The announcement of the new streaming platform for the SSE Airtricity League last week was a hugely positive development. The games are back this week, but with only small numbers of fans being able to attend and only selected games being broadcast live on RTE and Eir Sport, something else needed to be done.
WatchLOI surpassed expectations. Making every game available through a streaming platform was a brave and innovative move. It was also a move that put the fans first. The price – €55 in Ireland and €69 overseas – is more than reasonable. All involved are to be congratulated.
The service has been launched by the FAI and RTE, in conjunction with GAAGO. With these stakeholders on board it is to be hoped that the product – which will be available in HD across all devices – will be of a high quality. Some Extra.ie FAI Cup games will also be available as part of the package, in case it wasn’t good-enough value already!
Nobody knows what the take-up rate is going to be like with WatchLOI. That is what makes the move a brave one. Something needed to be done and this was the perfect solution. If we look back in a few months and see that the take-up rate has been huge, then a winning formula has been found. If we discover a low take-up rate then it will be a case of nothing ventured, nothing gained.
Why hasn’t something like this been done before? Possibly because the collective will, need and impetus to design and deliver it wasn’t there pre-COVID19. Possibly because there was a fear that exploring this avenue would lead to a decline in attendances at the stadiums – a real and understandable concern, but one that dissolves into thin air when people aren’t allowed come to the stadiums.
There is potential in the endeavour for the league to be brought to a whole new audience. The Irish diaspora abroad with an interest in the league have up to now only been able to follow games broadcast live on RTE and Eir Sport, but now have unlimited access. Perhaps they will introduce friends to the platform. A whole new field of viewers.
Nobody knows what will be happening in our communities beyond 2020. Hopefully we have a vaccine, herd immunity or some other solution to COVID19 that will allow us to fully return to normal. For the SSE Airtricity League, normal means being able to attend the games in regular numbers. If this doesn’t come to pass then we have the streaming platform in place. Even if we do return to normal there will still be a place for the streaming service going forward. I attend much less games than I would like, because of work and other commitments. A streaming service will allow me to take in games I’d like to see but couldn’t otherwise get to.
Now, can something be sorted out for the First Division?!