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Northcote City FC implements digital coaching as part of its long-term strategy

Although the deferral of state-wide football has created an enormous void for Victorians throughout 2020, an unlikely silver lining as emerged. Clubs have used the crisis as an opportunity to implement digital training platforms and build stronger community engagement through virtual channels.

Northcote City FC is the latest Victorian club to take this approach, adopting the digital platform My Personal Football Coach (MPFC) to add its current catalogue of mobile initiatives.

The club is optimistic that its digital strategy will do far more than provide a short-term solution to the COVID-19 induced lockdown and instead become a valuable asset for its football department.

Michael Skliros, President of Northcote City FC, said he was “thrilled” to modernise the club’s processes and that the platform will help to take player and coach development to a new level.

“From our perspective, we are renown for our junior program, and we invest heavily into it. As part of this we believe it is important to equally invest in both players and coaches,” Skliros said.

“It’s not a stop-gap, it’s a value add that is going to form part of the club’s overall philosophy. MPFC will contribute to our coaching program and help the club maintain its position as a leader by continually evolving its methods.”

MPFC contains hundreds of ball mastery skill videos and position-specific coaching drills that cover all ages and abilities. Crucially, the platform is designed to include many drills which allow players to train with minimal equipment and in small spaces, making it highly adaptable and accessible.

“We chose the MPFC because it’s one of the leading global platforms and is used by some of the biggest clubs and academies in the world. It’s run by academy coaches who have experience at leading EPL clubs and deployed at the some of the best academies in the world, like Chelsea FC and Wolverhampton,” Skliros said.

“Despite the lack of football this year we haven’t seen the interest drop off at all – the craving to play is at an all-time high. The people want something there to fill the void and the digital training satisfies that.”

Since adopting MPFC recently, Northcote City FC’s community has responded strongly, with participation rates for training being extremely healthy.

Up to 85 per cent of players in some Northcote City squads are actively using the platform.

“It has been a smooth transition. We are seeing teams with 80 to 85 per cent uptake, which is an extremely high rate for a new platform in any industry. You would think 30 to 40 per cent would be the benchmark to start with but we have had an extremely high uptake,” Skliros said.

For Northcote City’s coaching staff, MPFC is assisting them to communicate effectively with their players remotely. They are able to set tailored, individual training plans which the players can execute and then upload footage, allowing their coaches to provide constructive feedback.

Coaches can further set challenges for their players, track player attendance, and keep training fresh and exciting by tapping into the vast catalogue of specialised drills that are available on the platform.

The value of MPFC is very much a two-way street with players also benefiting from all of these features. Furthermore, the platform allows players to maintain competitive training standards by tracking their training loads and performance on team leader boards.

Along with the practical tools MPFC provides, there is a substantial opportunity for knowledge sharing. Northcote City FC has equipped its players and staff with a ‘Coach’s Pass’ to the platform, opening a world of podcasts, blogs, and analysis that anyone in the club can access to build their knowledge of the game.

“This is another example of the value of incorporating digital training and shows why it will become a part of the overall coaching philosophy. The services we are gaining will provide us resources to benefit every part of the club,” Skliros said.

While MPFC is assisting Northcote City FC to maintain momentum in 2020, the club has invested, and continues to invest in a range of other off-field tools to help its players and staff achieve on-field success.

“Our NPL streams are starting to move towards becoming elite-style programs with education on nutrition and the use of partner medical clinics where our players gain free treatment, physio, performance-based testing, and improved strength and conditioning,” Skliros said.

“We’re broadening out our program to include initiatives that target health and wellbeing and are committed to extend this experience to everyone, not just registered players, but family as well.”

“As part of this we have players in our program from ages four to 55 and have focused on inclusivity, social style competitions, and also begun a campaign for soccer mums.”

Northcote City’s approach to create a well-rounded, holistic program will form part of the club’s strategy to develop elite talent, build the strength of its community, and return to Victoria’s National Premier League (NPL).

Following a turbulent decade where the club won the NPL in 2013 before being relegated five years later in 2018, Skliros is optimistic that the board’s progressive approach will help it to realise its goals both on and off the pitch.

“There are a lot of things in the pipeline that we couldn’t deliver due to COVID-19, but we are still working on. There is a bigger focus now more than ever to get people active again and we are putting a lot of emphasis into the overall health and wellbeing of our community,” he said.

Pararoos captain Ben Roche: “Football has the ability to start important conversations”

Ben Roche has played 54 times for the Pararoos – Australia’s only national team for people with cerebral palsy – and captained the team around the world. He spoke to Soccerscene about what the Pararoos have done for him, the future of the team after the exclusion of the sport from the Paralympic Games, and how the footballing community can further embrace the squad. 

Q: How has the exclusion of 7-aside football from the Paralympic games impacted the Pararoos?

