Live streaming must stay for National League clubs, say Altrincham FC
Altrincham Football Club has joined a number of clubs in urging the National League to allow clubs to continue to stream fixtures without restrictions to compensate for lost revenue.
The club has written to league officials appealing for a change in contractual broadcasting rights to allow clubs to host hybrid matches. National League clubs were granted permission to live stream all games last season during lockdown when matches were played behind closed doors. The National League is yet to confirm if clubs will be able to stream games amid an easing of COVID-19 restrictions next season due to domestic commercial TV rights deals.
Altrincham FC Co-chairman Bill Waterson said: “Being able to host unrestricted hybrid matches has allowed National League clubs to bounce back from the pandemic. Live streaming games domestically and globally during the pandemic has been a vital revenue source for us and we believe the future is hybrid. We hope the league can work with us on this important issue.”
Altrincham FC broadcast all its home 2020-21 fixtures online with the support of volunteers who helped with filming, commentary and technical support. Virtual ticket sales during lockdown were the equivalent of 60 per cent of the Robins’ average matchday attendance. Supporters tuned in globally, including viewers in Canada, USA, Australia, UAE, and Afghanistan. Mr Waterson said the club turned over a four-figure sum from streaming in each of its three league fixtures that concluded the season where a limited number of supporters were able to attend.
“When fans returned in limited numbers for our final three games, we were interested to see how it would impact our streaming numbers,” said Mr Waterson. “We learnt that 10 per cent of our season ticket holders chose to watch the game from home rather than attend.
“We also welcomed a similar number of non-season ticket holders to our stream, we believe most of those viewers were supporters who no longer live in Greater Manchester and therefore cannot attend for travel reasons. I’ve talked to many Robins supporters who live outside Altrincham, all of whom say they’ve watched more matches this season than previous years and feel better connected with the club because of live streaming.
To me, streaming is an important bridge to connect fans who wouldn’t typically turn up to more than a handful of games per season. We are extremely grateful for the support we receive via the National League’s TV deal. But we feel additional help by enabling clubs to continue to broadcast games online can further contribute towards clubs’ sustainability.”
All of Altrincham’s 2020-21 home fixtures were broadcast via TicketCo Media Services and its integrated live stream and ticketing platform. The club established several ticket types for supporters to help officials better understand fans’ buying habits. Information collected suggested streaming matches will break down the barriers fans face concerning travel to fixtures away from home.
Mr Waterson added: “Take Hartlepool, for example. A well-supported National League club two-and-a-half hours away from ourselves. Should we play Hartlepool on a Tuesday evening next season, we’d expect to welcome a couple of hundred away fans. Hundreds more would love to attend, but they can’t due to logistical barriers.
“If they were able to tune into a live stream, that would generate essential revenue for our club. We made a four-figure profit from our dead-rubber game against Yeovil in May, which suggests to me there is significant demand for hybrid football. Over a season, it could help generate tens of thousands of pounds.”
Altrincham Football Club ended its first season back in the National League in 17th place. TicketCo Media Services is a cloud-based event payment and online broadcasting company, with offices in Norway, the UK, Netherlands, and Sweden. Its technology combines event payments with live streaming and on-demand services.
David Kenny, Head of Global Partnerships at TicketCo Media Services, said: “Altrincham have proven the scale streaming provides. It is great to see a club increasing its fan engagement and revenue via unrestricted broadcasting of games via HD quality streaming. We hope the National League supports this commercial growth area so more clubs can benefit.”