You are browsing the archive for football.

How do you get your football fix?

October 24, 2016 in News & Features

With Sky’s live football audience figures down by a reported 19% so far this season, it seems our viewing habits may be undergoing a radical transformation.

Are we swapping watching whole matches – with all the over-hyped build-up, endless punditry and overdone post-mortems – for highlight shows, video clips on YouTube on other platforms, following the sport on social media or finding free (and illegal) streams to get our fix of the beautiful game?

According to some of the football fans, who spoke to Elephant Sport on the subject, the grip of ‘appointment to view’ must-see match coverage is being loosened as technology converges and we get our football ‘on the go’.

Joseph Mensah, 21, say if football is live on TV he will watch it, but adds that he will never go out of his way to view a match because there is always a highlights show on later.

“At home, I have Virgin TV which gives me both Sky Sports and BT Sports, which are the main broadcasters of Premier League football in the UK, so whenever football is on TV I will always watch it.

“I never bother streaming it from illegal websites because the quality is poor or the commentary will be in another language, so I would rather wait and watch the highlights where I can watch all of the weekend’s games at one time.”

Illegal streaming

Finding an overseas stream to view the action is becoming more widespread, despite Sky and BT’s best efforts to stamp out this illegal practice.

With the ban on televising 3pm Saturday kick-offs in the UK still in place to protect attendances at games across the country, the temptation to find a way of catching those matches as they are screened abroad is too tempting for some.

“In the past decade, the use of social media platforms and a growing number of apps to follow football has gone through the roof”

One viewer, who wished to remain anonymous, said  he has been using overseas streams to watch football for around eight years.

“Why would I pay for subscription TV when streaming is so easy? I don’t mind the lower quality on the screen because it’s free.

“Also with streaming, it allows me to pick and choose which games I watch, I don’t have to rely on the company’s TV schedule, which means 3pm on Saturday afternoons I’m watching the match for free, instead of paying to watch live commentary in a TV studio.”

Another factor in the rise in online streaming is the price of the sports packages on subscription TV.

The cheapest option on Sky is £42 a month, which is just over £500 a year. To add BT Sport to you Sky Package it’s an extra £21.99, so for both Sky and BT Sport it’s a £63.99 a month.

And don’t forget to add the cost of your annual TV licence (£145.50) to the total…

Social media

In the past decade, the use of social media platforms and a growing number of apps to follow football has gone through the roof.

Twitter alone has with 313 million active users (as of June 2016), and there is a community of football clubs accounts, news outlets and broadcasting companies that provide users with a live feed of matches.

Younger audiences are glued to their phones and social media accounts so live commentary of football matches on Twitter are quick and easy wBT Sport Twitter screenshotays to follow games. Twitter also allows users to have their say so people are able to reply and retweet.

Organisations such as BT Sport release clips of key moments such as goals, missed chances and sending offs in as little as two minutes after it was broadcast on live subscription TV (right).

Student Randy Adu, only consumes football through live Twitter feeds and highlight clips on Twitter accounts.

“I think Twitter is the best way to follow football, you can choose what games to follow. I also like that I can find clips of the key moments, which means I can skip all the boring bits.”

News outlets have also taken to social media to encourage fans to follow football using their “on the go” services.

The Times have put together packs which include different ways to view exclusive, video highlights, live feeds and expert analysis with chief football Writer Henry Winter as the poster boy of the campaign.

The ‘Classic Pack’ offers in print, on your smartphone and online 24/7 access to the latest news, with a complimentary Nespresso machine and many more offers available through Times + for only £7 a week.

Stats and timelines

Accounts such as Opta and Squawka always provide interesting match stats during and after games, and many people follow them to find out exactly what happened in the game rather than watching it.

Opta Joe Twitter FeedRandy added: “Opta Joe is fantastic. After reading their timeline post-match you feel like you’ve watched the actual game.

“You can also tweet them directly asking for specific stats and if you are lucky they get back to you with an answer.”

The way we consume football is undoubtedly changing, and there are many factors involved in this.

However, one thing that has not changed is the love for the game and that is emphasised by the lengths that people go to follow the latest action.

The NFL now gives access to live game coverage through Twitter – how long will it be before football supplies a similar service to its fans?

Football’s beautiful nitty, gritty side

October 13, 2016 in I Was There

Ten miles from the 30,000 padded seats of Brighton and Hove Albion’s AMEX Stadium, sits Leylands Park, the home to Ryman Premier side Burgess Hill Town.

Last weekend I swapped AMEX for a small terrace and the smells of hot burgers and crisp lager to watch the Hillians, as they’re nicknamed.

I even managed to get a cup of Bovril and large chips for £2.50 – now that wouldn’t get you very far at the AMEX…

Yes, the facilities aren’t quite up to Championship standard, but what Leylands Park has in spades is a sense of community, of friends and families who work hard for and take pride in their local club.

“You get to see the other side of football, the nitty gritty. A lot of people at our club put a lot of unpaid, hard work in,” Hillians manager Ian Chapman told me.

“We as a team, try to be successful for them, we want to give back, because they deserve it. All the work they put in, that’s their reward if we do well for them”.

High tempo

The turnstiles at Leylands Park

And rewarded the fans and staff truly were this weekend, with an exciting 3-2 victory over Jimmy Bullard’s Leatherhead.

