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Does the A-League need a Big Bash style experiment?

The fans roar as the fireworks explode – with music blasting a Mexican wave engulfs the stadium. Cricket Australia’s Big Bash League (BBL) has succeeded in attracting families to their sport, which is something that the A-League could look to replicate.

The A-League could learn from both the failures and successes of the Big Bash League to rejuvenate football in Australia, with a BBL style concept to attract consumers and fans to the A-League in a unique manner.

However, an approach into a BBL style experiment would have to be taken carefully as there is a fine line between creating a product that is viewed as a serious competition and creating a product that is looked down upon such as AFLX.

The BBL’s peak was on January 2, in 2016 when 80,883 fans packed into the MCG to watch a match between the Melbourne Stars and the Melbourne Renegades.

While the Big Bash has been in a supposed decline in popularity since, the league has still been able to produce some large attendances.

54,478 people attended a Melbourne Derby on January 4 earlier this year – the third highest crowd for a BBL game in the league’s history.

Meanwhile the A-League’s highest crowd before COVID-19 interrupted the 2019/20 season was 33,523 people at October’s draw between Melbourne Victory and Melbourne City.

Cricket Australia’s success with the BBL came from creating an experience geared towards families and children – with pump up music, fireworks and flamethrowers that were suited to T20 cricket with its high scoring, exciting and shorter format.

Former Liverpool star Craig Johnston has suggested an idea of what an A-League version of the BBL would look like.

“Four quarters, 15 minutes each, rotating substitutes, sin bins, all the things you’re not allowed to do in soccer,” he told The Daily Football Show in 2019.

“So effectively in midfield, you could take a touch, get past a player and you could shoot for goal. Then the goalkeeper’s either saving that shot or it’s a goal.”

“We’re utilising the same players but we’re taking out their midfield and we’re giving the players and the consumers four times more of what they want in the quarter of the time.”

Johnston believes that a Big Bash style format should be adapted by Australian football with A-League teams.

“The big idea is the Big Bash of soccer, but then the kids copy it at their training grounds,” he said.

“It is professional six-a-side with A-League teams. The A-League teams split in half, red versus blue, they play against each other.”

“The Big Bash and the One Day series is the best thing that ever happened to cricket in terms of engaging young minds and future minds.”

If the A-League was to try BBL style product it would need to make sure the best players are available – a weakness of the Big Bash has been that some of the biggest names in Australian cricket do not play regularly in the competition as the league clashes with international fixtures.

An A-League Big Bash competition would also be taken more seriously if the best players were playing regularly.

Perhaps the naming rights sponsor of the competition could provide a cash prize to the winning club, to entice clubs to field their best players.

One lesson that the A-League could learn from the Big Bash is that it has been made too long, something that even stars of the competition like Glen Maxwell have admitted.

“I think the length of the tournament when it was 10 games, I think we all really enjoyed that. I think it was the perfect amount,” Maxwell told SEN in early 2020.

“I just think 14 games is just a little bit much. It just makes for a very long tournament and probably goes for a touch too long.

“With school starting again it makes it a bit more difficult to keep the interest levels going until the end (of the season).”

The Big Bash was at its best when there was a limited number of games played predominantly in the school holidays.

If each A-League team played each other once in a new competition it could have an 11 game season plus a short finals series.

Ideally the A-League Big Bash concept would need to have as many games broadcast on free-to-air as possible – in order to easily accessible to fans.

There seems to be a lack of momentum coming into the 2020/21 A-League season, which is just under a week away. An Australian football version of the BBL could potentially be played as a lead in tournament to the A-League season, bringing attention and hype to the beginning of the competition.

Daniel Foley
Daniel Foley is a sports junior journalist with Soccerscene. He reports widely on football policy and micro industry matters.

TGI Sport lifts the stadium experience

As a leading sports technology company, TGI Sport are capable of implementing their digital expertise to improve a fans’ experience.

As a leading sports technology company, TGI Sport are capable of implementing their digital expertise to improve a fans’ experience.

Trusted by sporting organisations and brands since 1997, TGI Sport is a versatile business that delivers sports infrastructure, technology and media rights around the world. There is over 250 people employed globally across 12 offices.

Led by TGI’s chief commercial officer Patick Vendrely and director of digital strategy Gordon Campbell, they are able to help football clubs develop their very own digital identity, especially as we rebound from Covid-19.

TGI connects brands and stadiums to sports fans through their dynamic digital solutions. These include a proprietary broadcast & digital technology, infrastructure, event presentation, game day operations, fan engagement across major sporting leagues and a host of premier sporting venues.

