, the Royal Belgian Football Association (RBFA) represents the country’s entire football community, from the players to the fans. But with services spread across multiple digital platforms and apps, what was lacking was a central hub for Belgian football where users could customise their fan experiences.
Besides giving Belgian football fans a user experience to cheer about, the RBFA also wanted to empower its employees with streamlined access to the company’s dozens of internal applications, each with their own identity management flows, each processing sensitive information. Looking for a solution that tackles both customer and workforce identity challenges, the RBFA found the perfect match in Okta.
To cultivate a frictionless relationship with Belgium’s football fans, the RBFA consolidated its many digital platforms with a single RBFA identity, migrating 700,000 accounts seamlessly to Okta’s User Management. Next, by integrating internal applications, such as Office 365 and the company’s VPN with Single Sign-On, the RBFA boosted the employee experience with streamlined access to daily essentials.
By connecting disparate sources of identity data with Okta to create a more personalised user experience, the RBFA can increase revenues directly and indirectly, through ticket sales, merchandise, sponsorship and advertising. The IT team has minimised security risks with fine-grained access control for internal applications, enabling employees to focus on what’s most important: moving football forward.
With tailor-made content across the user journey, the RBFA wants to make football even more personal and engaging, with a special focus on women’s football. By implementing Okta across the organisation, the RBFA provides each fan, player, parent, coach, referee, employee, and all other stakeholders with a unique and frictionless football experience.
“Okta enables us to leverage our data more intelligently. As we return to in-person matches following COVID-19, this helps us to increase our revenues directly, through ticket and merchandise sales, and indirectly, through sponsorship and advertising. We will reinvest these revenues in the future of football, creating shared value in the football ecosystem.”
Koen Landsheere, IT Manager, RBFA
- 1 consolidated RBFA portal with Single Sign-On to 12 applications and counting, delivering a frictionless and delightful user experience
- 700,000 users migrated seamlessly to User Management, allowing customers to keep their passwords
- Increasing revenues by leveraging the intersection of data and identity, through personalised suggestions and more effective advertising and sponsorship
- Strengthening security across the federation, with fine-grained access control for employees and partners, and Adaptive Multi-Factor Authentication for security-sensitive apps
In 2018, the Red Devils reached the World Cup semi final for the second time in history, winning a fantastic bronze medal. With a prodigiously talented squad, Belgium’s national football team is set for the next challenge, but they’re not the only success story: the Red Flames have been steadily climbing the FIFA ranking, making women’s football an increasingly popular draw.
It’s been dubbed Belgium’s ‘golden generation’ – but how can a country of 11 million people set up such a conveyor belt of talent, racking up one impressive win after another? Like everything in football, it’s a team effort. The Belgian football community includes players, trainers, referees, administrators, parents of young talent, volunteers, and, of course, the fans. Championing the interests of these groups is the Royal Belgian Football Association (RBFA), Belgium’s governing football federation.
Founded in 1895, the RBFA’s mission is the administrative organisation of Belgium’s favourite sport. Comprising more than 2,000 clubs, it coordinates more than 300,000 games every season. To make every match a success, it keeps stakeholders informed and engaged via the new RBFA app where fans can buy tickets, and see results and statistics. But while the RBFA has been Belgium’s central authority on all things football for more than a century, its digital platforms weren’t always centralised.
Chasing the perfect match
In the past, fans had to log in to different customer portals to buy tickets or browse merchandise. Fans couldn’t set up a central profile to support their teams from their own, personal football hub. With features spread across separate platforms, the RBFA lacked a single view of fan activity. To create a user experience worthy of Belgium’s golden generation, and a richer football community with a 360-degree customer view for better insights, the RBFA decided to revamp its customer platforms with a digital transformation strategy in 2019.
“We really wanted to create a more personalised fan experience and improve our services for clubs, players, and partners,” explains Koen Landsheere, IT Manager at the RBFA. “To create a single RBFA hub, from which all our stakeholders can access all of our services, we had to consolidate all our platforms with a single customer identity and management solution.”
In addition to giving Belgian football fans a user experience to cheer about, the RBFA wants to empower employees and partners with streamlined access to internal applications, such as Office 365, while keeping security high. “We have dozens of internal applications with individual identity and access management flows, all processing sensitive information,” explains Cédric Brosens, Data Protection Officer at the RBFA. “Because our IT department doesn’t have the bandwidth or resources, we needed a centralised access management system.”
