TikTok: The platform of choice for young football fans

Social media platform TikTok is quickly becoming a primary service for reaching young football fans across the world.

TikTok is used to create a variety of short video clips, with millions of users engaging with content every day.

The company continues to grow at a rapid pace, with over 800 million app downloads in 2020, beating rivals such as Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp in the process.

Football leagues and clubs all over the world have utilised the platform to build their global brands.

Spain’s La Liga has reached 1.9 million followers in a year and a half of activity, with the demographic of this audience notably young.

“Our followers are young people (mostly part of Generation Z) from all over the world, people who want to discover content that they will not find anywhere else,” Alfredo Bermejo, director of digital strategy at La Liga, told the La Liga Newsletter.

“Everything we post is specially designed for this audience with the aim of entertaining them and creating engagement. We want them to know that following La Liga on TikTok is to consume content from the best league in the world.”

Real Madrid and FC Barcelona are the two most followed clubs on TikTok and have increased the profile of football on the service, but creating campaigns that global audiences have engaged with has been just as effective.

“We have created two of the biggest and most successful (social media) challenges in the history of TikTok,” Bermejo explained.

“Every week there are new trends that we pay attention to in order to remain an active part of the community.”

A recent initiative encouraged followers of the La Liga TikTok account to replicate the different goal celebrations of players in the competition.

Videos were posted with the hashtag #ViveLaLiga, with Bermejo revealing the campaign earned over 63 million views and trended in 21 countries.

These types of figures offered an added value for La Liga’s global partners, including Puma and Santander.

Soraya Castellanos Hidalgo, partnerships manager of TikTok in Spain, believes initiatives like this showcase where the social media platform thrives.

“Our mission is to inspire and offer our community a space for creative expression and a fun and positive experience with an enormous diversity of content,” she said.

Other La Liga content on their TikTok account is made attractive by a strong use of music, alongside an informal tone for the most part.

Bermejo explained that for the emerging young audience, all the content related to the league’s clubs, from training sessions to the way the players are dressed, is vital to make an impression.

“TikTok has allowed us to get closer to Generation Z and thus understand the tastes and preferences that these fans have today,” he stated.

“This also helps us to analyse what the fan of the future will be like.”

A new fan’s first contact with football “is likely not a 90-minute televised match, but a video with highlights and music on TikTok, or with images of player challenges during training,” Bermejo claimed.

Sevilla FC has used TikTok since June of 2019 and now has over 275,000 followers on the social media site.

The club emphasised that posts on this social network feel genuine and is a major reason why the platform is the global service of choice for a younger demographic.

“The change we’ve noticed is the way that the content published is natural, much more real and less edited, plus it is generated directly on the mobile phone,” explained the club’s social media manager, José Ángel Risco.

“Consumption is a lot quicker as the users want to see something that lasts 15 to 20 seconds maximum,” he added.

“It’s becoming a social network that also feeds other platforms such as Twitter or YouTube, especially with videos that go viral. There are differences in the tone that we don’t have on channels such as Twitter or Facebook.

“Those who follow us on TikTok are a lot younger. We’re trying to connect with users who are interested in sport and in football through a tone that isn’t as focussed on the up-to-the-minute sports news.”

TikTok continues to build on its momentum as a social media phenomenon for young people, with football fans no exception.

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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.

FIFA trialling Video Support challenge technology

Football Video Support (VS) has been introduced by FIFA as another means of technology to review decisions.

VS is a video review system by FIFA that is the answer to member associations that cannot implement the video-assistant-referee (VAR) system because their human and financial resources are limited and very few cameras are in use in their competitions.

There are cameras set up around the pitch, either human-operated or automated that are used by referees to make decisions after a coach reviews the play.

FIFA are currently trialling VS with a goal to explore new and existing technologies to positively impact the game, especially in order to help referees to make correct decisions, while ensuring that their potential use is cost-effective, beneficial and practical across the global football community.

How does VS work?

