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James Johnson thrilled with increased fan engagement for Socceroos and Matildas

Football Federation Australia (FFA) has revealed that in spite of COVID-19 related challenges, digital and social engagement figures have surged for both the Socceroos and Matildas.

FFA Chief Executive Officer James Johnson was delighted to announce the increased engagement levels, despite the pandemic halting matches and camps for Australia’s two senior national football teams throughout 2020.

“In the Post Summer 2020 BenchMark Report released by True North Research earlier this year, both our senior national teams rated strongly,” Johnson said.

“The Socceroos had the highest familiarity in the report, with nearly 80 per cent of all Australian sports followers familiar with the team, while the Westfield Matildas came first in emotional connection to all Australian sports followers.”

Johnson added that FFA’s in-house digital and social media team have proactively adapted FFA’s content offerings throughout the pandemic in response to traditionally peak performing periods around international fixtures having been postponed.

“We recognised at the start of the pandemic that there was a likelihood domestic football and a host of international match activity in 2020 could be affected by the COVID-19 situation, and moved swiftly to pivot some of our planning to ensure that our supporters retained, or even grew, their connections to the game and our iconic senior sides throughout this challenging period,” he said

FFA has adopted creative strategies for both the men’s and women’s digital strategies throughout 2020. These include leveraging the successful FIFA Women’s World Cup bid for the Matildas and taking a more retrospective approach for the Socceroos.

Australia’s winning bid to co-host the Women’s World Cup has been one of 2020’s highpoints.

“On the back of the euphoric announcement that Australia, together with New Zealand, will host the FIFA Women’s World Cup in 2023, combined with the movement of many leading Matildas players to globally recognised clubs abroad, we’ve focused on creating content that takes fans behind the scenes and into the lives of our elite female footballers, enabling them to gain a closer understanding of the people and their personalities.

“For the Socceroos, we have focused intently on the culture and history of the team, who in 2022 – a FIFA World Cup year – will celebrate a century of activity. This has included re-living many historic moments and matches and covering them as if social media existed when they occurred. This rich and reflective coverage has resulted in the Socceroos’ digital and social media accounts delivering more video views between April and June 2020 with no matches, than in the nine months prior.

In terms of tangible engagement, highlights of the past 12 months for the Westfield Matildas include a 121 per cent increase in total minutes viewed on Facebook, a 157 per cent increase in overall hours of video viewed across all platforms, and a 9.3 per cent increase in total followers to over 355,000 followers.

The recently launched FFA TikTok channel has also earned strong early engagement, with experienced defender Alanna Kennedy’s training clip edging towards three million views.

The Socceroos’ approach has resulted in a 244 per cent increase in total video views across all platforms, while total hours of video content consumed has risen by 355 per cent year-on-year. Remarkably, 81 per cent of all Socceroos video content consumed throughout last financial year occurred during the COVID-19 period between April and June. The Socceroos have a cumulative social following of over 1.1 million fans.

“Our intent is to continue evolving our digital and social products to ensure that we enhance our connection with our football community, involve fans in the journeys of our teams and players both in and out of peak match and competition periods, and deliver consistent value to our partners,” Johnson concluded.

DFL and AWS introduce two new Match Facts to Bundesliga coverage

Bundesliga analysis

The Deutsche Fußball Liga (DFL) and Amazon Web Services (AWS) have announced the addition of two new Bundesliga Match Facts powered by AWS that will premiere as graphics during broadcasts and in the official Bundesliga app during the 2021-2022 season.

The two new Match Facts – Shot Efficiency and Passing Profile – will bring the total number of advanced statistics to eight, with each of them aiming to give fans deeper insights into the action on the pitch.

The first of the new advanced stats – Shot Efficiency – compares the number of goals that a player or team has scored with how many goals the player or team should have scored based on the quality of their chances.

The second – Passing Profile – provides deeper insights into the pass quality of a player or an entire team. Both of the stats are generated by gathering and analysing the match feeds from live games in real time as they are streamed into AWS.

Both new stats made their debut during Matchday 4 on the clash between German Champion FC Bayern München and the second-placed team of the previous season RB Leipzig.

