How many arguments have you heard about Mesut Ozil’s laziness? The clips shown on Sky highlight highlighting his lack of movement? Then you might read an article and find that he’s created more chances than anyone in Europe for the past 5 years and often ends games covering more ground than most of his teammates.
Presumably you’ve heard about xG this year too. The new ‘Expected Goals’ stat that has now become a fixture on Match of the Day? There’s stats to provide a case for everything you can imagine and it serves as a small microcosm for how technology has elevated our immersion into the game over the past decade.
It has completely altered the way we consume the game at home today, be it through the non-stop stream of online information, constant access to highlights, clips and feeds and, of course, the continued rise of console gaming and e-sports.
Faces in the crowd
While technology becomes ever more integral to our lives, there are a number of other reasons why football is becoming a sport consumed in the comfort of our own homes.
For fans of Premier League clubs, especially those at the top end of the table, enjoying the match day experience in person is a rarity for the vast majority of people. Supporters have been priced out of their own grounds and in comparison to a Sky or BT subscription, the cost feels disproportionate. The dedicated fans who place football above all else will always be there to back their team home and away. Those who decided to turn up at their local ground on a Saturday to buy a ticket, now have to join membership schemes just go have a chance of securing a ticket and can spend anywhere close to £100 per game.
This has changed the dynamic of the crowd supporting the team and the multi-national nature of the fans reflects the broad range of players out on the pitch wearing the club colours. Football tourism is grown larger year-on-year, which is part of the reason why clubs are willing to hike around the globe pre-season promoting the club’s brand.
The digital generation
But with access to almost any game available in the comfort of your own home (not always legally), there are a whole generation of younger fans who have never been to a stadium to see a live game. Social media has long since become the new centre for interacting with other fans. For example, during the 2014 Brazilian World Cup, 672 million tweets about the tournament were sent over the four weeks. Games can be streamed online, clips of all the weekends’ goals are available almost immediately and most crucially for fans, all of it can be accessed without spending a thing.
There are complaints that fans are more distant from the players than previous decades (especially pre-Premier League). The counter-argument being there is a constant stream of content that was never before available. Social media interaction allows fans to see far more of the stars away from the pitch through the club channel content that is constantly provided. In years gone by, football hungry kids in the UK would have to buy printed magazines, which were published every two weeks, featuring interviews with footballers. Now younger can see and hear their favourite players in an instant.
The future is now
With content found on every conceivable digital platform, video continues to lead the way. Not only that but it has to be shareable and with new augmented and virtual reality technology rapidly improving, then our digital immersion into the game is only set to deepen. A digital revolution within the game is happening right now and no matter how sceptical some may be about its increased use, every fan enjoys and benefits from it to some degree. Where we take it from here is quite literally in our own hands.