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Paramount Plus must pounce on EPL rights in Australia

ViacomCBS have begun broadcasting Australian football content in the past several weeks across the 10 Network and its free streaming platform 10 play, in the opening stages of the company’s $300 million investment deal into the game.

The majority of content, such as Socceroos, Matildas, A-League and W-League matches, will eventually be broadcast on the company’s SVOD service Paramount Plus in the coming months.

A revamped presentation of the game will be implemented across the new TV deal, as highlighted by the recent announcement that the Saturday night A-League broadcast shown on Channel 10 will also feature live crosses and a ‘goal rush’ type innovation involving the other simultaneous match, something which is currently seen in top league broadcasts around the world.

Fresh ideas such as this are welcomed, but ViacomCBS may need to look at further options to build rapport with fans of the round ball game in Australia.

One of those opportunities they should pursue, and strongly, is looking to secure the EPL rights off Optus Sport.

Optus Sport have held the rights since 2016, after beating out Foxtel at the time.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, English Premier League officials have begun talks with local media companies in regards to the broadcast rights to one of the world’s biggest sporting competitions.

Optus Sport’s existing deal ends at the conclusion of this season, with a blind auction in November set to decide who will show the league in the coming seasons.

ViacomCBS’s Paramount Plus is considered to be one of four candidates who are reportedly in the running to land the EPL broadcast rights, alongside current rights holders Optus Sport, Amazon Prime and Stan Sport.

The rights are expected to cost as much as $80 million a year, but that figure may be higher if there is a strong competitive process for them, which looks likely.

If the EPL was to be secured and shown on Paramount Plus, there would be significant benefits across the board for ViacomCBS and also for football in Australia.

Having both the EPL and A-League on the same service would place Paramount Plus as a must have service for the large majority of football fans in Australia.

The acquisition of the EPL would add a huge amount of value to Paramount Plus as a streaming product and bring over those fans who would not commit to the service for just A-League and W-League matches.

Their subscriber numbers would grow substantially, and a free-to-air EPL game on Channel 10 may be a strategic possibility, to draw even more people to sign up for the subscription service.

Alongside the original entertainment programming that they have on their service, Paramount Plus with the EPL and A-League rights, will go close to rivalling the bigger streaming platforms such as Netflix and Stan.

For Australian football, having both leagues together in the one place would mirror similar benefits the A-League had on Fox Sports when they also showcased live EPL broadcasts.

Most Australian football fans will remember Matchday Saturday on Fox Sports with great fondness, where A-League matches would precede EPL matches in what was a feast for football fans every week, all in one place.

The A-League peaked in popularity around that timeframe, and it’s plausible that a larger quantity of fans tuned into the local domestic competition before they would also watch EPL matches later in the night.

Administrators from the Australian Professional Leagues (APL) will be hoping a sense of deja vu occurs again, on a different platform this time around.

Packaging up the two leagues would provide cross promotional possibilities to continue to lift the profile of the A-League and may eventually convince fans of overseas clubs to also support a local team.

Turning general fans of football into A-League or W-League supporters is something that the APL have noted they are focusing on in the years to come, after unbundling from the FA.

Utilizing the advantages of having the Premier League rights on the same service may fast track those outcomes, but that is dependant on the willingness and commercial factors which decide ViacomCBS’s next moves.

However, for growth prospects in the local game and also in their own Paramount Plus streaming service, ViacomCBS may find this opportunity too good to refuse.

 

Philip Panas is a sports journalist with Soccerscene. He reports widely on football policy and industry matters, drawing on his knowledge and passion of the game.

Isuzu UTE Australia announced as naming rights partner for A-League Men

The A-Leagues have announced Isuzu Ute Australia will be the naming rights partner of its men’s competition for the next three years.

The competition will be officially known as the ‘Isuzu Ute A-League Men’.

Commencing with the upcoming 2021/2022 season, the partnership will also include the naming rights to the A-League Men’s Finals Series, with Isuzu Ute Australia becoming the Official Automotive Partner of the A-Leagues’ Men, Women, Youth and E-Sports Leagues.

“This is an historic day for the A-Leagues and we’re proud to have partnered with Isuzu UTE Australia, one of Australia’s top-selling automotive brands, with rapid growth across its D-MAX Ute and MU-X SUV ranges. We have an ambitious vision for the future of professional football and IUA will be a key partner on this journey,” said Danny Townsend, Managing Director, A-Leagues.

Hiroyasu Sato, Managing Director of Isuzu Ute Australia, spoke about the new partnership with the A-Leagues.

“We are delighted to be joining forces with the fastest growing sport in the country. The A-Leagues bring together the best of football in Australia – the game’s unparalleled diversity, reach and participation is key to our strategy to connect with modern Australia,” he said.

“We recognize that football is a great vehicle for bringing families and communities together, from amateur weekend players through to the professional A-Leagues. It’s a natural fit with our customers who share that spirit of excitement and adventure with football fans, and we look forward to being able to support the A-Leagues and Network 10 to bring football to all Australians.”

Ant Hearne, Chief Commercial Officer for the A-Leagues, said of the deal: “The A-Leagues are all about inspiring everyone to play their own way, on and off the pitch, so there is a natural fit with the Isuzu UTE brand values of adventure, reliability and performance. Football fans and Ute and SUV lovers live for the weekend and so we are excited to explore this connection with our audiences.”

The naming rights agreement will cover a broad range of marketing opportunities, including player kit branding, signage rights, as well as digital content and activation rights at all A-League Men’s and Women’s matches.

The company has also committed to providing vehicles for the APL and A-League Clubs for on-the-ground support.

 

Melbourne City Academy Head Coach Anthony Frost on player development and pathways

Anthony Frost is a Qualified A/B/C License Instructor with expertise in player development, and is the Head Coach of the Melbourne City FC Academy.

