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MatchDay Digital – the alternative for NPL clubs

In a time where fans are not guaranteed to be able to attend games due to COVID-19, MatchDay Digital makes programmes accessible to everyone.

In a time where fans are not guaranteed to be able to attend games due to COVID-19, MatchDay Digital presents as a beneficial way to make programmes accessible to everyone.

MatchDay Digital is the world’s first, football-focussed digital magazine platform that sees premium content made available for everyone no matter where they are, including matchday programmes, popular football magazines, newspapers and high-quality fanzines. Fans will then have access to digital versions of content that may have otherwise been print-only.

Available on Apple iOS with Android and Desktop to follow soon, MatchDay Digital brings all quality football content to the app and sees the development of programmes for football clubs.

By having all football content in the one place, it reaches a bigger audience where fans may find a hidden gem they might not have seen before. MatchDay Digital uses the Intelligent Content Engine (IP) to match material uploaded by clubs, leagues and countries that fans follow on the app, which significantly increases the visibility and reach of each publication that in turn enhances the fan experience.

MatchDay Digital is a free-to-use platform given they work on a revenue share based on the volume sold and a further reinvestment into marketing with each partner. Their strong technology roadmap will allow for more interactivity, dynamic content and translations as they look to extend their reach globally.

English League One side AFC Wimbledon are part of MatchDay Digital’s clients, featuring English Premier League teams Burnley and Crystal Palace, as well as Championship clubs Brentford FC, Norwich City, Nottingham Forest and Watford where digital content is provided.

AFC Wimbledon’s partnership began from the opening day of this season where fans could download the matchday programme for the game against Plymouth Argyle, even without being allowed to attend.

AFC WImbledon CEO Joe Palmer sees this as a step ahead of the curve when factoring in the potential of further reach within the app.

“AFC Wimbledon is a forward-thinking club. We are embracing the future and our new stadium shows that. We’ve not skimped on technology in any way,” Palmer said to FC Business.

“We have to future proof and think ahead as to how fans’ behaviour will change, and digital content is just part of that. We’re not the biggest club, but that doesn’t mean we can’t think like one.

“Digital magazines have been teetering on the edge of full existence for a while now. A lot of people have been talking about them, but it made sense for us to take this step now.

“There’s plenty of research that now shows mobile phone use in stadiums is massive. Practically, people don’t want to hold a physical magazine.

“Digital is a much more cost-effective and time-effective way of operating and clubs need to challenge more fans to move to digital we move into the future, because it’s better for us as businesses, and it’s better for fans as consumers.

“Modern-day football clubs can encourage that change for the good of the fans, and the good of the club.”

In today’s current climate, where the production of printed magazines and distribution would be tricky amid the challenges of COVID-19, the idea of going digital has an even stronger case and big appeal to any football clubs yet to make the switch.

“We knew that fans would only occasionally buy matchday programmes when physically attending football games,” MatchDay Digital founder & CEO Damian Woodward explains.

“Through our research we found out that if it was more convenient, easy to access and offered better value, more fans would purchase programmes. Over 50% of match-goers and 25% of fans watching on TV or through subscription services would be interested in buying a digital programme if it were available to them.

“For clubs, we could see that they were spending time and money on producing, printing and distributing a high-quality publication for each home game, but that the audience for this was so limited.

“You’re only speaking to the people who are attending the game, but if you speak to every club in the country, they’d tell you that their fanbase is much, much bigger than just the people who are able to get to the ground on Saturdays.

“MatchDay Digital allows clubs to access their audience wherever they are. That means greater revenue from increased sales, a better connection to the fanbase and unlimited exposure that can be sold on to sponsors. It’s a no-brainer, for no extra cost.”

You can find more on MatchDay Digital here, where you can get in touch by filling in a contact form.

Liam Watson is a Senior Journalist with Soccerscene. He reports widely on international football policy, industry matters and industry 4.0

W-League big winners in new CBA, as greater contract freedom for A-League clubs beckons

A new collective bargaining agreement has been struck between Professional Football Australia and the Australian Professional Leagues.

Equity in high-performance standards in the A-League and W-League, a 32% increase in the W-League salary cap floor and an increase in the A-League salary cap floor are the highlights of the new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) struck between Professional Footballers Australia (PFA) and the Australian Professional Leagues (APL).

The new five-year deal was described as “ground-breaking” by a joint statement between the two bodies, in an announcement that highlights the newfound confidence in the economic environment for professional football in Australia.

Much of that confidence can be linked to the new five-year broadcast agreement with ViacomCBS and Network 10 and it is no surprise that this new CBA has been deliberately linked in length to the broadcast deal.

PFA Co-Chief Executive Kathryn Gill explained that being able to achieve this agreement was a huge milestone for the professional game in Australia, after such a long period of uncertainty in recent years due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the end of the previous broadcasting deal with Fox Sports.

“The players’ vision for the negotiations was economic security and stability for the clubs, the leagues and the players. This agreement is a foundational step towards this objective and our leagues will be stronger as a result,” she said via the joint statement.

“It has been an incredibly challenging time for our game; however, we believe the CBA will provide a platform for our leagues to be re-launched and for a genuine partnership between the clubs and the players to be forged.

“I would like to acknowledge the work of Greg O’Rourke, Danny Townsend, Tracey Scott, Chris Pehlivanis and John Tsatsimas for their efforts and commitment during the negotiations and especially the players who participated so actively throughout.”

PFA President Alex Wilkinson noted the immense sacrifice made by many players to usher the game through the COVID-19 pandemic, which he says helped pave the way for this agreement.