Ben Roche: For us, it almost instantly had an impact. Obviously, for the young kids pushing to want to play for the Pararoos, their attention has turned to other sports, and for Pararoos players who are in the program who had the ambition to be Paralympians have chosen other paths, which means you can lose key players and things like that. We’ve had to work hard to grow the game and we are probably in a stronger position than we’ve ever been in, in ensuring that we qualify for the World Cup.


Q: Funding has been an issue for the Pararoos, where does most of it come from?

Ben Roche: We don’t actually receive government funding anymore, we used to get a little bit from the Australian Sports Commission, which was cut in 2015 because of their winning edge policy, which means if they don’t think you’ll win a medal funding will be cut or limited. Since then we have survived off donations through the Australian Sports Foundation. With the work of Football Australia, they set a fundraising page and we try to raise $200,000 plus each year to go towards getting a team to a tournament, a couple of camps, and hopefully a national championship to identify the next generation. Unfortunately, there isn’t really any sustainability for us, we are always pushing to raise those funds and take the program to the next level. 

Q: It is a pretty horrific way to fund Paralympic sport, isn’t it?

Ben Roche: Yeah, it came to light this week that the Paralympians don’t get any funding if they win a medal, like the Olympians who win do. The Paralympians don’t get anything for doing the exact same amount of work if not more, and that isn’t the way it should be.

Q: What brought about the change in funding?

Ben Roche: The Australian Sports Commission at the time, they have to allocate across sports, and they probably saw that the sports might be better allocated to individual sports which they thought could secure more medals, whether that is athletics or swimming, I don’t know. For me I am a big believer in football being the game played around the world, and cerebral palsy is the most common physical disability for children in Australia. For me that is perfect, you’ve got the world game and the most common physical disability, what a perfect format. We’ve worked really hard to get that message out there and show what the power of football can do. It doesn’t matter whether it’s coming from poverty, or having a disability, or having a different background, football has the ability to start important conversations. For us that is where our messaging comes into it, our goal is to create inclusive opportunities for people across the country. Not just for cerebral palsy and things like that, we want to lead the way for inclusive football in all versions of the game. 

Q: How Important has football been to you?

Ben Roche: It has shaped everything I’ve done. I joined the Pararoos when I was 12 years old, and it has taken me around the world. It’s been really eye-opening in terms of that, but it has also put me in front of role models with cerebral palsy and other disabilities who have successful careers, families, social lives, and all those kinds of things. Being able to see that at a young age really shaped who am I today, and gave me the confidence to go and do the things I’m doing. I love football so much that I’ve been working in it, I was working for Football Australia as a team manager because I wanted to be in and around football, and it’s something I am extremely passionate about.

Ben at his first tournament with the Pararoos in Argentina.

Q: How important is it to have visible role models like these growing up?

Ben Roche: It’s massive, for me it was meeting those role models that shaped me. I launched a few programs across the country for people with disabilities, and the conversations I get to have with kids, and the conversations I get to have with the parents as well, the amount the community means to them is huge. For me to see someone who has faced similar challenges doing great things is the best thing I could have come across. By us having a successful Pararoos program we can hopefully empower and not only support these young kids that may want to play football but support them in their careers and everyday lives.

Q: Could the wider football community better embrace the Pararoos? 

Ben Roche: I don’t blame them for not doing so, we weren’t really a common name and still aren’t among the football community, which has been a big push for us to put emphasis through social media and get our messaging out there, to include us in conversation along with the Socceroos and Matildas. I hope that when people do get to see it, it’s something they can get behind. The game is quite fast-paced, it can be high scoring, really physical and we don’t hold back. I’d love to see the Australian football community embrace it more – and I’m not saying they don’t – but the more we can get them behind us the bigger reach we can have.

Q: What is the future of the Pararoos program in Australia?

Ben Roche: COVID has made the last couple of years tricky, just in terms of being able to fundraise for the program. For us we are really interested in taking it to the next level, to not only further develop the men’s program but a women’s program too, which more information will come out for in the next couple of months. We are looking to really create more opportunities throughout Australia, not only have our state teams which are filtering into nationals but also launching academies and programs that will feed into inclusive opportunities. On top of that hopefully we can keep having important conversations around disability.

If you want to help support the Pararoos you can donate through their website.

Deltatre: The all-rounder for leading innovations

Boasting a wide range of technologies, Deltatre has proven itself to be a reliable technology provider to football federations, leagues and clubs around the world.

Boasting a wide range of technologies, Deltatre has proven itself to be a reliable technology provider to football federations, leagues and clubs around the world.

Deltatre is changing the way fans consume and engage with their favourite sports, with specialist innovations ranging across over-the-top (OTT) streaming, websites and apps, graphics, data, officiating systems, user experience, and product design.

Speaking to Soccerscene, Craig Harvey, Deltatre’s Vice President of Asia-Pacific explains: “We guide sports organisations through change. Using data and insights, combined with over 30 years of experience in sport, we analyse, design and deliver the next level of growth through technology and services.”