TGI provides advertisers, sponsors, rights holders and brands with a unique and powerful platform to engage a sports audience – that shapes the future of sport event experiences on global scale for millions of people.

TGI are the digital and commercial bridge between rights holders, fans and brands. They capture valuable data, then analyse and utilise it to increase inventory, revenues and lead the industry in understanding how sports fans can relate to their club and brands.

Technology-based innovation, globalisation and rapid changes in consumer behaviour are revolutionising the ways in which sport is created, delivered, consumed and commercialised, where TGI can identify trends in markets. They offer a unique and consolidated approach built around data, technology and experience that ensures their partners engage and retain the fans, attract brands and deliver commercial value for right holders, stadiums, sporting leagues and brands, all while making sure that return on investment (ROI) can be achieved.

With a shift in focus towards what the landscape will look like post-Covid, TGI can look at how fans have become accustomed to technology. Due to the lockdown, to watch sport required HD video, surround sound, multiple screens at formats at home. For sports clubs, it means not only means they’re up against their own competition, but now it is what fans can do.

TGI aims to bring the best of both worlds together, where fans go to a game but are still immersed in the same technology at the stadium that they would be used to at home. Doing this promotes both the likelihood of these supporters returning and the potential for revenue through brands. Sports clubs can harness the power of mobile-led campaigns, with opportunities such as messaging, videos, live interaction from brands and live interaction from their favourite teams.

TGI have developed their Parallel-Ads (PADS) technology with LED screens inserted virtually, allowing for customised messaging for unique brands to different regions and geography.  This means that a broadcast for a match won’t be the exact same for each viewing audience, while it also relates to TV rights deals.

By delivering relevant advertising that people would like to see, it increases the revenue opportunities. TGI’s virtual technology means that each domestic feed is sold separately and the in-stadia feed can be sold differently to the broadcast feed. These solutions give sport organisations more control on how they want to be seen.

PADS technology also allows for TGI to send instant messaging within the stadium on LED boards. This creates a single platform to boost the value of brands. The idea is to bring a joined-up direct connection to the fan, rather than a scattering of disjointed advertising. By engaging with the customer directly, it can lead to bigger and greater growth.

For a number of years, TGI worked with FIFA on in-stadium advertising for several World Cup tournaments. TGI guided numerous partners through the transition from static to rotational advertising in countless sporting locations. TGI’s digital LED system solutions were deployed for the very first time on a major stage at the 2009 Confederations Cup in South Africa.

TGI are renowned in the USA as a major player in stadium branding, and have also expanded successfully into Europe – now into the third consecutive 3-year-deal with UEFA. The UEFA Champions League and Europa League count on TGI for their digital advertising needs.

In 2018, TGI was acquired by leading digital media company QMS, complementing the existing sport portfolio across Australia and New Zealand. In Australia, TGI currently works with leading professional sporting codes and organisations, including Football Australia. The ambition is evident from TGI as they strive to expand its geographic footprint and diversify revenue channels.

You can find out more on the benefits of TGI Sport here.

Ausco Modular to build clubhouse for Virginia United

Ausco Modular will start production on a brand new custom designed clubhouse for Virginia United Football Club.

Ausco Modular will start production on a brand new custom designed clubhouse for Virginia United Football Club, based in the Queensland suburb of Nundah.

Construction is planned to begin this month in the club’s Riverview facility, to enhance the viewing experience on game day.

The clubhouse plan design features four female friendly changing rooms, two referee rooms, a social room for club events and a large canteen. Spectators will be able to catch all the action from the deck overlooking Field 1.

Ausco have been trusted as a modular building partner, being the perfect fit for clubs, councils, community & sporting groups across Australia.

By choosing modular building to create a new or upgraded clubhouse or facility, it solves many of the challenges that organisations face in the planning and implementation of construction.

Minimal groundworks are required and little space beyond the built area of the building preserves playing fields during works and limits the number of disruptions for the playing season, as well as the neighbouring community.

Their latest completed project at Underwood Park highlights what they bring to any club or organisation who wants an upgrade on their current set up.

“This project not only provides our community with the sort of facilites we need, but has also supported 450 local construction and manufacturing jobs,” Mick de Brenni said.

“Special recognition is earned by the team at Ausco Modular, their contracting partners, staff and excellent tradies.”

By choosing Ausco Modular, you will get a reliable supplier of infrastructure that can bring immediate benefits to your organisation:

  • You can be assured that our design teams have worked closely with national and state sporting codes to develop facilities that meet or exceed their minimum standards
  • Time-saving as installation can be up to 60% faster than conventional on-the-ground construction
  • The modular building methodology makes facilities suitable for the landfill and reclaimed substrates under many playing fields
  • We manage the project from beginning to end to mitigate the risk of scope, timeline and cost overruns and to lessen the burden on your staff and volunteers.
  • All Ausco Modular buildings comply with the National Construction Code of Australia.

