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Fox Sports staff cuts reinforce football is not a high priority

On Wednesday, Foxtel announced a host of cuts to its Fox Sports News division.

Of the expected 20 or so staff to lose their jobs, football reporters Daniel Garb and Carly Adno have confirmed their departures from the company.

Head of Fox Sports, Peter Campbell, told staff in a letter that the decision was based on a thorough review.

“Following a careful and considered review, we have today announced some changes to the programming of FOX SPORTS News which reduces the number of live news hours through the middle of weekdays and which unfortunately have resulted in a number of redundancies within the Australian News Channel (ANC) team that delivers FOX SPORTS News.

“Our customer audience analysis shows viewing of FOX SPORTS News now peaks in the morning and evening and on weekends, with low daytime viewership. Therefore we are going to focus on delivering live sports news and the channel’s marquee programs, including AFL Tonight, NRL Tonight and Cricket AM, during those peak periods.

“This decision is not about the Coronavirus (COVID-19) and its impact on sport. It simply reflects viewers are consuming sports news in different ways and at different times together with the same challenging conditions in the advertising market that are impacting the entire entertainment industry.”

The company wants to focus their energy on morning sports bulletins and evening shows, which will also perform better on their on-demand streaming service Kayo Sports.

Campbell’s comments reiterate the idea that the AFL, NRL and Cricket are their marquee offerings, therefore it is in their best interests to improve their associated programming for these sports.

On the football side of things, the axing of Garb and Adno is a huge blow to the sport’s presence on the Fox Sports network.

Garb, in particular, has been a prominent footballing voice on Fox Sports News as well as the host of the weekly Fox Football Podcast.

The podcast itself has become more important in recent times, due to the lack of magazine shows on Fox Sports for the A-League.

Magazine shows such as Sunday Shootout and Just for Kicks were all axed by Fox in recent years.

The job cuts come after the news the A-League will play on and try to finish the season, even though there are concerns around the coronavirus outbreak.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, there is a possibility Fox Sports will look to get out of the TV deal they signed with the A-League in late 2016, if the competition was abandoned this season.

If the A-League fails to meet its obligations this season, it could give Fox Sports the opportunity to move its way out of a deal they are currently unhappy with due to the leagues declining ratings.

A-League decision makers plan to condense the season into a shorter timeframe, with the hope of finishing by mid-April.

PFA CEO John Didiluca told SMH: “As it stands now we have no certainty about what Fox will do in the event of the league having to be shut down – whether they choose to withhold funding or terminate the agreement.”

“All of these things are options and we just don’t have an answer about what that will be.

“The players are showing their commitment and good faith by putting their hands up and continuing to play. The nature of their choice is awful, effectively having to weigh up risks to their personal and public health on one hand with the knowledge the football economy could collapse on the other.

“Fox have helped us build our competitions from day one and we now need them stick with us more than ever. We are urging them to match the resilience and commitment that the players and the clubs are showing. This will give everybody within the football community some measure of certainty that the sport has a strong future.”

Although Fox may not be satisfied with their current deal with the A-League, outside of the NRL and AFL there is not a whole of sport to broadcast at the moment.

The A-League would have received pressure from Fox to continue the season, even though there is uncertainty Fox will continue broadcasting the competition in the future.

Fox seems to be using the A-League to boost its current lack of sport offerings on Kayo Sports, despite recently sacking one of its most influential voices.

Football is not a priority for the company at this stage, but rather a pawn they can easily influence in these uncertain times.

La Liga’s FIFA 20 Esports tournament attracts over a million viewers

La Liga’s charity FIFA 20 Challenge Esports tournament held over the weekend had more than one million viewers in total who tuned in, according to the Spanish top-flight soccer league’s organising body.

Collectively there were 18 teams from Spain’s top-flight who took part in the competition on 22nd March, which was streamed live via YouTube, Twitch, the LaLigaSportsTV over-the-top (OTT) platform, as well as on La Liga’s official social media channels to ensure everyone could get access to the coverage.

Barcelona and Real Mallorca weren’t allowed to participate due to their sponsorship with Konami – the makers of FIFA 20’s main competitor, Pro Evolution Soccer.

