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Benchwarmers: Providing a sportswear solution to improve player performance and safety

Australian company Benchwarmers have developed an innovative solution, through their functional sporting attire, to keep players warm when they are not on the field.

Their product, a body-length garment, is specifically designed to keep the most vulnerable parts of the body warm such as the upper legs, whilst keeping the arms free to allow players to regulate their own body temperature.

The item is ultra-lightweight and includes other features such as insulated inside pockets, a hood, a resistance to water and wind, as well as fully fleeced lining for extra warmth.

Creator of the product, Andrew Lauder, recently developed the Benchwarmer after his previous experiences as a coach on the sidelines.

“I identified that there was a problem years ago, he told Soccerscene.

“I was coaching young kids and was having to take down blankets and stuff to keep them warm on the benches.

“Some kids in football once they get a head knock or something, they go into a little bit of a shock and there was nothing to keep them warm on the bench apart from club hoodies or something along those lines, which was ridiculous.”

“Over the 2020 period I sort of started designing Benchwarmers, working out the features of how best to do it and have continued to go on from there.”

Lauder explained it was extremely necessary for grassroots players to keep their muscles warm on the bench before they came on, to avoid hamstring strains and other common soft tissue injuries.

“The main point is, especially with juniors and amateurs, they are sitting on the bench waiting for their time to come on and they don’t warm up like the professionals do,” he said.

“Professionals may say ‘let’s jump on the bike and get your legs moving’, but the kids and the amateurs they run on without properly warming up their body.”

The design of the Benchwarmers product.

Lauder has built up the product to a local and international audience and has found some success in doing so, despite it being a relatively new product.

“I put it out there to the kids, because that’s where I started it all,” he said.

“But at the moment it’s the amateurs in England who have started grabbing it and some clubs here.

“One thing that I get sometimes with the smaller clubs is they love it but they don’t want to pay for it. With junior clubs they are obviously volunteers and they are more hesitant to make the decision to spend the money. It’s crazy because you ask them every time, what do you have in the kitbag to keep the kids warm? They usually have nothing, just club jackets, which I don’t believe is sufficient.”

Lauder continues to invest his time into avenues which will grow the presence of his item, such as social media work, further marketing of Benchwarmers and listening to customer’s feedback.

“My main thing at this point of time is that I’ve been doing a lot of direct email marketing which I’ve put out,” he said.

“I am also building the Instagram and Facebook pages to target clubs and people to sort of get them onto it and that has started to work in some cases.

“Some feedback I’ve received by one of the clubs, for example, showed me the benefits of how important it is to be a lightweight product. One club wanted ten of them and wanted his manager to be able to put them into the kit bag and carry them from job to job. They don’t take up too much space, their waterproof, their fully lined inside, they’ve been developed with 40cm pockets on the inside which are insulated – all these things help.”

The creator of Benchwarmers hopes the product will continue to have steady growth here in Australia and overseas in the long term.

“In the future I wish that the Benchwarmers brand is in a hell of a lot of clubs and people are wrapped they have them for their kids,” Lauder said.

“Basically, I want them to think to themselves, why didn’t we do this or buy this years ago?”

Philip Panas is a sports journalist with Soccerscene. He reports widely on football policy and industry matters, drawing on his knowledge and passion of the game.

Arsenal tokens to add new fan engagement

Arsenal Fan token

English Premier League side Arsenal have partnered with sports blockchain provider Chiliz to launch the club’s custom fan tokens on Chiliz’s Socios.com app.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, sports clubs have had to look for other revenue streams to compensate for the lack of ticketing on game days. Arsenal joins a growing list of sports entities on the platform, including Barcelona, Juventus, Paris Saint Germain and AC Milan.

The platform enables fans to purchase club fan tokens, an area of the blockchain industry that generated over $200 million in revenue in the first half of 2021 alone. According to the Socios.com management team, the app has had almost 1.2 million downloads since its launch in 2019. Of those, almost 70% took place in 2021.

Fan tokens can be exchanged for rewards such as merchandise, the ability to participate in polls, access exclusive content, and play interactive games. They can also lead to experiences like meeting players or attending home games. The Arsenal-specific digital collectibles can be bought and sold through the marketplace as a cryptocurrency.

“We are committed to finding new and innovative ways for all our supporters – whether local or international – to get closer to the club,” Arsenal Commercial Director Peter Silverstone said.

Chiliz has allocated over $50 million to expand into the top sporting leagues in the United States, whilst also becoming an official sponsor of LaLiga football club Valencia CF. The sponsorship will showcase a token logo in the front of the players’ jerseys this coming season.

In addition, Chiliz is also sponsoring Argentina’s top football league, which will officially be called Torneo Socios.com for the 2021/2022 season.

As a club, Arsenal is not new to the blockchain space. The club has partnerships for three mainstream applications of blockchain in sports – Sorare for fantasy football, Fantastec for digital collectibles, and now Chiliz for fan tokens.

In 2018, Arsenal also signed a sponsorship deal with cryptocurrency application CashBet. This deal was the first time a major global club has partnered with a cryptocurrency firm.

