In the Cluch: Meet the team powering NPL.TV

Coronavirus, lockdowns and associated crowd caps have brought forward the sports streaming industry three or five years, according to Cluch Managing Director Gus Seebeck.

With Cluch powering the NPL.TV platform in 2022, the organisation will be live streaming in excess of 100 football matches from around the country once the Victorian, New South Wales, South Australia and ACT branches of the National Premier Leagues competitions are all up and running.

Speaking ahead of last night’s National Premier Leagues Victoria clash between South Melbourne and Heidelberg United, Seebeck outlined a rise of sports streaming at the semi-professional level has been propelled forward due to the circumstances of recent years.

“A lot of community clubs and organisations have had to deal with tight crowd restrictions has probably seen this space propel forward three-to-five years in terms of how quickly it’s been adopted,” he told Soccerscene.

“Football fans now have a multitude of choice in terms how they get their content and expectations have increased for the quality of that, which I think is quite reasonable.”

Cluch launched in August 2020, in between the first and second wave of COVID-19 and associated lockdowns and was mainly streaming community sports in New South Wales at the time of its launch.

However, that window activity proved crucial in empowering the platform to grow.

“It was really critical in terms of us being able to get some proven data and a little bit of a look at what’s possible with this technology and the opportunities it can provide,” Seebeck said.

The National Premier Leagues has long been on the hit-list for Cluch and Seebeck is excited that the platform is now powering the NPL.TV product.

“We’ve been speaking to Football New South Wales for some time and particularly around the launch of the initial NPL.TV concept,” he said.

“Whilst this is our first year involved, it was really interesting for us to sit back and just watch how it played out and that allowed us to pick up the conversation when we knew the original deal might be ending.

“We’ve worked really hard with the various federations from August through to Christmas to address any issues or things they wanted to improve on, because we understand that this is a huge audience and we really feel that responsibility.

“It’s very easy for this exercise to become a huge drain on resources given the number of matches that will need to be streamed every week, so we had to be clear on our systems and workflows and we also have to worry about the commercial considerations of the federations and clubs as well and make sure that they are worked into the platform.”

The NPL.TV product will work as a stand-alone app, separate from the Cluch app, which was an important consideration for the participating members.

The addition of the Victorian competition, which had previously been streaming games for free on YouTube and Facebook Live, was the product of a consensus that the NPL.TV had more power as a product showcasing several leagues as opposed to just one.

“Each member federation controls their own destiny in that respect and will make their own decisions on what they think is best for them,” Seebeck said.

“What became really apparent from the very start of the conversation was that the aggregated model was the way to go. Bringing everything into one place and ideally being able to bring the commercial opportunities and value opportunities to the entire audience.

“Obviously streaming to YouTube or Facebook is not difficult, so as a platform we had to make sure that working with us does not add any further resource drain.”

Seebeck believes it’s also important for Cluch to ensure that the commercial opportunities made possible through the platform were not just limited to itself or the member federations.

“We felt that it’s important that every single club that has exposure on the platform has the ability to commercialise and advertise. If they don’t see any value in it for them, then they’re not going to push it to their communities and fans and it’s not going to work because it’s not going to be embraced by everybody,” he said.

“It was important from our perspective that we’re able to allocate inventory right up the value chain.”

The NPL.TV platform will be completely free for fans to watch, with no subscription, meaning revenues will be driven by advertising and sponsorship.

Cluch will sell pre-roll advertisements, with member federations and clubs sharing in-stream advertisements, with the terms of that split to be handled by the federations.

The streams themselves will continue to be produced by the Federations, but Seebeck said that Cluch had outstanding existing relationships with the companies currently producing the streams on the ground.

The NPL.TV app is available globally, meaning the streams can be viewed from anywhere in the world with an App Store or an internet connection. The app itself was launched on Apple’s App Store and the Google Play store on Wednesday, ahead of the Thursday night NPL Victoria season opener.

Speaking to Soccerscene prior to kick-off between the South Melbourne and Heidelberg United derby, Seebeck revealed the TV apps would also be available very soon, if not at the time of publication.

“We’re fine-tuning the TV apps, but we think that’s really important,” he said.

“For us, it doesn’t matter if you want to watch your favourite Premier League team or Champions League team or your local NPL club, if you want to watch that on TV, you should be able to do that with a single remote.

“It’s important to us that you can watch these streams on the TV without having to go and get a cable for your laptop et cetera, et cetera, so it’s something we’re fine-tuning and hope it will be available soon.”

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

Iconic Lambert Park re-opens after $2m refurbishment

Lambert Park, home of the APIA Leichardt Football Club, officially re-opened on the weekend after a successful $2m refurbishment.

The extensive investment for the iconic local club includes:

– Replacement of the all-weather playing surface

– Improved drainage

– New concrete edge, stairs and fencing around the perimeter

– Improved access with a new ramp to allow access on the field

The ground is gradually improving to become one of the premier NPL surfaces in the country and this is another one of many recent upgrades helped by the commitment of the Inner West Council.

Currently the ground has two main stands on either side of the playing surface. In the southern stands, there are dressing room facilities, a social club with views of the game, press facilities and media facilities.

On Sunday, the new look Lambert Park was the home for the APIA Leichardt vs Gladesville Ravens NPL Women’s game, and the day was spent in celebration of the refurbishment, as the club organised an event.

