Thousands more football fans will benefit from a smartphone app developed by a Brighton academic in the coming season.
The app boosts the signal in big stadiums by creating a network between phones, enabling them to share bandwidth.
Sussex University said: “With the new football season getting under way this weekend, thousands of fans will be able to give the red card to poor wifi and phone signal during matches by downloading the free digitalStadium app.
“The digitalStadium technology enables fans and the club to communicate with each other during a match, providing real-time information on other key games, league table stats and travel information.
“Fans can also take part in Twitter debates and competitions such as Rate the Ref while watching the game, while a live ticker feed delivers the latest news, views and special offers from the club.”
The technology was developed by a team led by Ian Wakeman, senior lecturer in software systems.
It has been on trial for over a year at Brighton and Hove Albion in the club’s American Exppress Community Stadium in Falmer, just across the road from the Sussex campus.
The latest clubs to sign up are Birmingham City, Bolton Wanderers, Middlesbrough, Queen’s Park Rangers and Watford.
Sussex University said: “Many football clubs want to develop better contact with fans during matches using digital technology but the cost of equipping a stadium with the necessary wifi infrastructure is around £400,000.
“The steel and concrete structures also make it difficult to get a signal – especially when there are thousands of other phones in use.
“What makes the digitalStadium app unique is the software solution that supports it.
“It enables smartphones to act as mobile computers and build networks with other phones in the crowd.
“Even small bandwidth capacity can be exploited across a large group of people.”
Dr Wakeman has set up a university spin-out company called TribeHive to commercialise the software, with support from the university-owned Sussex Innovation Centre.
He said: “With the new generation of smartphones, we can start to democratise the means of communication, helping people to pool their resources and co-operate, rather than compete for the limited resources available from the phone network.
“I’m passionate about getting computers to communicate, and passionate about football. It’s wonderful to bring the two together.”