03 Nov

Streaming and the Changing Face of Football


Not that many years ago, the thought of being able to watch live sporting events on a small, standalone device that you could also use to make phone calls would have seemed like something straight out of science fiction. It is very much a reality, though, and such is the pace of technological progress that it does not even seem that remarkable anymore. Streaming football is just one example of the way that both technology and the beautiful game have evolved over the past decades, and more often than not that progress has gone hand-in-hand.

The early days of football and television
Over the years, every time there has been a big step forward with football being shown on our screens there have been people predicting it will be the end of the game. Of course, that has never happened, and instead, it has grown stronger and stronger and more popular by the year worldwide.

The first game broadcasted live was not particularly interesting—unless you are an Arsenal fan, I suppose. It was a friendly between Arsenal and their reserve team, a match that was specially arranged for the occasion. Things moved on, albeit slowly, with a live league game being shown in 1960 and the introduction of Match of the Day in 1964 (the iconic programme went colour in 1969). Fast forward to 1983, and ITV showed a live league game on TV for the first time in 23 years. In 1992, Sky bought the rights, the Premier League was born and the domestic game changed forever.

The picture today
Things have moved on massively and quickly from there, and the way clubs have become a part of everyday life has almost happened without us realizing it. Manchester United are one of the top three biggest clubs in the world, if not the largest. As a result, fans can partner and identify with their club in just about every way possible. This can take the form of the branding of practically every item their fans could wish to own to having their own dedicated page on bookies’ websites—even when the same bookmakers are forecasting them to finish mid table. They are no longer just a football team; they are full-blown business—a way of life.

 

Things have moved on apace from tiny TV’s. Photo by vallgall, CC BY 2.0

 

That engagement and interaction with the team goes both ways. Players are all over social media and message directly with their fans all over the world. And that is another way the game has changed. It truly has become global—but not in the way that every country in the world plays the game (most have them have a professional league). Rather, the game has become global in the way that no matter where you travel, be it into the depths of Asia or Africa, there are billboards with the oh-so-familiar players from Barcelona, Real Madrid, and Manchester United shirts selling razors. There are fans of all ages walking around in replica tops and cars festooned with the Manchester United badge. No matter where you live, you can watch a team from anywhere else in the world, right in your living room.

Teams take advantage of that and fuel it more, courtesy of their summer tours to the Middle East, the USA and Asia. One of the counterarguments for a break in the EPL—something that is actually going to come in February—was that, as opposed to allowing time for the players to rest, clubs would use the opportunity to jet across the world in order to drum up yet more support.

Technology and football
Streaming has no doubt opened up a whole new era of football for fans, but that is not the only product of the marriage between football and technology. In-play betting is a huge business and allows punters to bet on anything during the actual game, from the next corner to the number of yellow cards. It is another example of the fan no longer being completely outside the game, but instead able to be more immersed within it. Goal-line technology has been successfully adopted throughout the major leagues in the sport, and it would not be an article about technology in football if we did not at least mention VAR… But that is a debate for another day.

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