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Olympique Lyonnais is the first European soccer club to be equipped with a telepresence robot through its foundation. Indeed, since 2016, the OL Foundation has been using the device to help hospitalized children who cannot physically go to the stadium. Christophe Durand, OL Foundation project manager, who is in charge of implementing the device, talks about the uses and benefits of the telepresence robot for inclusion.

OL Foundation and telepresence robot: the genesis

Christophe Durand: “The OL Foundation is committed to developing projects with three major objectives :

  • to bring hope and emotion through soccer,
  • to promote equal opportunities,
  • to improve the environmental impact of OL Groupe.

The BeamPro® telepresence robot arrived at the OL Foundation in 2016 and had already been in use for a few months, working on Hope & Emotion issues. The player Rafaël had financed it entirely: unable to play due to an injury, the right-back had chosen to donate his salary to the foundation, which then acquired a telepresence robot customized with the team’s colors.

Rafael with Maëlle Trarieux of the OL Foundation. Credit: Richard Mouillaud / Le Progrès

Our robot is an extension of an action that we carry out for hospitalized people, especially children, which consists in organizing visits of players of the team to the hospital. With this tool, it is the children who come to the players.

Initially, the telepresence robot was deployed during certain games, and now it is systematically deployed, including during major competitions.”

Long-distance match: “The child is simply there”

CD: “I personally lobbied hard for UEFA to get involved in this process and I am happy to see that it is now being used for Europa League and Champions League matches.

As a precursor of this device, we were able to influence other clubs and sports institutions and to reassure them that this tool brings much more than it disturbs. For example, during an OL-PSG match, I had the opportunity to present the device to Nasser al-Khelaïfi, president of PSG. He thought it was great!

Shortly afterwards, the PSG Foundation also acquired robots. We have also carried out cross-operations with other clubs such as the Girondins de Bordeaux or the FC Barcelona, who also have robots.

Today, we connect children during matches, training sessions and also every year, on the occasion of the official photo of the players. Eventually, we would also like to use it once or twice a week to visit the OL museum.

Photos taken during the Heroes’ Match at the Groupama Stadium for the benefit of UNICEF, on 10/05/2022.

Thanks to our experience, we have set up a process during the games to encourage maximum immersion of the connected child: a dedicated attendant, an adapted speech, a well identified path. In the end, the child is simply there.”

Thus, the OL Foundation is a real example to follow in terms of inclusion in the soccer world and can inspire many sports, cultural or other organizations wishing to innovate for the well-being of people with disabilities.

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