Serie A showing games in cinemas is an attempt to bring the social experience back to football
There may be some who don’t agree, but it should be fairly uncontroversial to say that watching sport is at its best when it is a communal activity. Sharing the moment with friends and family is one of life’s little pleasures, and sport always throws up spectacular moments.
Look at the rise of podcasts or just step onto Twitter to see how much we love talking about them. What we see on the pitch or the court is clearly a hot topic of discussion – we want to chat to others about what we’ve seen.
Some of the objections to virtual reality and its place in live sports broadcasting centre around the fact that the social element is lost because of the headsets and the full immersion in the game. Currently it’s hard to celebrate goals with friends, for example.
Yet sport is becoming something of a solo event, something you watch on your sofa – whether you do it by yourself or with your family or your mates is up to you, but sport is becoming a televisual event. So high is the price of the tickets to games, the amount of sport on TV and the fact that coverage of the biggest events has become so advanced.
Second screens, analysis and stats are the privilege of those watching at home who increasingly have the best seats in the house. Football in particular is most guilty of that, more and more it especially is losing its community feel.
There’s been an interesting response to that in Italy this week, where – as part of a new domestic media rights deal – Serie A games will be shown in cinemas across the country.
The organisers clearly don’t want to get into a situation where fans face a choice between physically going to a game or watching it in a cinema: games will be made available to interested theatres on a game-by-game basis and will only be open to those cinemas 80km or more away from the stadium in which the match is taking place.
Still, it’s an interesting thought: how does the league attempt to ensure that the sport keeps that communal and social element that it always had before the advent not just of football on TV, but football on TV almost every night during the season?
With the televisual spectacle almost overtaking the in-stadium experience, sport is at something of a crossroads. Does it become a soap opera, where fans check in and out at their leisure to see the stories unfold and a cold drink in front of their TV? Or does it attempt to keep that social element that made football especially such a major pastime for the working classes in the first place?
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