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Is the viewing future of Australian football an all-encompassing app?

The worst keep secret in broadcasting is the slow and inevitable decline of Foxtel. With money being lost hand over foot and parent body News Corp bankrolling the media giant to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars, the changing manner in which people consume entertainment appears to have Foxtel’s days numbered.

In the first quarter of the 2019/20 financial year, Foxtel cited a A$306 million loss and the sporting arm of the business, Fox Sports, was the first to feel the weight of budget cuts and restructuring. So called ‘non-marquee’ content was cut or put on hold, staff were shred and the future of football and rugby union on the cable network beyond their current broadcast deals was thrown into serious question.

Bookies will be offering short odds that Australian football will have a new broadcasting home in the near future, despite the potential for FFA, the A and W-Leagues and Foxtel to be able to extend their relationship should the deal be mutually satisfying.

High hopes were held for Optus Sport’s foray into football when it acquired the Premier League rights in 2015 from Foxtel for a princely sum of A$200 million. With a World Cup taking place in Russia during the Australian winter of 2018, Optus stood to impress all and sundry with their state of the art coverage and well functioning app.

Sadly, it was an unmitigated disaster that led to SBS saving the day at the eleventh hour, after thousands of Australian customers went to bed bitterly disappointed in the early days of the tournament. Thankfully, things have improved markedly, Optus have extended their Premier League deal until the completion of the 2021/22 season and recently expanded their coverage into the Asian market by adding the J-League to their platform.

It appears to be the future of media consumption with consumers able to streamline their experience by using only the apps that appeal to them. No longer is there a need to purchase an expensive and cumbersome all-encompassing cable television package that provides some desired content and a vast amount in which the customer has very little interest.

Generally, Australian consumers appear pleased with the simplicity and reliability of the Optus service. Recently, CEO of Football Victoria Peter Filopoulos announced that the governing body were in talks with Optus and Kayo Sports in regards to a potential arrangement that would see expanded streaming of Victorian NPL matches.

Both Facebook and Youtube have recorded impressive figures over the past twelve months whilst streaming NPL content. Early figures from NPL rounds in Victoria appear to indicate a continued interest and there was much online interaction during the first round of New South Wales’ NPL season across the weekend just passed.

With the demise of Foxtel’s subscription service imminent and their Kayo brand appearing to be the way of the future, Australian football would do well to think long and hard about where to hitch it’s wagon in the short to medium term. With car manufacturer Hyundai’s role in the future of the domestic game and a restructuring of their current A$6 million per annum deal with the A-League likely when it expires this June, it is a nervous time for the domestic game.

Without a host broadcaster and major sponsor for the elite competition, things could turn very grim, very quickly. However, with near two million Australians using the Optus service to engage with Premier League content and thousands of Australians using Kayo, Foxtel and Facebook to satisfy their thirst for the beautiful game, the answer might be staring the powers at be right in the face.

A dedicated Australian football app that covers A-League, W-League and NPL play across the country should be a number one priority for the game moving forward. For a flat monthly subscription fee, fans of the Australian game would have access to every match and for the first time in Australia’s history, the entire population would be exposed to the country’s top tier and not the minority of Australian’s who hold Foxtel subscriptions.

Whether FFA, the A-League owners and sponsors could go it alone and finance such a project is unknown. Perhaps Optus or Kayo would be interested in filling some sort of parent role in the deal; taking a small wedge of the pie created by subscriptions.

Either way, the future of Australian football appears likely to look like the service currently offered by Optus Sport. The time is nigh to strike and concede defeat when it comes to subscription services being able to promote the A-League. By moving now, the increasing popularity of the NPL across the nation will also be dragged along for the ride.

There is still a place in the Australian football market for free-to-air content and after weak recent attempts, it might be time for a return to the spiritual home of SBS; if recent budget cuts allow it to happen.

Football in Australia looks a little ‘Brave New World’ right now. Let’s leave the dinosaurs behind and take the leap of faith required. It will be the best thing for the game in the long term.

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Stuart Thomas is a trusted Journalist with Soccerscene. He reports widely on macro policy within Australasia and industry disruptions.