Hosken Reserve Master Plan released for final feedback

Moreland City Council has released an initial Hosken Reserve Master Plan to the community, in preparation for a final round of feedback before a green light towards the upgrade.

Hosken Reserve serves as the primary ground of Victorian National Premier League team Pascoe Vale FC.

The plan features an upgrade to the two pitches at Hosken Reserve, as well as the development of a hybrid grass-synthetic soccer pitch to be used by Pascoe Vale FC. In addition the clubrooms, lighting and car park are being upgraded. 

In December 2020, a report was tabled at the Moreland City Council meeting recommending a new master plan developed through an in-depth community engagement process. Since then, several rounds of development and community consultation have occured.

Pascoe Vale FC President Lou Tonna explains that the plan is a result of years of consultation and it should satisfy all constituents. 

“There was a master plan in 2009, and unfortunately a lot of it hasn’t been activated. There was some community pushback in regards to that plan, and it went to community consultation. There were a few things adopted by the council and it went to a refresh group, who aimed to get a reasonable outcome for the entire community,” Tonna said.

“This being the school, the Tennis club, the football club, and also the residents. I believe this master plan has hit the mark.”

In May Moreland Mayor Cr Annalivia Carli Hannan believed the plan would satisfy members of the local community.

“Our community health and well-being is strengthened by sport participation as well as by general community use of open space. Inner metropolitan councils have increasing demands on our limited open space, with competing needs and uses. I want to thank community members, including sports clubs and local residents, for their feedback and contribution,” she said.

Tonna says that the development should be finished within three years and that the outcome is a positive one for the community.

“It’s going out to community consultation, and we are hoping it will be finished in the next one to three years,” he said.

“We’d like to thank everyone who contributed to the refresh group. We are very happy with the outcome of the master plan, and believe it’s great for everyone involved. This isn’t just about Pascoe Vale, it’s about the whole community.”

You can read more about the development of the Hosken Reserve plans, or find out how to make a community contribution, here.

Manningham United Blues FC boosted by $300,000 grant for LED lighting upgrades

Manningham United Blues FC have received a $300,000 funding grant which will be used for lighting upgrades at the club’s home at Timber Ridge Reserve.

The funding has been provided through a partnership between the local Manningham Council and the Victorian Government, through their World Game Facilities Fund.

The upgrades will see a new 50 LUX LED floodlight system installed at the ground in the coming months, consisting of 4 new LED lighting towers which will light up two full size pitches and a small side pitch at the reserve.

President of Manningham United Blues FC, Mark Giuliani, believes the new upgrades will have a positive impact on the local community.

“Looking at the wider community, the new system will have a significant effect in reducing the lighting-up of neighbouring backyards,” he told Soccerscene.

“Obviously, the lighting system we have now is pretty old and it just sprays light everywhere, whereas LED lighting is very accurate and precise.

“So, in terms of the local residents, that will be the number one benefit for them as they won’t have their backyards impacted.”

The club will also benefit significantly from the improved lighting system in the years to come.

“In terms of us, there’s numerous things I think we are going to benefit from,” Giuliani said.

“One main benefit is definitely the financial aspect, the system we have now is pretty old and each year we spend at least $1000 on globe replacements.

“The running costs will also be better off now that the lights are LED and this will be an important financial gain for us.

“On top of that, we will definitely get a much more even spread and better lighting on that facility now, rather than what we’ve got in the past.”

Giuliani explained that under the new lights, night games will soon be allowed to be hosted at the club’s home ground, which hasn’t been permitted in the past.

This, however, will only apply up to a certain competition grade and will depend on the LUX it will provide.

“We were offered the option to chip in some extra funding to bring it up to a certain LUX for NPL games, but at the moment the club is not in a financial position to make that extra investment,” he said.

“It is however NPL ready, so all the wirings and powering, the lighting towers, the fixtures up in the towers, they will all be ready if we want to upgrade to host NPL games.”

The senior male team currently competes in NPL2 after securing promotion to the NPL system in recent years.

Manningham itself, has a strong, yet relatively recent history. After humble beginnings in 1999 with only a few junior teams initially, the club merged with Fawkner Blues SC in recent years and now has 39 teams and around 2000 members.

The club has now become the biggest community club in Manningham through factors such as their female program, which continues to expand across the board.

Facilities have been key to their growth and alongside the announcement of the new lighting setup, the club has received recent clubroom upgrades at Timber Ridge Reserve, through funding from the local council.

“We have also just had a recent upgrade to our Timber Ridge Reserve, in terms of our clubrooms – it was a $300,000 upgrade which was funded through Manningham Council, which we are extremely thankful for,” Giuliani said.

Since 2018, the World Game Facilities Fund has invested $13.2 million in 48 game-changing infrastructure projects with a total value of more than $41 million. The next round of the World Game Facilities Fund will open for applications in August 2021.

For more information visit: sport.vic.gov.au/grants-and-funding/our-grants/world-game-facilities-fund

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