  1. Football Video Support (VS) is a video review system introduced by FIFA as a solution for member associations that are unable to implement the video assistant referee (VAR) system.
    a. Goal/no goal
    b. Penalty/no penalty
    c. Direct red cards (not second cautions)
    d. Mistaken identity (when the referee cautions or sends off the wrong player of the offending team)
  2. VS can be utilized only after the referee has made a decision (including waving play on as a decision) and a team has subsequently requested a review.
  3. Only the team’s head coach (or, in their absence, the senior team official in the technical area) can request a review. This request must be made immediately after the incident by twirling their finger in the air and handing a review request card to the fourth official. However, each player has the right to ask their head coach to initiate a review request.
  4. The fourth official will inform the referee of the review request and, if play has stopped (and not restarted) since the incident, the referee will go to the referee review area (RRA) to review the replay footage. If play has continued since the incident, the referee will stop play when the ball is in a neutral zone and go to the RRA to review the replay footage.
  5. During the review, the referee will be assisted by a review operator, who will show replay footage on the monitor (e.g. different camera angles, split screen, different replay speeds, etc.).
  6. The original decision taken by the referee will not be changed unless the video replay footage shows clear evidence that the decision was a clear and obvious error or that there has been a serious missed incident. As the VS system involves a small number of cameras, the replay footage will often be inconclusive and thus the original decision may not be changed.
  7. The review request must be made immediately to:

– conform to the Laws of the Game requirement that a decision cannot be changed once play has restarted after a stoppage; and

– prevent unnecessary delays to the game while the team’s head coach (or, in their absence, the senior team official present in the technical area) considers whether to make a review request.

  1. After a goal is scored, the fourth official will review the footage on the monitor and inform the referee if a clear and obvious offense was committed by the attacking team. Unless the decision involves factual matters, the referee will then review the incident and make the final decision.

During the trial phase, it is expected that each team will be able to make two requests per match. If the review by the referee results in the original decision being changed, the team retains (does not lose) that review request.

The technology is not going to replace VAR, it is just going to be used as a cheaper alternative in leagues and associations that lack the current VAR technology to ensure fairness and accuracy across all levels of professional football.

FIFA state that there is no specific timeline, and no decision has been made on when the implementation will take place.

They are currently at the trial stage and after assessing the outcome of the trial will talk with the relevant stakeholders in order to decide on the next steps, including potential additional trials by FIFA and other governing bodies.

VAR to be introduced at AFC club competitions for next season

The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) has confirmed the implementation of the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) system across its revamped three-tier club structure as well as the inaugural AFC Women’s Champions League for the 2024/25 season.

The newly introduced AFC Champions League Elite, the top club competition in the confederation that comprises 24 of Asia’s best teams, will implement VAR from the league stage, which kicks off this September.

Meanwhile, VAR support for match officials in the AFC Champions League Two will be available from the Knockout Stage onwards. The competition, comprising 32 teams, is set to commence in September.

For the AFC Challenge League, which will feature 20 teams, the technology will come into play in the all-important Final in May 2025.

Lastly, the inaugural edition of the landmark AFC Women’s Champions League, which kicks off in October, will see the VAR system made available in the Semi-finals and Final, underscoring the Confederation’s commitment to supporting and developing women’s football on the Continent.

The AFC prepared for this VAR implementation for the 2024/25 season when they conducted the AFC VAR Course in Malaysia in 2023.

This Course consisted of 25 VAR officials across Asia who were taught the in’s and outs of the technology, as part of an effort to keep the Confederation’s match officials up to date with the latest technological advancements in refereeing.

Another workshop will be taking place in the coming months to ensure the VAR Information Officer’s (VIO) of each AFC country are also kept up to date with the technology.

Earlier this year, the AFC implemented the VAR system across all matches at the AFC Asian Cup for the first time, while also becoming the first Confederation to introduce the Semi-Automated Offside Technology (SAOT) system at the Continental Men’s national team level.

It is clear that the AFC have ambitions to remain a model Confederation that is always open for innovation as well as ensuring the success of its match officials on the biggest stages in world football.

As Asian club football prepares to enter a new era, it is vital that this VAR technology is introduced at all stadiums involved in the three competitions to ensure fairness.

After the Mariners success in the AFC Cup, it will be interesting to see how this new three-tier club structure allows Australian teams to compete further in these tournaments.

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