Hot Topics: International Women’s Day and the rise of documentary in football
This week, your social media timeline was more than likely taken over by International Women’s Day celebrations of all kinds. From brands and sports teams getting involved to others posting their own tributes.
At Digital Sport, we used the day to highlight women’s participation in sport and what the industry can do to promote greater diversity – not just in terms of gender parity, but in every other aspect, too.
There’s a nuance to the issue that’s sometimes missed, however, and perhaps that shows how equality issues are often seen as cause célèbre rather than a problem to tackle in the most effective way possible. Most people would agree we need to do more to grow women’s participation in sport, but by doing that we’re only growing the playing side: that’s not the same as promoting diversity in the roles within the industry.
International Women’s Day shouldn’t be the one day a year we think about these things, but it represents a good time to highlight issues again and take stock of where we are and what we need to do. Hopefully this time next year we’ll be reflecting on more progress.
The rise of documentary in football
Football clubs can see the value in creating their own content. We know that football is big business, but with so many sites, blogs, YouTubers and social media influencers creating content which fans lap up every day, it was surely only a matter of time before the clubs themselves thought they could get in on that action themselves.
The other side of that coin is online broadcasters like Amazon and Netflix, who are themselves attempting to get more sport on their platforms. But it’s not just live action that matters – it’s on-demand content, too.
Technology has progressed to a point where phones are capable of bringing podcasts and videos to people’s lives wherever they are, and that means sport is no longer contained to live broadcasts and highlights packages. Now anyone with an opinion can create media content, and that means there’s a lot of stuff out there – too much for any one person, really.
Perhaps unlike what’s happening with football news, where there is a race to be there first and to get clicks, quality rather than speed is key. And new series like First Team: Juventus as well as Amazon’s forthcoming documentaries with Manchester City and La Liga show that polished, long-form content is being produced.
It’s not just clubs and broadcasters getting involved, though. With Copa90 launching a derby day series, as well as partnering with MLS to create a documentary for the launch of the league’s newest franchise Los Angeles FC, it’s clear that in-depth content which educates and entertains is the order of the day – and that can only be a good thing.
VAR and ‘technology’
The International Football Association Board (IFAB) voted this week to implement Video Assistant Referees (VAR) at the upcoming Russian World Cup.
It’s a decision which has been met with both excitement and despair: this is an issue which firmly divides opinion.
The wider question, though, is not just about whether the use of such ‘technology’ is a good or bad thing for football, but it’s also about how sport deals with modern advances. Most sports are basically Victorian pastimes, or have grown out of such games. They are relics of the pre-technology age in a way that most other areas of our lives aren’t. We watch on TV and smartphones, and consume other content around it with technology. Indeed, even training methods and other things have been updated. But the games themselves are fundamentally non-technological.
Other sports have introduced video replays or things like Hawkeye technology without too much of a problem, but incorporating technological advances into a pre-technology sport might not be as easy as it seems.
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