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The initiatives Australian football could adopt

In a competitive sport media landscape, Australian football needs to adopt initiatives to remain relevant and gain advantages on its competitors.

La Liga are an organisation that has introduced several initiatives this year – the latest of which is a FanCam.

Last weekend the FanCam was launched, which captures the goal celebrations of La Liga players. Without fans in attendance players have been encouraged to celebrate towards the camera to connect with their fans.

The cameras will also be installed in all La Liga Smartbank (second division) stadiums.

“FanCam is another step towards improving and personalising our audiovisual product,” the director of La Liga’s audiovisual department, Melcior Soler said.

“With it we are going to give fans a much more personal and genuine view of the players, seeing up close how they celebrate their team’s goals.

“We trust in the players to realise the importance of celebrating their goals in front of the FanCam, because this puts them in direct contact with their fans.

“That’s why we are so convinced that their use of FanCam will increase, to the point that it is used all the time.”

Without further outbreaks fans are likely to attend A-League matches next season, however a FanCam could be still be introduced to add to the broadcast experience.

The goal celebrations would also be likely to be popular across social media and could be easily shared across platforms such as Instagram and TikTok.

Clubs could also fully embrace other platforms such as YouTube.

While there are currently no Australian football streaming series and it is not viable for A-League clubs to make full length documentaries – shorter content focusing on the pre-season or a series of matches during the season could be released on YouTube, to give fans a closer look into their favourite teams.

Head of Media and Communications at La Liga second division club RCD Mallorca, Albert Salas spoke about the importance of quality communication to the club’s fans.

“In La Liga, especially in the second and third divisions, clubs don’t normally have the resources to create content such as behind-the-scenes documentaries,” he said.

“We’re trying every week, every month to create content that communicates to our fans better than anyone else. Quality is key in the communications of the club.”

RCD Mallorca might be an unknown club to many Australian football fans, yet their YouTube channel was incredibly successful during the last season.

They did this by making the most of their opportunities, the club focused their content around player Takefusa Kubo, which saw a rise in Japanese fans of RCD Mallorca.

“We were the third club in La Liga with close to 2.4 million views, only behind Real Madrid on 4 million and FC Barcelona on 10 million in June 2020, thanks to a strategic plan based around him,” Salas said.

Augmented Reality is another area where several football leagues and broadcasters are introducing new initiatives to improve supporters experience from home.

BT Sport recently launched AR features for its broadcast of Premier League matches which allow for real time statistics to appear on pitch during the live match broadcast.

A 360 degree view option was also introduced alongside a ‘Stadium Experience’ giving supporters the opportunity to take virtual tours of stadiums.

BT Sport Chief Operating Officer Jamie Hindhaugh told SportsPro that the new products were not gimmicks.

“I hope you agree that all of them give you something that replaces the fact you can’t physically be there. I think that they are all credible products and they are all future-looking,” he said.

“I think that you are only seeing the tip of the iceberg in terms of what we are able to do here, collectively – both for our audiences and also our own production.

“Combined with our brilliant remote 4K HDR [programming] and, alongside the [mobile] features that we now have in place, I think it’s a phenomenal offering. We don’t over-index on these things either. What this is about is augmenting the fan experience.”

Football Federation Australia doesn’t necessarily have to be innovative, there are major leagues and organisations worldwide in football that are launching new concepts and ideas. However, the A-League and FFA should be watching what these organisations are doing and introduce initiatives that have the potential to be successful in Australia.

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Daniel Foley is a sports junior journalist with Soccerscene. He reports widely on football policy and micro industry matters.

Australian Professional Leagues welcome two new executives

The Australian Professional Leagues (APL) have announced Ant Hearne and Michael Tange as their two new executives.

The Australian Professional Leagues (APL) have announced Ant Hearne and Michael Tange as their two new executives.

Ant Hearne joins as Chief Commercial Officer (CCO) of APL, to set up and lead all commercial activities – involving user experience, marketing, content, sponsorships, rights negotiations and other revenue opportunities. He comes across from Foxtel’s streaming division, Streamotion, as CCO of Kayo, BINGE, WatchAFL and WatchNRL which has seen significant growth in recent years. His career in Australia, Asia and the US focuses on senior marketing and commercial roles in telco, digital media, marketing tech and sports entertainment.

“Football represents the biggest growth opportunity in Australian sport – we’ve got twice as many participants as any other game in this country, we’re leaders in women’s sport (with all eyes on the game in the lead up to the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup), and key to our future growth is the fact that we have the youngest and most diverse fans of any sport,” Hearne said.

“It’s now time to deliver commercial outcomes that will fuel the sustainable growth of the game. Our teams are playing exciting, fast-paced, uncompromising football in front of the most passionate fans and it’s the APL’s mission is to take that direct-to-consumer in order to unlock the power of the fan and ultimately grow the whole game. It’s going to be an exciting ride.”