With an extensive client list in football – featuring FIFA, AFC, J League and all MLS clubs, to name a few – Deltatre brings an unrivalled experience to any football organisation that is seeking to build its brand by engaging, understanding, growing and monetising its fans.

Deltatre growth in Asia-Pacific

Deltatre has experienced significant growth in recent years, and has expanded its presence around the world, with over 1000 staff across 11 countries. In 2015, Deltatre made a strategic decision to build a presence in Asia-Pacific and localise its service to adapt to the needs of the clients in the region.

Now with nearly 100 staff distributed across Australia, Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore and India, Deltatre is better placed than ever to deliver; and clients such as Asian Football Confederation (AFC), J League and India Super League (ISL) are already benefitting from this strategic initiative.

Indeed, the ISL appointment of Deltatre reflected the mission to redevelop its on-screen storytelling of the fastest growing sports property in India. Deltatre developed, designed, and deployed a best-in-class graphics solution for the full season, and implemented sophisticated remote production that ensured adaptability. Such implementation came to the fore this year, considering the significant restrictions imposed by COVID-19 in India, with operations limited to strict bio-secure bubbles in Goa and Mumbai, as outlined in this case study.

Harvey touches on the success on this project: “Delivering live sport can be challenging at the best of times. In today’s world, it takes a new level of commitment, adaptability and innovation to ensure a safe and successful delivery. Delivering this seasons ISL was arguably one of our hardest deliveries, ever, but the toughest times often lead to our greatest moments.”

Leading Innovation

Beyond the world of broadcast, Deltatre is renowned for its work across data, owned & operated digital platforms and OTT streaming services; be it collecting the official data for the Bundesliga, or powering MLSSoccer.com and NFL Game Pass, as a few examples from a distinguished list of projects around the world. In addition, Deltatre provides the technology backbone to managing competitions and events for several organisations, streamlining both internal and external processes and tasks.

Harvey adds, “At our core, we are a team of technology experts with a passion to bring sport to life. Over the past 30 years we have built and refined our products and services to connect the media value chain to maximise performance and operational effectiveness for all stakeholders.”

An area where Deltatre has seen great traction in the past few years is the centralisation of digital platforms for leagues to better support the future of their clubs and members. The multi-tenant approach – using FORGE Multiply – brings unity to every member, large or small, and offers an ecosystem designed to support them engage, understand and connect with their community and fans, and ultimately grow their sport.

“A powerful example of work is highlighted in our recent announcement on becoming the web technology partner for Major League Soccer (MLS), supporting the league and its clubs transform the fan experience.” Harvey said.

Beyond Football

Deltatre’s capabilities and experience extend far beyond football, and sport. In 2018, Deltatre acquired Massive Interactive – which was founded in Australia in 1996 and now uses its office in Redfern as its Australian HQ – bolstering Deltatre’s OTT capabilities with products capable of delivering entertainment platforms for media organisations around the world.

Harvey added: “We predicted that media organisations would consolidate OTT viewing experiences across sport and entertainment, and so the acquisition of Massive Interactive has uniquely positioned Deltatre as leaders in both live and VOD content management, paired with world-class products that deliver engaging experiences at scale.”

Soccerscene takes a closer look at the variety of products and services Deltatre brings to market – all of which could well be applicable to organisations throughout Australia that are looking to augment their capabilities.

DIVA – Bring fans closer to the action.

An advanced OTT player, DIVA offers fans more than simply watching the game. If you’re watching from home, you want to experience every moment in fine detail. You get all the data you could ever want, with the ability to view from multiple angles – available on mobile, web, and Android TV.

AXIS – Drive user engagement.

User experience (UX) is at the heart of AXIS, giving editorial teams the chance to tailor their content to suit each sports fan. AXIS uses an easy-to-use drag-and-drop interface that can control all aspects of an organisation’s OTT service to deliver increased engagement, such as design, navigation, promotions, page layout, and content.

Mtribes – Give your users a more personalized experience.

This software as a service (SaaS) platform has been created for real-time insights on user experience. To be successful in digital, data is the key indicator. To understand users, there needs to be the right tools in place to see how the audience is interacting with a service. Mtribes plugs into an existing sports technology stack to be assessed by operators. With the power of data, they can make changes to a service’s features, design, and content depending on a user’s behaviour traits.

FORGE – Engage your fans through storytelling.

A sports-oriented audience is hungry for content and wants that content all in one place. FORGE is the world’s first sport-focused publishing platform that meets the needs of all audiences on a global scale. It offers flexibility for sports operators to tell their unforgettable stories through this modern-day solution. FORGE has been built from the ground up to create a content platform that’s simple to use and lets editorial teams produce content as they like. It also lets teams get a better idea on how much time they engage with their fans and to decide on the appropriate channels.

To see all that Deltatre has to offer, you can find it here.

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