Anthony Frost is a Qualified A/B/C License Instructor with expertise in player development, and is the Head Coach of the Melbourne City FC Academy. He’s also the Young Socceroos (Australian U20s) assistant coach, and has spent time at Football Victoria as a coaching instructor and skills development coach. He spoke to Soccerscene about Melbourne City’s talented youngsters, disruption to the Victorian football season, and developing better coaches in Australian football.

How did you become involved in coaching and Melbourne City?

Anthony Frost: Firstly, I started coaching after I had a pretty serious leg break when I was 22, and that meant my ambitions to play at a higher level got stopped in their tracks. It turned my attention to coaching, which was something that I had been interested in and enjoyed doing and after working in the UK during gap year I found that it was something that I was good at.  My line of thinking was that if you can’t have a playing career in football then coaching was something I was wanting to pursue. I went head-first into it and I tried to link my studies to football and coaching. I worked through my badges and was fortunate to get an opportunity to work full time as a development officer at Football Victoria which gave me exposure to working in state teams and coach development. From there, I was appointed as the Skillaroos Head Coach, which essentially was the start of the national player development pathway, back in the day before A-League academies were introduced. So I was working with the best under 13 boys in Victoria in a full time program that helped me refine my coaching craft.

Part of my professional development during that period was to get a better understanding of how players progressed from youth to senior football. One of my mentors – Ivan Jolic who was at Melbourne City at the time as an assistant – suggested that I go down to the club and just observe what they’re doing and get involved in whatever way I could. That led me to connect with Joe Palatsides, who was the head coach of the youth program at the time, and he welcomed me in. That was my initiation into Melbourne City, which looking back now was close to six years ago and I’m fortunate enough to now work in a full time coaching and coach development capacity within the academy.

Do you believe that the disruption we’ve seen to football in Victoria in the past two seasons will impact player development?

Anthony Frost: I think undeniably it will. Unfortunately, even despite the pandemic we don’t play enough competitive games so we’re mindful of the impact this could have on a players development but what we’ve tried to do is try is find ways that we can still turn a negative into a positive, and look at ways that we can continue to use this as a as an opportunity to develop other areas of a player’s game, or knowledge. We’ve looked to provide opportunities for individual technical training, tactical analysis, meetings that we’ve done with the group around certain tactical situations, or different types of formations or styles of play, or looking at certain players and their pathway in the game.

But also just from a psychological point of view, I feel as though that if a player can progress through this difficult period and have the ability to persevere despite setbacks and come out the other side stronger mentally, then potentially that’s a plus or a real positive that we might see from the current crop of players that have been impacted by the circumstances that we’re in. So yes, we’d love to be on the park, training, and playing but we have to try and find the positives where we can, and that’s the way we’re trying to frame the last two seasons with our current group.

How important is it to have a real pathway for youth teams into senior teams?

Anthony Frost: I think it’s fundamental. Belief is an incredible thing and if a player sees that others have progressed to that level when they’re given that chance, then players should be thinking, why not me? Why not have the belief that they’re capable of making that jump and being at that level as well. We’re fortunate enough to have seen players from the academy progress recently, and they’re the stories that we look to try and share with the players throughout our academy, and use as real examples that we can shine a light on them and their experiences, their pathway, what they’ve been through.

What we’ve found through the stories that those players have shared with us is that not everything goes to plan, and it’s how you best deal with setbacks, challenges, and hardship that’s going to be the real test of how you can push through to make it to the top level. But I think as we’ve seen in the last couple of seasons in the A-League, the more opportunities that are provided to young players the better, and we’ve found that the increase in match minutes for young players is having a huge impact on the progression of those players, both in the local game and also for our national team, and even those players and seeking opportunities overseas.

So I think if we needed a better advertisement of giving young players a chance, the past two seasons have been unbelievable for the young players taking their chances when time has been provided to them. That’s the key, you just need that chance, and hopefully that continues in the A-League.

How important is educating coaches on best practices and ensuring that young players are receiving the best coaching possible?

Anthony Frost: I think if we have the best coaches, then we’re in the best possible position to support our players to progress and have an incredible experience in the game. We want their time at a club to be some of the best times of their childhood. Football development is important but we also need to make sure that the psycho-social aspect of player development – which isn’t often as front and centre in formal coach development programs – should be a real focus for young coaches because we know that we have a responsibility to develop people and people who are prepared for life away from football.

At City, we want to make sure that’s a big part of how we support our coaches and that they’re aware of how to best equip young players not only on the park but also off it as well. We offer a lot of professional development opportunities, we have individual coach development plans that we consistently review, and we support coaches with their ambitions, their goals, and the things that they set out to achieve in the game. We’re also lucky enough to be a part of the City Football Group, where we have support from people within the group to help our coaches as well. We’ve seen in the last few years in particular that the club and group is not only committed to developing players, but also developing coaches who can progress to help achieve their ambitions, whether that’s being the best possible youth coach they can be, whether that’s the best possible assistant or senior coach, or a coach or working at international level. Our coach development program is fundamental to what we’re trying to do as a club. I said before that the players are only as good as the coaches that we have.

What needs to be done to ensure we develop better quality coaches at a national and state level?
 
Anthony Frost: There’s a number of factors involved there, including the formal and in-formal support systems in place for coaches at all levels of the game, but at the elite level I think it comes down to opportunities for coaches. I think it’s critical that there are more opportunities for coaches to work professionally within the game. What I found working in coach development is that if there’s no foreseeable pathway for developing passionate coaches, then fewer coaches will be able to commit themselves to the craft or see coaching as a long term career choice. The more professional opportunities there are and the more time a coach can commit to their own development, the better the coach.

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