Regional NSW gets boost ahead of 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup

A NSW Government funded talent identification and youth development program over the next three years will help young girls who aspire to play for the Matildas.

This morning, Deputy Premier John Barilaro launched the program in Albury and explained how an investment of $750,000 will ensure players from Regional NSW have the opportunity to showcase their skills, leading up to the FIFA Women’s World Cup in 2023.

“Regional NSW is home to some of the most talented athletes in the country and has a rich history of producing Matildas with more than half of the National team coming from our State’s regions over the past forty years,” Mr Barilaro said.

“This investment from the NSW Government will ensure the next generation of girls and young women in regional NSW have the same level of access to coaching and support as their peers in the city as they strive to represent Australia on the world stage.”

It is designed for girls aged 12 to 18 years old, with funding to support the establishment of training hubs across the state and identifying talented young players will be further supported through the provision of training camps and player support scholarships – the added bonus is potentially being tutored by current and former Matildas.

Acting Minister for Sport Geoff Lee said the NSW Government is committed to ensuring a lasting legacy from hosting FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 matches.

“We are witnessing an exciting new era in Australian women’s football and this investment will create successful pathways for aspiring girls in Regional NSW who dream of wearing the green and gold,” Mr Lee said.

“With current and former Matildas stars including Ellie Carpenter, Sally Shipard and Amy Chapman all growing up in regional NSW, this program will establish a pathway for aspiring Matildas in their local communities.”

Football NSW Chief Executive, Stuart Hodge, was there for today’s launch, as was 110 cap Matilda, Joey Peters hailing from Leeton in the Riverina, as well as football representatives including young talented players from the Albury-Wodonga Football Association.

Hodge believes the NSW Government’s investment has created a once in a generation opportunity for upcoming female athletes.

“Hosting the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 will inspire the next generation of Matildas and with the support of the NSW Government, together with Football Australia and Northern NSW Football, we are committed to providing the best training and development opportunities for our female athletes across regional NSW,” Mr Hodge said.

Chief Executive of Northern NSW Football, David Eland was also pleased with the announcement.

“The support provided by the NSW Government is invaluable and will assist NNSWF to provide the most talented female footballers in our region with access to programs, services, coaching and competitive opportunities required to fulfil their potential and aspirations to represent their Country.”

Former Matilda and Westfield W-League player Ashleigh Sykes, with 19 caps for the national team, who together with her twin sister Nicole grew up in Dubbo, enthusiastically supported today’s announcement.

“Growing up in Western NSW, sometimes it was easy to feel forgotten and isolated, like you’re not being seen as often as some of the city kids,” she said.

“I was lucky enough to benefit from people sticking together and supporting each other, from small group sessions to dedicated and loving coaches, to men’s teams providing a competitive training environment.

“For us, when the opportunity came up, moving to a city like Sydney or Canberra was a big decision at the age of 16 years.

“We made the choice to stay at home to finish school but then had to do lots of travelling to development camps. What this new program is offering will provide young girls aspiring to play for the country with enhanced opportunities which I think is fantastic and I am excited to be involved.”

Why Manchester City were named the most innovative sports team in the world

According to a report by Sports Innovation Lab, Manchester City have been named the most innovative sports team in the world.

The research and market intelligence firm assessed worldwide sporting clubs across three different categories: technology alignment, organisational agility and revenue diversification.

Over 8,000 data sources were analysed by the firm over multiple years, as well as more than 150,000 market signals to eventually determine the final rankings.

“Our team of analysts masterfully identified patterns of success among the world’s most nimble and well-prepared sports organisations,” said Josh Walker, Sports Innovation Lab co-founder and president.

“Our ongoing daily research and guidance will help the industry in charting the journey ahead.”

Manchester City were listed above an array of sporting sides, due to various factors.

The report stated “Manchester City has had their challenges recently, but that hasn’t stopped them from taking full advantage of their global brand awareness to diversify revenue opportunities, launch their own OTT service, and expand their products and services.

“City has consistently delivered unique experiences that other teams with fewer resources and smaller audiences would be wise to emulate.”