You can find out more on Ausco including case studies on their dedicated sports facilities page here.

The future of the professional game in Australia: One-on-one with Sydney FC CEO and APL Managing Director Danny Townsend

Sydney FC CEO Danny Townsend is one of the key central figures tasked with revitalising the A-League and the W-League.

Speaking with Soccerscene, the recently appointed Managing Director of the Australian Professional Leagues (APL) believes the professional game in this country is at a critical juncture, as the representative body looks to secure a new TV deal to underpin the future of the sport.

“It’s a crucial deal for the game,” he said.

“At the end of the day, it’s about being able to provide us with some financial security, but importantly also provide us with the right amount of reach for our game. I think we need to have all of the ‘media pipes’ on into the future, as we sort of re-invent the leagues.”

Townsend admits an agreement is set to be struck within the next 4-6 weeks and whilst a summer season for the A-League looks likely, the former Sydney United midfielder would not commit to it whilst discussions with broadcasters continue.

“We are working through that process at the moment; you’ve got to play when you are most commercially viable,” he said.

“What’s really important for this sport is having a sound financial framework around the game. That will mean we need to play when we are most valuable and the market will determine when that is. Equally, we will need to look at a lot of different factors around what it will do for other revenue streams in the game.

“It’s not just about the TV deal, it’s about attendances, memberships, sponsorships and all of those factors need to be considered when you set your calendar.”

The current on-field product of the A-League this season has been the best it has been for years, with the Sydney FC CEO outlining a few reasons why he believes that is the case.

“It’s been an amazing season so far,” Townsend said.

“The matches have a quality that we probably didn’t expect coming out of COVID.

“I think the 5-sub rule has helped, being able to change potentially a third or more of your team at any given time during a match just throws up a degree of uncertainty in games, which has just been interesting.

“I also believe the youth has been a major factor. The amount of quality young players coming into the competition this year – it’s a by-product of the COVID pandemic, which has influenced the financials of the game and meant that clubs have probably had to have a look to their own development pathways more than they might have done in other years.

“The proof is in the pudding. Players like Alou Kuol, Kusini Yengi, these guys that are being unearthed are phenomenal talents and they are great for our game.”

Sydney FC CEO and APL Managing Director Danny Townsend

The attractive product on the park this year doesn’t take away from the issues off the field. The A-League currently doesn’t have a naming rights sponsor since Hyundai exited a 15-year partnership with the league last year. It’s a problem which the APL’s new managing director believes will be addressed in due time.

“I think you’ll see more once we start to roll out the APL strategy, we are seeing a huge amount of corporate interest in what we are doing,” Townsend said.

“I think you’ll see those current vacancies filled pretty quickly.”

Crowds are down this season for a multitude of reasons, one of those being the after effects of a global pandemic, but Townsend realises the game has to do better with engaging fans of the sport.

“I think what we’ve got to do is reconnect and connect,” he said.

“What I mean by that is there are a lot of people who have been involved in football over a long period of time, who don’t support the A-League or W-League. We need to reconnect with those people.

“We need to embrace our multicultural heritage; the sport was built on immigration and those cultures that come together to play the world game. Ultimately, the beautiful thing about our code is that we are the number one sport in the world. We need to be the number one sport in Australia as well. I think that’s going to come with unity, bringing people back into the game and connecting with those already in the game.”

The APL will focus their energy on a digital first strategy to connect the close to 2 million participants in Australia to the game, with Townsend explaining it will allow the representative body to understand who those people are, know their preferences and serve them with appropriate content and information to link them with the sport.

Unique identifiers such as active support will also be prioritised, with the hope being to bring the level of support back to the golden years of the A-League.

“When I bring mates of mine who are Rugby League guys or Rugby Union guys along to a Sydney FC game, they are blown away by the atmosphere that’s created by the active supporters,” Townsend said.

“It’s something we have to embrace. It’s not simple because there are other stakeholders involved that contribute to how they are managed, but we need to reduce the barriers of entry for people who want to be a part of active support.”

Unifying the sport is a key point in the APL’s overall mission for the game and Townsend claims the representative body is supportive of a national second division, as long as there is a sustainable financial framework around it.

“We are about growing football. I’m still yet to really engage with anyone involved in a national second division to understand what their plan is, but where we can we want to help,” he said.

“We are up for working with the NPL and helping them grow the consumption of their content. They’ve got NPL.TV which is a fantastic initiative. How we work with that, with APL and our content, is important in bringing that unity back to the game.”

 

 

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