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Everton pioneers world’s first ‘virtual matchday mascot’

Technology allows sick child to experience Goodison Park in all its glory

Everton v Newcastle United - Premier League Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images

If you were watching closely last night as the Everton players came out on the pitch with ‘Z-Cars’ blaring over the Goodison Park tannoy, you would have noticed captain Phil Jagielka holding something that looked like a robotic weighing scale.

Turns out, that was actually matchday mascot 14-year-old Everton fan Jack McLinden. Well, kind of.

Young Jack suffers from multiple health conditions, and his oxygen-dependence need for a wheelchair restricts his mobility. Thanks to the AV1 telepresence robot though, Jack was able to live out the experience any other matchday mascot would while connected by camera, microphone and speaker, meeting the Everton squad in the changing room and tunnel and then the 39,000+ crowd at the Grand Old Lady, without leaving the comfort of his home.

The robot, developed by Norwegian start-up No Isolation, was connected to Jack’s iPad at home, and let him enjoy the mascot experience while sitting snugly in bed. He is currently being cared for by leading UK children’s charity WellChild, who played a key role in setting up this novel project.

From the Everton website -

Jack’s mother, Michelle Wignall, a WellChild ambassador, said:

“Having the support from the amazing team at WellChild, from Esther our dedicated WellChild Nurse... means we’re never alone, isolated or without support. We are thrilled that, through No Isolation and Everton Football Club, Jack was able to enjoy this once in a lifetime experience.”

Everton’s Head of Engagement Scott McLeod added:

“The most important thing for everybody at the Club is that we have had the opportunity, through this amazing technology and the work with No Isolation and WellChild, to do something incredible for an inspirational young Evertonian.

”We are thrilled to have had the chance to do this for Jack and we hope it has provided him with a memory he will always treasure.”

What a great use for this technology, and it’s always wonderful to see the People’s Club in the forefront pioneering fan engagement.