Mondo Issue 29
Bendac Feature with Chris Frazer
Can you tell us about your career – how did you find yourself in the sporting venue industry?
I used to work in corporate AV as a Presentations Manager, which involved working on presentations, exhibitions, and other events across the world. However, with a growing family, I decided to look for something more local – and that’s how I ended up at Chelsea Football Club. In those early days, there were only 30 games a year, and no other major hospitality events, which made it a great move for me at the time.
You spent a number of years at Chelsea. What was your role there?
My role was the AV Technical Manager across the whole organisation, so that included Stamford Bridge, of course, along with the training ground – first at Harlington, then Cobham Training centre once that was opened – and then Kingsmeadow stadium when that was added for the women’s and youth sides. Essentially, if it came under vision, sound or lighting, it was my responsibility.
Being at Chelsea for over 25 years, you must have overseen some dramatic changes in terms of technology in the stadium and training grounds?
Absolutely. When I first started, the scoreboard consisted of static graphics on a printed board. Over time, we transitioned to more advanced technologies, with LED displays eventually coming in and evolving into fully automated systems. Initially, TV screens were only available in certain hospitality areas like executive boxes, but there are now over 1,000 screens throughout the stadium, including at the training ground and Kingsmeadow. To reduce costs, we implemented a one-head-end solution that could feed content to all the screens in each location. When we first installed big screens in the stadium, which were among the first of their kind in the country, it allowed the club to display in-game advertising and generate revenue. At the time, the screens weren’t used very much, but as the sponsorship and marketing departments grew, the technology began to be utilised more effectively. During my time at the club, we continued to innovate and evolve the use of screens – it was a dramatic change in terms of stadiums really.
Before I left Chelsea, we were working hard to make
it the most accessible stadium in the country. In fact, we had implemented several initiatives to include all members of society, such as: screens in wheelchair bays for replays; audio systems for commentary for blind supporters; on-screen sign language interpreter for deaf and hearing impaired people; and we were working with a company called Give Vision to pipe the live feed into a headset – much like a VR headset – to allow partially sighted supporters to watch the game in real time from any seat in the house. Technology allows these advancements and helps every fan in the stadium feel part of the action.
You recently made the move to Bendac – can you give us some insight into your new role?
My role is as an AV Integration Specialist, which involves working with large-format screens for a range of applications, from giant stadium screens down to kiosks and wayfinding displays. My job is to help the owners of these screens integrate their AV into their system to get the best possible results. This involves understanding the needs of the club, as well as the technical requirements for displaying content on the screens. Our team of engineers handle the technical aspects, ensuring that everything runs smoothly, while I use my experience to get the best out of the AV system overall.
With your vast experience and Bendac’s ambitious growth, it seems like a perfect combination. What was it, specifically, that convinced you to make the move?
The reason for leaving Chelsea was purely personal and not related to the new ownership or any other factors related to the club’s management. As I’m getting older, I just wanted a change to suit me. I’ve known David Da Costa (Bendac CEO) for a number of years, as well as Bill Gladwin (Bendac CTO) for over 20 years, so I had a really good insight into what the company is like. I told them my plans and it just went from there. It’s genuinely like a family – and I get to do what I love in a relaxed environment without any obstacles. It’s really enjoyable.
How has it been going from working at Chelsea to multiple projects at Bendac?
It was quite a culture shock for me. At Chelsea, I was used to working on a long list from 7:30 in the morning and having that continue well into the evening. So, it was a completely different experience for me when I started working at Bendac. One of the great things is being able to visit other venues
and connect with people in the industry. It’s not just about Premier League clubs – I also get to visit lower league clubs, cricket and rugby stadiums, and basketball arenas. It’s been great to spread y wings a bit, meet other people and share knowledge. If I’m able to help, it’s incredibly rewarding. I believe that if I can bring a little bit of good to someone else through my work, then I’ve done my job well.
