UNICEF UK appointed SCL to perform load testing to ensure the smooth running of its website and PayPal donation funnel for Soccer Aid 2014. Held every two years, this is the third Soccer Aid campaign SCL has supported.


UNICEF UK’s fifth Soccer Aid fundraising match was played at Old Trafford in March 2014 in front of a live crowd of 70,000 and aired on ITV. As tradition dictates, celebrities and footballers populated the pitch as England took on the Rest of the World — managed by Jose Mourinho. The final score was 2 – 4 in favour of the Rest of the World, but the real winners were UNICEF and the children it supports and protects through its work in over 190 countries.

Training for match day

This year more than ever, Soccer Aid has been a very mobile device-based event – over half of the visits to its website were from mobile phones, with another 20% from tablets. Only 26% of the visits came from desktops or laptops. UNICEF anticipated this trend and accurately predicted a rise in online donations and greater website interaction in general, beginning with its preview show on the Friday night, through to Match Day on the Sunday. With this in mind, UNICEF appointed SCL to test its Soccer Aid microsite and PayPal donation funnel for the third Soccer Aid running.

We knew the site and online donations would be more popular than in 2012 and wanted to make sure we were ready.We brought in SCL two months ahead of time to ensure our microsite and PayPal donation funnel would stand up to the strain of Match Day.

Isabelle Andrews, UNICEF UK’s Soccer Aid digital producer

SCL tested the site for up to 1,000 concurrent users, running scenarios with some visitors just hitting the landing page and browsing and some completing the entire donation process. The tests were run over three performance test cycles, equating to six tests in all. The final test was run less than a week before Match Day. “We wanted to ensure the site could withstand the pressure of heavy traffic during the match so we pushed it to the limit in our testing scenarios,” said Jamie Lockhart of SCL. “After the initial tests, UNICEF optimised the front-end of their site by decreasing the size of some images, and increased the bandwidth from 100Mb to 200 Mb. This allowed us to push up the concurrent users to 1,000 in the tests — which was double the expected average — and increase the level of donations the site could handle.”

A winning formula

The Soccer Aid PayPal donation microsite kicked off at 16.30 on Match Day and ran without a hitch, averaging 500 concurrent requests and processing nearly £100,000 in PayPal donations on the day, as well as referring thousands of visitors to a third donation platform for traditional card payments. At its peak, the PayPal funnel was processing 122 donations per minute, which equated to three donations per second – compared to a peak of 50 donations per minute in 2012. Online payments made up over 10% Soccer Aid donations, with PayPal accounting for close to half.

SCL’s testing allowed us to go into match night with confidence in our systems.They were able to apply what we learned from last time and help us to ensure everything would run smoothly. They were professional, knowledgeable and great to work with.

Isabelle Andrews, UNICEF UK’s Soccer Aid digital producer

On Match Day, there were total of 374,000 unique visits (128% higher than in 2012) and over 9,200 active users at peak, which was 60% higher than in 2012. This year’s Soccer Aid has raised over £5.3 million so far. Download full Soccer Aid case study