The event included an official ceremony by Inner West Council pre-game, free ice cream and activations which drew a decent crowd to the game.

APIA posted an update regarding Sunday’s re-opening.

“Lambert Park was filled with Maroon and Blue as over 400 predominantly female footballers celebrated the $2 million Lambert Park upgrade,” APIA confirmed on their social media accounts.

“The day was filled with some fantastic football and some great activations and enjoyed by all.

“The clubs would also like to thank local clubs Balmain & District Football Club, Leichardt Saints and opponents on the day Gladesville Ravens Women’s NPL football for supporting the day.

“It was a special day for football in our community.”

Lambert Park is an iconic ground that has seen some of Australia’s best names start their careers there since it was first used in 1954.

APIA Leichardt Football Club has produced more Matildas and Socceroos than any other club in Australian history.

The ground gets another much deserved upgrade and will continue to host NPL NSW matches across all age groups in both men’s and women’s competitions.

Angel City FC: Uplifting women and strengthening communities

Los Angeles is a city that produces pioneers and cultural influencers across various industries, including entertainment, technology, and sports. The Angel City FC epitomises LA’s ambition and innovative essence more than any other organisation.

Alexis Ohanian, Co-founder of Reddit, Initialised Capital and Seven Seven Six, is the largest shareholder as an individual investor for the club, however, he does not hold a majority of the equity or control of the board, instead sharing authority with co-owners Julie Uhrman, entrepreneur with a talent for community building and ranks among the most influential figures in the sports business industry as well as being President of the club. Joining in the ranks as founders are Kara Nortman, a visionary venture capitalist and , the acclaimed Academy Award winning actress and passionate advocate for women’s rights.

Angel City FC’s journey started following the US Women’s National Team’s 2019 World Cup victory. The triumph, which garnered record viewership, alongside movements for gender and pay equity, propelled the creation of the club has obtained attention since it was awarded expansion license for the 2022 season back in 2020.

Capitalising on the World Cup momentum and data indicating strong fan interest in women’s sports, the group established Angel City FC, confident in the increasing value and growth potential.

Angel City FC’s business strategy in sports is truly pioneering. By implementing creative revenue models, including distinctive sponsorship arrangements and a dedication to community investment, the club has shown that supporting women’s sports holds significant, untapped commercial potential. It is important to highlight that the club’s sponsorship model, which allocates 10% of sponsorship dollars back into the community.

Rocky Rodriguez headers the ball
Image credit: NWSL website

This approach has redirected over $4.5 million into the community, forging partnerships with Hollywood A-listers and influential activists like Uzo Aduba, Jessica Chastain, Jennifer Garner, and Eva Longoria, are amongst an ownership group over 100 strong, most of whom are women.

Through a new partnership with HubSpot, Angel City FC will support women athletes via a fund dedicated to post-retirement education and entrepreneurship endeavours. Emphasising revenue sharing and community reinvestment, Angel City FC persistently adopts a groundbreaking approach to achieve commercial success while advancing its broader mission.

Central to Angel City’s mission is the community it serves and builds. In its brief existence, the club has successfully cultivated a diverse and inclusive fan base, resulting in unprecedented support and engagement.

Angel City’s impressive 90% season ticket holder retention rate and strategic, values-aligned sponsorships further attest to the club’s success in community building. “How do we leave the community better than when we started?” Uhrman emphasises as a key question the club seriously contemplates with each partnership opportunity.

Consider the partnership with Sprouts Farmers Market. Through this collaboration, the club focuses on nutrition and education, partnering with two local schools to create gardens and host free monthly farmers markets benefiting the community. Additionally, an education program teaches children about nutrition and the importance of developing strong bodies, further enhancing the impact of the Sprouts partnership.

While Sportico reported that for the clubs first season in 2022, the new entity had already been valued at more than $150m approximately, Angel City’s average crowd attendance for the 2022 and 2023 seasons at BMO stadium had surpassed Sydney FC’s attendance during the 2022/23 A-League Men season by approximately 3000, which led the competition.

With at least four more expansion franchises planned in the coming years, perhaps the question is why the A-Leagues can’t strive to establish their own Angel City FC, or at the very least, embrace the concept of standalone women’s teams in the A-League Women?

However, Uhrman, on her end, recognises that the Angel City model isn’t universally applicable and cannot simply be replicated everywhere around the world.

The NWSL was established in 2012, the following year was when matches were played, ever since then NWSL is being praised for reaching a stage where there is ongoing work needed to address sustainability and player safety concerns (the league has faced a series of abuse scandals in recent years).

With new investments and ambitions, such as relocating its headquarters from Chicago to New York, aligning with the MLS and America’s major sports leagues like the NFL, NBA, MLB, and NHL – the league is poised to strengthen its foundations and sustainability as it enters a new phase of existence.

In this phase, the NWSL not only aims to solidify its position in the American sports hierarchy but also seeks to distinguish itself within the rapidly expanding women’s football ecosystem worldwide.

The club’s website has a dedicated category for their six unique supporter groups, with each of them having social media platform and a website, with a brief description about each group. Looking at this from an Australian footballing perspective, it all sounds too good to be true, how Angel City FC has excelled the marketing area for its club efficiently in a short period of time, whereas compared to the clubs here in the country, it needs to take learnings from America on how they implement the marketing strategies in different area of a football club and apply it for their respected clubs.

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