Manchester City is one of football’s (soccer’s) digital media pioneers and the club, which won the English Premier League for the first time last season, is continuing its foray into social with the introduction of pre-match hangouts on Google+, in what is billed as a footballing first.

The question and answer sessions — known as ‘The Third Half’ — will be an opportunity for fans to discuss upcoming games and other topics about the club with top guests. Retired World Cup winner Patrick Vieira, who is now a club ambassador, will kick things off as the guest for the inaugural hangout on September 23, ahead of Man City’s match against his old club, Arsenal.

Unfortunately for City supporters, the events, like all other Google+ hangouts, will only be able to accommodate 10 fans, which gives plenty of incentive to sign up and closely monitor its Google+ page.

Russell Stopford, head of digital for the club, paid tribute to Google+ and its potential to bring fans closer to clubs and players than ever before:

With the social media landscape changing so quickly, we are constantly creating new, innovative ways to connect with the Club’s supporters. Our partnership with Google+ will give our fans the chance to interact with their favourite players in a way they’ve never been able to do before, wherever they are in the world.”

As a football fan, I can easily see the appeal of a pre-match hangout, particularly as the livestream is available, allowing those not taking part to tune in via Google+ or its YouTube channel. The calibre of guests is crucial, as it is central to the appeal of the events, but if City can feature top stars, pundits and former players like Vieira, it is sure to gain the attention of fans, and also help raise the profile of Google+.

Twitter, Google+ and other social services have had a huge impact on the way fans interact with US sports teams and fans, but the effects have been more gradual in the UK. At club level, City has largely lead the way through initiatives which have included a partnership with Foursquare, a fan-created mobile app, broadcasting of fans’ tweets and more.

The club currently has close to 179,000 followers on Google+, that’s some way behind its 511,000 followers on Twitter, where its handle is @MCFC.

Image via Flickr / Dullhunt