How the digital world is changing football
Posted: Wednesday 22 August, 2012
Many purists of the sport would argue that the best days of football are behind us – the days when record transfer fees didn’t matter a jot, when footballers were still viewed with respect and people cared more about a national team full of heroes as opposed to villains.
Whilst much of this is true and these are points fairly made, I think it’s wrong to say that football is entirely worse, since equally it’s better in some ways too. It’s just different. The digital world has influenced football in a number of ways, some more prominently than others:
Transfers – this has always been a topic of conversation in the media, the only difference is immediacy and accuracy. With Twitter, journalists are at the mercy of fans who seem to post their own rumours at will – fortunately these ITK accounts (“in the know”) have grown to be a source of ridicule and are regularly mocked throughout the transfer window. Journalists still have the power of authority – the majority of users still turn to them to provide accurate reporting on the transfer targets of their respective clubs.
Player involvement – many players have taken to social networks as a means of interacting with fans and posting their own views. In most cases this is well received, although there have been cases of players being fined for their use of social media, Twitter in particular. There have also been cases of players using Twitter as a tool in their arsenal when trying to engineer transfers away from their clubs – I’m looking at you Jose Enrique.
Highlights – the BBC’s Match of the Day and Football League Show are still the bastion of English football, providing (in most cases) quality footage from games despite the continuous increase in cost of football broadcasting rights. However, great websites like 101greatgoals.com syndicate video clips of goals from all over the world, which detracts from the excitement a little but equally means that all the goals as they happen are right there on every user’s digital doorstep. There is a similar story with mobile – the ESPN goals app brings all the Premier League goals straight to your mobile phone for free shortly after the live broadcasts have concluded. It’s little wonder, given consumer demand for instant gratification, that football is no different.
Community – being a massive Newcastle United fan, I’m not short of an opinion or two, and I tend to talk about football online more than I talk about anything else. The fervor that built across the Newcastle United online community in the lead up to the new season was unprecedented following a successful season last year – this was all aided and amplified by social media. The banter between fans is great too, providing it doesn’t get too personal (which it unfortunately can).
There are lots of other ways that football has changed. I could talk all day about broadcasting rights, fan-club interaction (and the clubs that do social media well), the globalisation of the Premier League, but ultimately as the digital world evolves so will everything else, probably at a pace some won’t be able to keep up with.
I doubt this is unique to football either; it’s just the sport that I’m closest to. I’d loosely predict that the next big developments will be in mobile – there are some great apps out there, but someone needs to build one that has it all.