In a recent post, I looked at how some teams in our men’s national league football competition, the ISPS Handa Premiership, had embraced the new-found freedom from New Zealand Football’s more relaxed broadcasting restrictions for the 2018/19 season.
As outlined, there’s been encouraging and exciting progress from some clubs, proving that there’s a lot of potential in allowing clubs the freedom to create and distribute content, including sharing match highlights and live streaming of entire matches.
But with only this Sunday’s intriguing grand final remaining in this summer’s national league, I can’t help but be quite disappointed with the lack of progress made across the wider competition.
Not only have most teams not made much (or any) effort in streaming matches, but only a handful of teams have really embraced the freedom to distribute highlights across social media platforms. Back in September, John excitedly envisioned short clips of notable highlights taking social media by storm. Unfortunately, there hasn’t been a lot of uptake. I guess it’s hard to put together highlights when most teams aren’t filming or streaming the matches in the first place.
I’ve noticed that there’s a small (yet surprisingly insistent) level of scepticism, occasionally bordering on animosity, towards streaming of national league football matches.
Much of the animosity seems to be based on whether it’s the best use of the clearly limited resources that our clubs have – and that’s probably a fair question to ask, although the truth is that the resources and costs don’t need to be as excessive as some people seem to think.
Auckland City FC, who have long been the league’s benchmark team in so many respects both on the pitch and off it, have decided against embracing the opportunity to livestream matches. To their credit, they have at least come out and explained (via Twitter) some of the reasons for their opposition; those reasons include not wanting to undermine their brand with low quality content; concerns around the impact of overseas gambling; and the potential impact on their gate takings.
I don’t intend to pick on ACFC unnecessarily – I can understand their decision even if I don’t necessarily agree with them. But I think it’s worth exploring some of those reasons in a broader context to see exactly where genuine issues lie.
In terms of quality control, I’m not so sure that argument stacks up any more. The quality of live content produced in recent weeks by Southern United has received plenty of praise, and that’s been put together by amateurs learning as they go and on a shoestring budget. Tasman United’s recent stream produced by the Total Football team took it to the next level with presentation not far off what Sky TV produce, including multiple cameras and action replays.
I don’t really see why Auckland City couldn’t produce a livestream to match the quality of their excellent highlights packages if they decided they wanted to. Some other lesser-resourced teams would probably need to get more creative – and ambitious – than they currently are – but it’s not impossible.
“Am I The Only One Here Not Betting?”
A common argument relates to the impact of overseas betting. Yes, a staggering $33 million was reported to have been wagered on the competition in offshore markets in 2017 – with none of that money filtering back to help the teams or NZ Football. And it’s probably fair to assume that matches freely broadcast live on the internet will entertain more interest from overseas. Southern United’s recent live Youtube stream vs Auckland City received countless live comments from overseas gamblers (many of them out of pocket and angry that ACFC weren’t thumping the home team as their form guides might have suggested).
But I believe we need to accept that whether matches are broadcast online or not we can’t prevent this wagering from happening (it didn’t stop the $33 million noted as wagered above, did it?) Heck, if you look in the right places you can bet on an Under 12 Basketball tournament in Lithuania.
Answer me this though – which of the following situations is more likely to be susceptible to players being corrupted or influenced by overseas bookmakers –
- A non-broadcast match seen in-person by a tiny crowd, never to be watched again?; or
- A match openly broadcast live on the internet and forever replayable?
NZ Football already goes to great lengths to educate players and clubs in respect to the potential for match fixing and ensuring the integrity of the league. Surely the more transparent and visible the competition is, the better?
For my mind, the potential impact on gate takings is probably Auckland City’s best argument against streaming home matches. They get consistently respectable crowds who are prepared to pay $15 for a ticket, or $90 for a season pass. Live streaming matches could certainly result in a few of the more fairweather fans staying at home.
It seemed like there weren’t many fans in attendance at Kiwitea Street for their recent clash against Hamilton Wanderers – was the turnout hurt because that match was televised live on Sky? (There were a raft of other possible factors, including the later kickoff time and the Phoenix match in Auckland the night before).
But even this argument seems short-sighted. Most clubs don’t get sizeable crowds as it is, with the competition lacking a true mainstream presence despite the huge number of football players and fans across the country.
Imagine if the English Premier League had never embraced the broadcasting deals which have helped turn an already big competition into such a global behemoth awash with money. In the early 90s, no footballer on the planet was earning close to £500,000 a year. Now we have players earning that much every single week of the year. The phenomenal increases are primarily on the back of skyrocketing broadcasting deals which have helped to globalise the competition.
I’m not crazy enough to pretend there’s a huge global appetite for our national league – but NZ Football isn’t exactly receiving truckloads of money from Sky TV (instead, we’re paying Sky for the privilege!) so why not have a crack at a different broadcasting approach?
Power in Numbers
That leads to another point that Auckland City raised – that ideally NZ Football would be taking the lead and ensuring there’s a consistent approach to broadcasting matches across the competition.
Ultimately, it would be nice to see a high-quality centralised broadcasting platform; it would also greatly enhance the promotion and presence of the content. It’s disappointing that NZ Football hasn’t been proactive in being more innovative and taking ownership in this space – so far at least.
World of Entertainment
There’s plenty of arguments that could be made against a uniform broadcasting platform covering all matches. Some will argue that there’s simply not the demand to justify it. Some might argue that teams that don’t even bother to make regular posts on their Facebook, Twitter, and website pages are hardly going to make extra effort to get properly involved in broadcasting. And some will argue that a team’s online presence is a trivial concern compared to what they’re actually doing on the pitch, and that filming and broadcasting football matches is an unnecessary distraction from the football itself. (As an aside, in my experience there’s a clear link between the effort a team makes off the pitch and their success on it).
But I’d love to see us all being a bit more ambitious than this. Perhaps it could even become a genuine revenue stream in the not-too-distant future?
And imagine being able to watch any national league match live on any device from anywhere in the world. Wouldn’t it be great to beat some of our nation’s other high profile sports to the punch in this respect?
I’d love to hear if any NZ competitions or clubs are streaming over the winter season – please leave a comment and let me know!
Categories: NZ Men's National League