As an example, the English club recently launched a Facebook campaign that promoted a freestyle football competition to a global audience.

City have also worked with the social media giant and its supporters to generate long-form and short-form content that extended fan participation well beyond game-day, creating a variety of non-rights protected media.

Activations like that and the partnerships they have built with companies like Nissan, take advantage of City’s larger amount of assets they have through the City Football Group (CFG).

Sports Innovation Lab scored City the highest in technology breadth, meaning it is willing to use different services and products well before other sporting sides.

For example, City were the first team to launch a channel on Youtube Kids, a platform for children aged 12 and under, whilst also developing a partnership with Capstone Games to offer fans a digital experience where they act as a football manager and make critical in-game decisions.

The club does continue to be highly praised for its varying revenue sources as well, across its operations.

“In addition to all the brand and tech alignment City uses on social platforms, it gets similarly high marks for its revenue diversification and development of the Etihad campus — a multi-use district around the stadium that gives Manchester a hub of various media and entertainment experiences. As it continues to collect first-party data from its fans globally, it will be in a prime position to deliver Fluid Fans (technologically savvy supporters) a personalised experience,” the report said.

Other notable recent activity includes the Premier League side’s deal with Onefootball to distribute global editorial content on the German based company’s app, and their exclusive content deal with Douyin, a Chinese service owned by ByteDance (the company who owns TikTok). Mumbai City’s new deal with Puma, who outfits Man City, also highlighted the power of a centralised ownership group like CFG.

Sports Innovation Lab doesn’t forecast City will dip from the top of their bracket anytime soon.

“We expect City will be hard to unseat at the top of the rankings. They have a strong tech focus that should keep them ahead of the pack,” the report concluded.

The full Sports Innovation Lab list of the 25 most innovative sporting teams are shown below.

Full list:

  1. Manchester City (Premier League)
  2. Real Madrid (La Liga)
  3. Arsenal (Premier League)
  4. Barcelona (La Liga)
  5. Bayern Munich (Bundesliga)
  6. Manchester United (Premier League)
  7. Golden State Warriors (NBA)
  8. Paris Saint-Germain (Ligue 1)
  9. Juventus (Serie A)
  10. Sacramento Kings (NBA)
  11. Liverpool (Premier League)
  12. Philadelphia 76ers (NBA)
  13. New England Patriots (NFL)
  14. Green Bay Packers (NFL)
  15. AS Roma (Serie A)
  16. Borussia Dortmund (Bundesliga)
  17. Tottenham Hotspur (Premier League)
  18. Toronto Raptors (NBA)
  19. Seattle Seahawks (NFL)
  20. Chicago Cubs (MLB)
  21. Los Angeles Clippers (NBA)
  22. San Francisco 49ers (NFL)
  23. Cleveland Cavaliers (NBA)
  24. Atlético Madrid (La Liga)
  25. Schalke 04 (Bundesliga)

 

 

 

 

Football Queensland’s Club Support Hub to assist Play Football campaign

Football Queensland has launched their new Club Support Hub, alongside the 2021 Play Football registration campaign.

“In the Strategic Plan, FQ committed to improving the support of our clubs and volunteers throughout the state,” Football Queensland CEO Robert Cavallucci said.

“That is why we have developed the Club Support Hub, which provides a single destination for Queensland clubs to easily access marketing guides, retention and recruitment strategies, graphic design assistance, and promotional material for coach and referee courses.

“It builds on FQ’s other recent club support initiatives including the expanding Facilities Hub and the creation of the Club Development Unit.

“The launch of the Club Support Hub has been timed to coincide with the Play Football campaign as FQ leads a targeted digital strategy in Queensland, with localised messaging in each region and a central focus on the retention and recruitment of women and girls, and referees.

“By supporting and building capacity within clubs at the same time, we can align our efforts and ensure the football community is united in growing the game.

“The national ‘Join Our Team’ tagline supports this collective approach to showcasing football as we constantly work on providing participation opportunities for all Queenslanders regardless of age, gender, location or background.”

Players, coaches, referees and volunteers are able to sign up for the new season via Play Football’s national registration portal.

The Club Support Hub can be accessed here.

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