“This generation of players, club owners and staff have been asked to make immense sacrifices to preserve our sport during unprecedented times,” he said.

“As a result of these sacrifices we have been able to take an important step forward and provide greater certainty for the clubs and players and make important progress in areas such as our high-performance environment, player welfare whilst further embedding our commitment to gender equity.”

Under the new CBA, genuine equity in high-performance standards in the A-League and W-League have been entrenched in order to create a “world-class workplace” for all of the country’s footballers.

This CBA will be the first to deliver common standards across higher performance and medical departments across both the W-League and the A-League.

Increases to minimum and maximum player payments are also factored in during the course of the five-year CBA with a particular focus on an increase to the W-League salary floor, providing another massive boost on the back of the recently announced expansion of the competition to also include Central Coast Mariners, Wellington Phoenix and Western United.

There will also be a reformed contracting model that allows for greater capacity in squad investment for clubs, with an allowance for up to two “Designated Player” spots, which will allow clubs to invest between $300,000 and $600,000 in players whose salaries will be excluded from the A-League salary cap.

These “Designated Players” will be in addition to the current exemptions, such as “Marquee Players”.

Furthermore, there will also be greater capacity for clubs to contract youth players with an increase in the cap on scholarship players.

The CBA also provides for guaranteed funding for player welfare and development programs, as well as greater support for the PFA Past Players Program.

APL Managing Director Danny Townsend said the deal was proof that the APL was living up to its promise of greater investment since taking control of Australia’s professional leagues.

“When APL took control of the leagues, we promised it would herald a new era of investment and this agreement shows the progress that has already been made,” he said in a statement.

“This is a clear example of what can be achieved when we work together with a common vision to realise the potential of Australian football.”

APL Leagues Commissioner Greg O’Rourke added the investments would help clubs deliver a much-improved on-field product.

“Players are partners with us in the game and central to its growth. Having all of our partners on-board with the re-imagined future of the game is vital, and this agreement marks an important milestone in our new relationship,” he said.

“There will be immediate improvements across the men’s and women’s leagues, most notably for women’s football, all of which will flow through into improved experiences for players, and ultimately into growing and improving our game.”

Carlos Salvachúa: “Playing without promotion and relegation is a big problem”

Carlos Salvachúa was Victory assistant coach under Kevin Muscat, before taking over as caretaker manager. He has coached professionally in Spain and Belgium, including six years at the Real Madrid academy, overseeing the development of the club’s rising stars.

He spoke to Soccerscene from Spain about his impressions of the A-League, where it could be improved, and how Australian youth need to play more football to reach their potential.

What were your first impressions of the A-League?

Salvachúa: Sometimes the big issue is knowing if it’s a professional league or not – and definitely the A-League was professional. I’m talking about games, organisation, talking about flights or hotels, and training. I was lucky to arrive to Melbourne Victory – one of the biggest clubs there is – and everything in the club was like in Europe and in Spain. Good facilities, good organisation, and a lots of staff in the office. For me the first impression was really professional.

What was the level of professionalism like compared to other leagues you have coached in?

Salvachúa: Belgium is a hard competition. I’m talking about the games, not about organisation – it’s similar to the A-League or in Spain in the La Liga. The competition is tough in Belgium if we compare the level of the players, the games and the competition.

After leaving Melbourne Victory, Salvachúa was Muscat’s assistant coach at Sint-Truidense V.V. in Belgium.

What were the biggest challenges you faced while coaching in Australia?

Salvachúa: One of the biggest for me was the distance to play a game. It was funny because here with Atlético versus Real Madrid they travel 15 minutes to go to sleep at home, and for Victory we spend three days away to play a game, for me this was really hard. In the Champions League we spent five days away to play a game in China or in Japan. For me and and European players as well this was hard, because it was not easy. I remember the long pre-season because the schedule of FFA Cup was really hard for us. We trained two to three months before the first game in the A-League, just to play one round in the FFA Cup.

How do you think the league could be improved?

Salvachúa: For me, playing without promotion and relegation, is a problem, a big one in my opinion for the league. You need to improve the league from the basement – you cannot start the building of the house from the roof, you must start building the house from the ground up. I’m talking about the NPL. They are tough competitions, and you need to give promotion to the A-League, and I think that the competition will be better with this system like in Europe. I think a competition without promotion and relegation is only working with the MLS in USA. In Australia I think that it would be great to create another kind of competition to improve the league.

Another thing for me that is one of the biggest issues was that sometimes the players were receptive – they are professionals about training and have a good attitude to learn, but for me as a coach sometimes the players don’t know how important it is to win – compared to a draw or a loss. Without promotion and relegation, in some games as a coach, in the second half the players don’t understand how important it is to get a win over one point. I think that is probably one of the solutions to change the model of the competition.

How would you rate the level of young talent being developed in Australia?

Salvachúa: Like in other countries, you have good players with talent at 14, 15, and 16 years of age, but in my opinion they need more games. Some players arrive to A-League at 19 years old – playing 18 to 25 games – and it’s not easiest time for the coaches to start these young players in the first 11. If they are not playing every Sunday, they need another tough competition. You need competitive games with a second team like here in Spain or with the under 18s or under 19s – it depends. I think that they need more games here. A 14 or 15 year old kid normally finishes the competition in Spain with 45 official games. 45 games is more than the professionals in the A-League. I think one of the big issues is they do not have enough games and training sessions to develop the players. But the talent is there like in other countries.

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