The Affect Digital Disruption has upon Football and its media ecology

In our first blog within this series of four, we saw how sport media ecology coincided with women’s football and how hegemonic masculinity is viewed within this sport. This is extremely pervasive, especially when consumers want all content available 24/7 which is found to be easily accessible (Delfanti & Arvidsson, 2019). The decisions being made by a football club’s content creator, is that user experience will become more fragmented due to digital disruption and consumers may want original content from players and clubs rather than from a third party. A third party may provide additional information and has the ability to increase monetisation through fantasy football and online betting (López-González et al., 2017; Miah, 2017). This can build marketing activity around certain digital developments in the game, for example, goal line technology, in an attempt to increase popularity for the sport.

Through social media, platforms such as Twitter are disrupting the traditional methods of sports media ecology. On the other hand, the usage of traditional methods of sport media ecology, such as newspaper articles and magazines, means that athletes, competitions and events are becoming hostage to those establishments due to passing on information to a wider audience due to the channels. Despite the implications, if new digital platforms are becoming increasingly popular (TikTok), sport is likely to be a significant stimulant in the process, given its socio-cultural reverberation as a convenient starting point to distribute technology (Hutchins, 2016; López-González et al., 2017). However, it is noted that it is both naive and undesirable to isolate digital participatory culture from society and culture generally, only considering participation as an effective mode of social change (Miah, 2017).

Nowadays, digital disruption is more common within the game of football, due to VAR (Video Assistant Referee) in which the first live trial took place in 2016 during a friendly between FC Eindhoven and PSV. However, despite the trial, VAR wasn’t utilised therefore it was first used in a MSL reserves game in the US (Plavšić, 2020). Research shows that accuracy of decisions increases by 6% from 92% to 98% once VAR has been used (Skitz et al., 2020). Digital disruption is affecting the consumption of football as normally people tend to watch it via the TV or through attending games. Sports consumers can become agitated due to the average time for a VAR check being 84 seconds (Johnson, 2021), therefore, there is a large difference in time between long standing TV broadcasting networks and new digital prototypes such as TikTok, which requires a shorter attention span (López-González et al., 2017. P1).

Research has proven that Generation Z prefer shorter videos due to their attention span being 4 seconds shorter than Millennials, due to overstimulation through digital media (Statista, 2021; Rothman, 2016). Football clubs have recognised Generation Z and Millennials prefer short and snappy interactions, hence why the digital platform ‘TikTok’ has had increased engagement with a 75% growth in 2020 (Lazzi, 2021). PSG has topped the platform with 23 million followers, closely followed by Barcelona with 12.2 million followers and have done this through the engagement in socio-cultural trends (McQuail & Deuze, 2020; Tiktok, 2021). Compared to their YouTube channel, which has been around 14 years, it only has 700,000 more followers, which maps the collision and disorderly consequences of this juxtaposition (López-González at al., 2017. P1; Youtube, 2021). The digital transmission of sport (Online content and Streaming of football games) has jeopardised the future of the football leagues whom sell their TV rights based on vicinity, due to alternative digital broadcasting being cheaper (David & Millward, 2012López-González et al, 2017).

Media outlets are interrupted due to the disruption of the ecosystem, as found on the social media platform Twitter. Within football, the social media following fluctuates, indicating that consumers idolise specific players’ content instead of original content constructed by traditional media outlets. This is supported by England Women’s Captain Steph Houghton MBE who currently has 147.3k followers in comparison to the media outlet Sky Sports WSL who only have 15.8k. This again is down to digital mediated experience being much richer than the in-person experience (Miah, 2017).

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