Michael Tange joins as Strategy and Digital Director, following 15 years working in global roles with sports, data and technology companies. He will lead the strategy, digital development and media rights for APL. He arrives from Nielsen Sports in New York where he spent a decade working on commercial strategy, broadcast, digital and fan development with leading sporting codes such as the NBA, NFL, MLB, PGA TOUR and Major League Soccer.

APL Commissioner Greg O’Rourke continues to lead the operational side of the business in conjunction with Deputy Commissioner Tracey Scott. She joins APL after six years with Football Australia in various leadership roles, most recently as General Manager (GM) of Leagues. She is also an Appointed Member of FIFA’s Professional Women’s Football taskforce.

Since the unbundling of the four professional leagues from Football Australia on December 31, these are the first official APL appointments.

“With full ownership of the four leagues, we have an ambitious vision for the growth of the game at every level,” Chair of APL Paul Lederer said.

“The new, expanded executive team have been tasked with unleashing the APL’s commercial and entrepreneurial capabilities, and we now have a structure that will enable them to deliver the right outcomes for all of Australian football.”

Melbourne Knights president: No reason for FA to block national second division

Melbourne Knights president Pave Jusup believes there is no reason why Football Australia or any A-League side should attempt to block the plan to implement a national second division.

AAFC released a feasibility report for a national second tier last week, detailing a financial model which forecasted that the league will cost up to $3.3 million a year to operate, with participating clubs to pay a $200,000 fee each season and require an annual budget of $1m – $1.8million.

The clubs interested in playing in a second division (such as the Knights), believe based on their current financials and the research undertaken for AAFC’s report, the figures listed can be met.

Jusup took to Twitter to explain that since a number of clubs are willing to fully fund the competition, Football Australia should green light a national second division for next year.

“I’ve been personally involved in football administration since 2007 and talk of a second division has been a constant topic, a faraway land, a dream and a hope. Since then, we’ve gone from hope to consensus among nearly all stratas of the sport…It’s time to unleash, unshackle and breathe life into the sport we love by healing old wounds, providing new opportunities and actually unifying the sport into a football family,” he concluded.

Regional NSW gets boost ahead of 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup

A NSW Government funded talent identification and youth development program over the next three years will help young girls who aspire to play for the Matildas.

This morning, Deputy Premier John Barilaro launched the program in Albury and explained how an investment of $750,000 will ensure players from Regional NSW have the opportunity to showcase their skills, leading up to the FIFA Women’s World Cup in 2023.

“Regional NSW is home to some of the most talented athletes in the country and has a rich history of producing Matildas with more than half of the National team coming from our State’s regions over the past forty years,” Mr Barilaro said.

“This investment from the NSW Government will ensure the next generation of girls and young women in regional NSW have the same level of access to coaching and support as their peers in the city as they strive to represent Australia on the world stage.”

It is designed for girls aged 12 to 18 years old, with funding to support the establishment of training hubs across the state and identifying talented young players will be further supported through the provision of training camps and player support scholarships – the added bonus is potentially being tutored by current and former Matildas.

Acting Minister for Sport Geoff Lee said the NSW Government is committed to ensuring a lasting legacy from hosting FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 matches.

“We are witnessing an exciting new era in Australian women’s football and this investment will create successful pathways for aspiring girls in Regional NSW who dream of wearing the green and gold,” Mr Lee said.

“With current and former Matildas stars including Ellie Carpenter, Sally Shipard and Amy Chapman all growing up in regional NSW, this program will establish a pathway for aspiring Matildas in their local communities.”

Football NSW Chief Executive, Stuart Hodge, was there for today’s launch, as was 110 cap Matilda, Joey Peters hailing from Leeton in the Riverina, as well as football representatives including young talented players from the Albury-Wodonga Football Association.

Hodge believes the NSW Government’s investment has created a once in a generation opportunity for upcoming female athletes.

“Hosting the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 will inspire the next generation of Matildas and with the support of the NSW Government, together with Football Australia and Northern NSW Football, we are committed to providing the best training and development opportunities for our female athletes across regional NSW,” Mr Hodge said.

Chief Executive of Northern NSW Football, David Eland was also pleased with the announcement.

“The support provided by the NSW Government is invaluable and will assist NNSWF to provide the most talented female footballers in our region with access to programs, services, coaching and competitive opportunities required to fulfil their potential and aspirations to represent their Country.”

Former Matilda and Westfield W-League player Ashleigh Sykes, with 19 caps for the national team, who together with her twin sister Nicole grew up in Dubbo, enthusiastically supported today’s announcement.

“Growing up in Western NSW, sometimes it was easy to feel forgotten and isolated, like you’re not being seen as often as some of the city kids,” she said.

“I was lucky enough to benefit from people sticking together and supporting each other, from small group sessions to dedicated and loving coaches, to men’s teams providing a competitive training environment.

“For us, when the opportunity came up, moving to a city like Sydney or Canberra was a big decision at the age of 16 years.

“We made the choice to stay at home to finish school but then had to do lots of travelling to development camps. What this new program is offering will provide young girls aspiring to play for the country with enhanced opportunities which I think is fantastic and I am excited to be involved.”

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