The tournament was organised by Esports commentator Ibai Llanos and endorsed by La Liga, where it took shape in partnership with Spanish banking group Santander, La Liga’s main title sponsor, as well as EA Sports, the producers of the most recent FIFA 20 title.

It raised more than €140,000 ($250,000) to fight Covid-19, as Spain has become one of the hardest hit countries in the world.

La Liga commentator Miguel Ángel Román joined Llanos in presenting the matches, and players gave interviews in the aftermath as an effort to replicate the feel of a traditional match day experience.

The tournament was created and launched whilst the La Liga season is suspended amid the coronavirus pandemic. The final itself saw more than 170,000 viewers tune in as Real Madrid striker Marco Asensio beat Leganés player Aitor Ruibal to claim the title.

In terms of linear distribution, La Liga’s domestic broadcast partner Movistar+ also showed matches on Spanish television, via its Deportes 1 channel, while Eleven Sports also aired the tournament in Belgium and Portugal.

La Liga has said that it is also carrying out further analysis to clarify the tournament’s reach via the #LaLigaSantanderChallenge hashtag, which was shared by influencers, clubs, and players, as well as Movistar and La Liga’s US broadcast partner, BeIN Sports.

Judging by the numbers for this tournament, it proved to be the winner as gaming proves popular while people are having to self isolate.

The EA Sports FIFA franchise has connected fans all around the world, continuing to be a popular source of competitive online gameplay.

Can E-Sports Captalise on this Monumental Opportunity?

The world has been brought to a near standstill as a result of the coronavirus.

Many businesses across the globe, namely small businesses have been seriously hampered. Many may struggle to resurface once everything calms down.

Football clubs are not exempt to this, either.

Around the world, nearly every league competition has been postponed to avoid players, staff and fans from contracting the virus which has claimed nearly 19,000 lives worldwide at the time of writing.

It all started with the Serie A postponing all fixtures. Italy has been ravaged by the virus and it was no surprise that they were the first to temporarily shut up shop.

Spain and La Liga followed suit, before the Premier League and nearly every other competition decided to also bite the bullet and call it off.

Other sports have also been hit hard, with Australian rules football, cricket and basketball in the same boat.

Many clubs and organisations will suffer substantial financial losses as a result and when the dust eventually settles, they will never be the same again.

However, in these dark and bizarre times, one sporting arena has the opportunity to take in the spotlight and grow like they’d never imagined they could.

E-sports have always been a topic for debate. There aren’t many who out and out hate the concept of it, but there is a strong contingent who aren’t fond of it, purely because it’s not the real thing. That it is not a sport.

On the contrary, there are many who believe it is a great niche for some who do have great ability on their respective platforms and that this is a way for them to display their abilities.

With nearly every major sporting code called off until further notice, E-sports is the only sport that will be consistently available to sporting fans around the globe.

There are lots of different games that are played in E-sports. For example, Dota 2, Counterstrike and Fortnite lead the financial market for E-sports.

Nearly $400 million has been handed out to winners across all three of those platforms.

When it comes to sports though, FIFA is well and truly ahead of the game.

Online FIFA has a massive audience around the world, especially in Europe, where many football clubs have signed E-sports players to represent their clubs in major tournaments.

FIFA Ultimate Team has been a huge part of many kids’ lives and now, as they grow into young adults, they now have the unprecedented opportunity to make money off of playing the game they love.

This massive opportunity for E-sports could help them catapult onto a level that could be equal to that of the everyday sports we’ve become accustomed to.

Despite the terrible nature of these circumstances, E-sports leagues across the world would see it as a huge chance gone begging if they were to let this pass up.

There are literally no other sports of note taking place right now.

Unless you can’t get enough of the Russian volleyball, there is not much to turn to at this moment for sports fans.

Granted, tournaments won’t be held in one venue due to restrictions on public gatherings. But as the only requirement is for two players to be present and on a steady internet connection, there’s no reason they can’t keep playing.

FIFA is a universally appreciated game and many fans will begin following their respective club’s representative for E-sports during these tough times.

To simply treat this as normal would be the worst thing clubs and organisations associated with FIFA E-sports could do.