Looking for a solution that tackles both customer and workforce identity challenges, the RBFA found the perfect match in Okta.
Kicking off a new generation of football fandom
Before starting the implementation, Koen and his team devised three principles for the new digital platform: any new initiative had to be innovative, customer-centric, and data-driven. A data-driven approach was especially challenging because the RBFA’s many platforms weren’t centrally managed and the user data was in silos. This prevented the RBFA from leveraging the intersection of data and identity to provide users with a more personalised experience.
To create a single RBFA identity, Koen and his team used Okta to consolidate existing user identities, which were previously stored in multiple repositories. For a swift migration, the RBFA enlisted Upright Security as its implementation partner.
“The challenge was to migrate an enormous user base to one consolidated user store in a short timeframe, without disrupting the user experience,” explains Cédric Gossé, Security Architect and Partner at Upright Security. “We were able to considerably speed up the process because Okta supports multiple migration strategies through API and even raised their API rate limits for us.”
In 2020, the RBFA and Upright Security concluded the first phase of the project, going live with Fanmanagement.be and the BBF application. “In just four months, we migrated all 700,000 users to Okta’s User Management and on-boarded the most user-heavy applications,” says Cédric. “We ensured a seamless transition for users by supporting both the old and new ways of logging in during the migration period, and allowing users to keep their existing passwords.”
More football, less fuss
Today, instead of managing multiple accounts to keep up with their football needs, fans and other stakeholders use Single Sign-On on a portal called E-Kickoff to gain access to all RBFA platforms and solutions. Whether they want to buy tickets to games and skip the queues with online registrations, relive exciting football moments with video highlights or track the rankings and statistics of their favourite teams and players, Belgium’s football fans can now find all their football needs in one place.
The new 360-degree view of the customer enables the RBFA and its partners to cater their content more effectively to the interests of the users, while strengthening the bond with sponsors and advertisers. It also opens up new revenue streams: what was once a one-size-fits-all experience now invites campaigns that are tailored to match individual user profiles across the RBFA application portfolio.
“Okta enables us to leverage our data more intelligently,“ explains Koen. “As we return to in-person matches following COVID-19, this helps us to increase our revenues directly, through ticket and merchandise sales, and indirectly, through sponsorship and advertising. We will reinvest these revenues in the future of football, creating shared value in the football ecosystem.”
United by their shared vision for Belgian football, RBFA employees are more productive because they use Okta to seamlessly access their applications. “With Okta Single Sign-On, our employees get immediate access to all the tools they need daily,” says Cédric. “This makes us a more user-friendly company to work at, boosting morale and improving performance.”
Playing it forward with a strong defence
As a football federation, the RBFA has diverse internal stakeholders spread across multiple departments and many external partners, including coaches, doctors, and volunteers. With Okta, keeping track of who’s accessing what is much easier, which considerably mitigates access risks.
“Okta empowers our IT department with fine-grained access control for all our applications and user groups at very little effort, and lays the foundation for GDPR compliance across our organisation,” says Cédric. “With Okta, we’ve achieved more resilience and a greater security maturity for the entire federation.”
Cédric and his team are integrating the highest priority apps first, such as Office 365 and the company’s VPN, and mandating that every new application needs to be integrated with Okta. Critical applications are protected with Adaptive Multi-Factor Authentication, and employees – as well as customers – use Okta Verify and Google Authenticator as second-level authentication factors.
The federation is thriving, and with women’s football on the rise, making the fan experience more personal and engaging isn’t just a smart business move for the RBFA, but an important milestone in the future of the sport. Next, Koen and his team want to integrate more customer and workforce applications with Okta, including the newly built chatbot. Users will be able to authenticate directly in the chat window, accessing information from there.
“The Belgian football community is stronger than ever, and Okta enables us to provide fans, players, parents, coaches, and other stakeholders with unique and frictionless football experiences,” says Koen. “By making football more personal with a fan experience that’s hyper-personalised across applications and touchpoints, we’re making the community even more engaged. In the tournaments to come, a more engaged fan base could make a deciding difference.”