My first experience of Ryman Premier football brought five goals, cheap refreshments, sunshine and a game of high tempo football. Oh, and surprisingly no bookings!

The standard may not be exactly that of Brighton down the road, but there are similar traits on show: pace, passion and determination to name a few.

Believe it or not, there is a world outside of elite football, a world in which many stars of today have risen.

The likes of Chris Smalling, Charlie Austin and Jamie Vardy are all now excelling at the highest level after starting out in the non-league game.

Big names in non-league

“Look at Greg Leur who we sold to Hull, there’s some good names and good footballers in non-league these days. We’ve got that with an ex-Brighton player on loan with us; Dean Cox,” said former Seagulls defender Chapman.

jimmy bullard

Jimmy Bullard gets his point across

There are plenty of current big names in non-league football too, including the likes of Jimmy Bullard at Leatherhead and Gary andf Phil Neville, Paul Scholes and Nicky Butt at Salford City.

Just to watch these ex-pros and current coaches from close up on the sidelines can give any fan an invaluable insight into football.

Especially when it comes to seeing and hearing the touchline antics and choice words from the likes of Bullard himself.

Better yet, you can even share a pint or two with these players and managers afterwards.

“By being in non-league football, you’ll get more affiliation with the players for example in bar afterwards and around the club,” Chapman explained.

Give it a go

Every fan should take advantage when their professional clubs stop for the international break; go out and see the ‘nitty, gritty’ beautiful side of football at non-league level, where every penny counts.

“It’s everything you want from football, and those people have come back”

In certain areas of Brighton’s stadium you can pay up to £42 for a seated ticket. Add that to the bill of £12 to park your car at the ground and already you’ve gone way over £50 before eyeing up the pricey pie (£4.20) and pint (£4.30).

Its £10 for adults and £6 for concessions at Burgess Hill, with the ability to stand and watch the football (something you’re not supposed to do at the AMEX). Oh, and there’s free parking at the ground, too.

Chapman would “love” to see more people at Leylands Park.

“If local league clubs like Brighton and Crawley are playing away and people are at a loose end, I’d love to see more people come down to have a look and see what they think

We’ve had that this season, proper games of football, end to end, excitement, goals, tackles and bookings. It’s everything you want from football and those people have come back”.

Community matters

Clubs at Burgess Hill’s level do genuinely care about their fans, their community – it’s visible.

“We’re a community club, we get 300-400 at home and I’d like to think they get entertainment and value for money,” Chapman added.

Realistically, a club of Burgess Hill’s size do have a ceiling of how far up the football pyramid they can hope to go, but as long as they are “always looking to improve” as Chapman puts it, and give back to the community, they’re achieving their goals.

Burgess Hill warm up at Leylands Park

“The chairman would love to get to the Conference South,” admitted the Burgess Hill gaffer. “However he knows at the moment, the club isn’t geared up to do that. Financially, we’ve got to establish ourselves.”

But the opportunities to continue to improve are there for the club.

Burgess Hill has a good catchment area of around 40,000 people. Chapman believes the club has the base to have “decent crowds of 600-700 each week” providing the side are doing well.

The attendance does appear to be ever growing for the Mid-Sussex side, who are on a current 10-game unbeaten run.

Last weekend saw one of the highest crowds of the season; 482, with another high turnout expected for this weekend’s home clash against National League Dover in the FA Cup.

Chapman admitted honestly: ‘The opportunity is there to get to the Conference South, but it probably would be the maximum for the club.

“When I first joined, they were second from bottom in the league below (Ryman South). I’ve had four seasons, and this is my fifth.

“In that time we finished 8th in my first season, 6th the next, missing out narrowly on the play-offs and in my third season, we won the league, gaining promotion to the Ryman Premier.

“In this league last season we finished bottom four, but managed to stay up. This season the aim is to finish in the top half. It’s always about improving and getting better”.

Youth recruitment is essential

For a club in the Ryman Premier, it’s about making use of your resources, in this case; the community.

The Hillians’ youth recruitment is a huge part of that, as I saw at the weekend. At least four players in the starting XI were brought through the youth set-up.

“Not only could you spot the next Jamie Vardy, you’ll get your money’s worth of football, which is of a much higher standard and tempo than you might expect”

“We have to work hard on our youth set-up and recruitment at this level. We’ve had two youth team lads in the squad so far this season; one started in FA Cup last round, 17 year old goalkeeper, he was fantastic,” said Chapman.

Curtis Gayler, another youth product and just 16 years old, has appeared twice already this season for Burgess Hill.

“It’s important we keep bringing through the youth players. We always need to keep finding homegrown talent – it’s important to us as a community club.”

Chapman added the most rewarding aspect of his job as a manager is “seeing youth flourish”.

Personally, I’m sold. Not only is non-league much more affordable, it’s also a reminder of where football began, at the heart of our communities, with every penny counting and clubs wanting to give back.

Not only could you spot the next Jamie Vardy, you’ll get your money’s worth of football, which is of a much higher standard than you might expect.

The next international break comes on the weekend of 12th November, and I’d strongly urge you to go and sample the beautiful delights of the non-league game.

Skip to toolbar