The two new Match Facts will better showcase the action on the field – giving fans, coaches, players, and commentators visual support for analysing the decision-making of players and teams.

Andreas Heyden, Executive Vice President of Digital Innovations for DFL Group, was excited to further innovate the matchday experience for viewers based both domestically and internationally.

“Bundesliga Match Facts powered by AWS allows us to give fans more insight into the game of football, broadcasters more interesting stories to tell and coaches and teams, more data to excel at their game,” he said.

“Last year, the reception for Bundesliga Match Facts around the world was very positive, and we expect through ML and AI to continue to innovate on these analytics to make them even better.

“These two new stats give fans a view into player efficiency that hasn’t been achieved before, and we are just at the beginning of our relationship with AWS. I’m excited to see how technology will continue to evolve the fan experience and the game.”

Jamie Harnwell driving the game forward in Western Australia

Jamie Harnwell is Perth Glory’s record appearance holder, with 256 of them across three decades. Now Chief Football Officer for Football West, he spoke to Soccerscene about the changes from the NSL to the A-League, the challenges of running a football federation, and his favourite footballing moments throughout his career.

So firstly, what’s the biggest challenges facing Football West at the moment?

Harnwell: I think it’s interesting. Football West is in a really good position, being very fortunate with COVID over here and able to get out and play. The challenges are more for our clubs I suppose, and then Football West supporting them. Facilities are always a challenge for every sport, but certainly for football. We need to make sure there are enough grounds and space for people to play, but also aspects like lighting, adequate change rooms, and those sorts of things are suitable for clubs. We have a number of them almost putting up the closed sign because they have too many players and not enough space for them to play.

The other challenge for Football West and the clubs is the increase in governance requirements. We are basically a volunteer sport in many ways. And the increasing legalities and issues across that for volunteers to deal with can be difficult. So it’s time that we at Football West need to be able to support our clubs, make sure they’re adhering to good practice, and doing the right things so that they can continue to grow.

How has professional football in Australia improved since you first debuted with Perth Glory in the late 90s?

Harnwell: I think it’s actually professional football now. You know when I first started playing, I think there was ourselves and maybe Carlton who were actual full-time professional clubs. The rest were part-time as people were still working during the day, going to training at night, and trying to juggle the two. So certainly the transition into the A-League and full-time professionalism for all clubs has been huge, and just the continued increased coverage and media around the game has made us much more accessible. It’s easier to see and has a much better chance of building that supporter base across the game here in Australia.

What areas do you think the game can continue to improve on going forward into the future?

Harnwell: There’s always talent development and making sure that we stay on pace with best practices and what’s happening in other parts of the world. We are a smaller nation in the grand scheme of things in football, so we need to be smart about how we approach those sorts of things and make sure we get bang for our buck for everything that we do. The other thing is we need to try and increase the commercialism of the game and make sure that we continue to get funds into the game that can assist in the youth development that can help in costs for clubs and all those types of things. So that’s the way I know Football Australia is working hard on it. They’re starting to bring more and more partners into the game. But if you look at the mega machines like AFL, then we probably still have some way to go in that.

How can football win across young athletes into joining the sport over others?

Harnwell:
I think we’re really lucky as a game. I can’t speak for other states, I suppose – but the numbers here at Football West in Western Australia just continue to grow year in year out. We are a very attractive game for parents to pick for young boys and girls. It’s a very easy game to choose and very easy to play and train. So we’re certainly well-positioned in that respect – making sure that our clubs provide positive environments that they enjoy what they do. There isn’t the overarching focus on just winning games, but more a longer-term development based approach that will make sure talented young players will stay in football rather than going across to other codes.

On a personal level, what is your most memorable footballing memory?

Harnwell: There’s probably a few, I suppose for myself as a player – it would have been the first NSL Championship that we won. We’d had a couple of cracks at it before and sort of fell away in the Grand Final. So that first win in 2003 was huge, and really got the monkey off our back, and managing to score in that game with the massive crowd was fantastic. But I’m also a Manchester United fan, so the treble was pretty good as well. So I don’t know which one ranks better for me!

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