Has the move to Bendac allowed you to be a bit more creative and try new ideas?
Absolutely. The atmosphere of the company really encourages that, plus being exposed to different clubs and venues practices makes you think about things from a different angle. Being away from that club setup means there are no restrictions in terms of corporate sponsorship and all that entails, so creativity and making it work for the venues is absolute priority.
As someone that has experience on both sides – what is it about Bendac that makes them stand out in the sporting venue industry?
I believe what sets us apart here is our attention to detail. Having previously worked at Chelsea and witnessed the implementation of numerous screens, I can confidently say that the team at Bendac strives for nothing but the best possible solution for our clients. We take pride in ensuring that the venue takes full ownership of the asset, and we encourage them to keep the benefits of that asset, too. While some may see outsourcing as the way forward, we have demonstrated that there is a better way. By showing our clients how to keep their revenue and maintain their technology, we help them make the most out of what they have purchased. The team is committed to delivering the best
possible setup for any given situation, and I appreciate that. Personally, I have a strong desire to do things properly and to lead in a way that inspires others to do the same. So, this work environment suits me perfectly.
With your experience at Chelsea, can you tell us how much of an impact Bendac’s complete LED Perimeter Advertising System and BOCC Studio could have for clubs / venues?
It’s a one-stop shop approach – and it’s the convenience of that idea that makes it so valuable to clubs and their venues. Having worked at Chelsea for so long, I’ve experienced how advertising comes from different sources. Some is made in-house, while others come from agencies, and it can be frustrating when they are late or need to be changed just before a game. With the team at Bendac, we can provide that creative, which cuts out the middleman and streamlines the process. LED screens are now moving towards a virtualised system, allowing clubs to accommodate different territories and their advertising needs. The screens within the stadium can showcase more localised content, such as calls to action and in-house advertising, without affecting the overall global advertising strategy.
The BOCC Studio team is fantastic – their work is second to none. Being able to provide both the screen and the content provides a complete solution that clubs can rely on.
Do you have any exciting stadium projects coming up soon?
We certainly do, but I can’t talk about them just yet! We’re working with clubs from the Premier League, Championship and lower leagues, so it’s a really exciting time for Bendac – and I’m glad to be a part of it.
In terms of AV technology, how do you see it developing in stadia over the next few years in terms of enhancing the fan experience?
How much time do you have? I could talk about this all day! I’m very excited about the future of fan experience and immersive technology. Nowadays, everyone has a phone in their hand, and it’s common to see people, especially youngsters, walking around with their heads down, staring at their devices. In the stadium, we can deliver stats straight to their devices and provide replays of critical events, although there are rules and restrictions to follow. One of the exciting things we do at Bendac is LED Virtual Production (VP). We experimented with VP at Stamford Bridge and found numerous ways to use it, such as letting fans buy their shirts and have them presented by the manager. We’ve also created 3D virtual trophies and props, so fans can experience the celebrations as if they were on the field with the team. The cost of LED VP is relatively high right now, but as the price comes down, more clubs will be willing to invest in this technology. We can also use interactive virtual elements on concourses and outside the stadium to create an immersive experience for fans as they approach the venue. Virtual studios (VS) and Augmented Reality (AR), two types of Virtual Production, are the way forward, and I do believe they will revolutionise the fan experience.
Where football is concerned, for example, it’s about finding the balance between the traditional ways and the new technologies. But, I believe that once fans see the benefits and the exciting possibilities of immersive technology, they will embrace it. As technology advances and becomes more accessible and affordable, clubs will be able to incorporate it into their fan experience offerings in a cost-effective way. Over in the USA, it’s probably easier due to the length of games in the NFL or baseball, meaning fans are in the stadium for a full day almost. So, perhaps cricket could be the catalyst for the UK. It’s exciting, and I think we’ll see more and more clubs and venues adopting it in the coming years.
Thank you to Mondo | Stadia for the feature!