They must take advantage of this enormous opportunity before they never get it back again. Sure, the coronavirus is a large distraction, but if E-sports is to be taken seriously, they must take action.

You can never truly grasp how great an opportunity is until you’ve lost it.

Would you like to see E-sports become more prominent in the wake of the coronavirus? Let us know on social media @Soccersceneau and join in the conversation.

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Above all else, stay indoors and be sensible over the next few weeks or months and look after each other.

 

 

How should Australian football best use its COVID-19 postponement?

FFA head James Johnson revealed the worst keep secret in Australian football early Tuesday morning; announcing the immediate suspension of A-League play on the back of the continued threat of COVID-19 . With states and territories having moved decisively on border control and lock down procedures, Johnson referred to a continuation as having become practically impossible.

The W-League did manage to squeeze their season in before the announcement was made, with a grand final between Melbourne City and Sydney FC last Saturday. The Melbourne City women may well be the last football team in Australia to win a championship for some time.

Words such as unprecedented, unique and testing have been common place in language over the past few weeks and the seriousness of the pandemic escapes no one at this time. Public health and prude governance are the most important aspects of the current situation, hopefully, wise decisions and action lead to a flattening of the curve and a slow return to normality over the next few months.

With around 1.8 million Australians who would normally be engaged with the beautiful game at this time of year in isolation and forbidden to compete, it would be prudent for FFA to think about encouraging behaviours that will benefit domestic football when it does eventually return.

As a first port of call, FFA should interact with the federations and ensure that junior players are sent age and skill appropriate drills to complete whilst confined to their home address. Many children will have a backyard in which to complete the drills, whilst others may be limited to small spaces available in apartments or town houses.

Technical directors could construct short clips and illustrated diagrams and then email and/or text the content to players using the official register in each federation.

Many young people will be feeling anxious about COVID-19, thanks to certain sections of the media that do little to encourage calm and thoughtful behaviour. Providing content for kids to work individually on their football skills would be a nice way to add a dose of normality for what will be a very strange time in their lives.

Slightly older players could also be engaged by their clubs, with coaching staff and technical consultants producing content they feel individual players need to work on. Within a supportive and digital environment, coaches might be able to set goals and objectives for the group and could potentially instil a competitive and diligent commitment to the drills that is so often lacking in junior players.

Players at NPL will find great challenges in maintaining fitness levels during the hiatus, with many young players no doubt living in high density situations with partners and young children. At a professional level, the AFL and NRL have set about the task of outlining fitness programs for their players that are adaptable to both indoor and outdoor environments. No doubt, the A-League will be following suit as we speak.

Many of the AFL players spoken to appeared at a loss as to how they would maintain fitness and skill levels without the expensive and vast resources of the football club to which they below. For NPL players it will be even more difficult, with the now closed local gyms the most common place for them to develop and maintain physical condition.

All NPL clubs need to establish a digital forum that includes the players, support staff and coaches in order to be pro-active during what appears likely to be an extended period away from the game. Once again, that sense of collegiality would be emotionally beneficial and with performance targets in place, the incentive to work collectively could potentially avoid any apathy that may occur in isolation.

The successful E-League concept should be immediately expanded with A and W League players engaged in play. A handful of players from each club with some X-BOX or PlayStation experience could be enlisted to play brief matches live on line, with the games streamed for fans to view via the club’s Facebook pages and the official A-League site.

The banter and enjoyment provided by what would no doubt be a comical yet also potentially competitive competition would further engage young fans and continue the objective of keeping the football community connected at this difficult time.

NPL New South Wales’ Facebook page is leading the way with lateral and creative thinking, already posting classic NPL matches for fans to view. The newly launched NPL.TV offers further potential in terms of streamed content and interaction and the National Premier Leagues’ #PlayAtHomeChallenge is a fun initiative that many players will be drawn to.

There is an emotional component to what all professional sport is about to encounter in Australia and monitoring and measuring that will prove difficult. The mind is fundamentally more important than the body and ensuring our football communities remain connected, active and positive is vitally important as most of us enter a period of isolation thanks to COVID-19.

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