If my refrain that football isn’t just about football hasn’t driven you past the point of distraction yet, read on. Otherwise head to one of the many other bits of writing on this site instead – it’ll be easier on both of us.
The newly expanded, newly branded Stirling Sports Premiership was a bit of a gamble. Three new teams introduced to the competition meant an expanded schedule, which needed jiggling about for the regular appearance at the Club World Cup of Auckland City F.C and the OFC’s decision to change the format and dates for the Oceania Champions League. For a second year the competition was televised on Sky, albeit with just a single game per week – replacing the Thursday/Sunday of the 2015/16 season. That was seen as a risk in itself, cutting the available content on TV by half.
As we enter the semi-finals this weekend, with both games live on Sky Sports on Saturday and Sunday – it’s clear that this season of the NZFC has been one where the progress is obvious.
First of all, congratulations to the newcomers. Eastern Suburbs’ long history in the game and large grassroots did not quite turn into the large home crowds they expected, but of the newcomers they ended up with the highest position in the league. Tasman United had their shirts on-sale in their local Stirling Sports, selling out around Christmas time. While Trafalgar Park may be a ground too large for their support, there’s no doubt the enthusiastic and noisy Tasman crowd added much needed vigour to their sides effort. Hamilton? Best pitch in the league by far.
Content wise there’s been a lot more on offer this year. The YouTube packages are probably the most important part in terms of promoting the league. Unlike last years whole round highlights, often uploaded a week or two after the games, individual match highlights are now available the following Wednesday – although some prodding of the lovely folk at Sky is needed occasionally. Clubs have been very active in sharing the footage out as well, although there are some games this City fan doesn’t want to see again.
What’s been presented has been of a higher standard too. The decision to film at grounds like Kiwitea St, Porrit Park, Davey F and the Trusts Arena has meant that more often than not we’ve avoided the cavernous emptiness that marked Waitakere and Auckland City’s games in the sandy mess of the QBE last season. The NZFC isn’t a large stadium draw, and while it may have been more attractive for Sky to shoot somewhere they know – it certainly wasn’t good for the viewer at home.
The semi-finals will give Saturday afternoon viewers the chance to see Kiwitea St and Dave Farrington packed out with supporters and the fact that the final is on a Sunday afternoon at the QBE means that Sky Sports and New Zealand Football learned from this years successful Chatham Cup Final. It’s good to see the QBE being used as the showpiece venue, rather than the ‘well, it’s easier to film it there’ venue.
Last weekend there were three games of football involving New Zealand footballers on Sky Sports; the ACFC Tournament, Team Wellington taking down Canterbury and Wellington’s capitulation at WSW. This weekend there’ll be two Stirling Sports Premiership knockout games, an All Whites game away in Fiji and Wellington Phoenix trying to end their season with a flourish.
Now, let’s see if we can get them to cover Chatham Cup games. What? A man can dream!
Categories: NZ Men's National League
John Palethorpe lives in South Auckland which is very far away from Fratton Park and Champion Hill. Having been told there was no football in New Zealand, he was delighted to find that there is.