Football transcends beyond just 22 players on the field; it’s an emotion, a commitment, and for many, a lifestyle. Yet, with technological evolution, the way in which we engage with live sports is transforming.
While VAR regularly sparks controversy, goal-line technology has seamlessly integrated into the heart of football. But what’s the verdict on newer innovations like Sky Sport’s Game Mode? This fresh camera angle, introduced by Sky Sports and the Premier League, mirrors the visuals of football video games.
In this article, we’ll explore the diverse perspectives on the digitalisation of football and debate if technology is essential to captivate modern fans.
Enter Generation Z, the digital natives. Having grown up in an era of rapid technological change, this generation craves involvement and customisability. They don’t just want to watch the game; they want to be part of it.
According to survey data, 6 out of 10 Gen Z respondents want an immersive viewing experience. Compare this to the boomers, of which only 2.5 in 10 are receptive to innovations like ‘game mode’.
Furthermore, 6 in 10 Gen Z fans also demand control and customisability in their sports viewing, requesting the option to choose camera angles during a game. In stark contrast, only 1 in 3 boomers expressed this is something they would enjoy.
Within the Premier League’s fanbase, opinions on technological enhancements are also polarized. Burnley’s supporters seem to be staunch traditionalists, with every single fan surveyed believing that ‘game mode’ innovations detract from football’s core essence. On the other end of the spectrum, Brentford’s fans appear more adaptable. Half of their respondents would like to see Game Mode used in match broadcasts.
Game Mode is comparable to angles used in video games. For this reason, it’s no surprise that familiarity with games like FIFA plays a significant role in shaping attitudes toward the Sky Sports trial. Among those who’ve played games like FIFA, 47% are welcoming of ‘game mode’. In contrast, only 20% of non-gamers feel the same.
While many Gen Z fans believe that boomers are outdated in their football viewing habits, the older generation rejects this claim.
However, survey results support the stereotype, with only 1 in 10 boomers stating they relate to the digital era of football consumption, and a staggering 8 out of 10 exclusively tuning into traditional TV broadcasts. This contrasts sharply with Gen Z, half of whom leverage streaming and digital platforms to enjoy the sport.
Interestingly, while over 90% of boomers believe that Gen Z has a shorter attention span for football viewing, 5% more boomers than Gen Z fans admit to getting bored during football matches. Indicating that perhaps the older generation could benefit from being more open to technological advancements in viewing experiences.
It’s no surprise that VAR got a pretty bad rap across the board. The majority of fans (57%) believe VAR causes more issues than it solves for their teams; an opinion that was reflected across all age categories. However, specific Premier League teams do seem to differ in opinion. Wolverhampton Wanderers fans are entirely against VAR, while Aston Villa seems to be the least bothered, with only 20% seeing it as an issue.
Moreover, the potential move to include digital elements like animated gameplay hasn’t been universally appreciated. A significant 83% of respondents are against animated simulcasts, even though similar experiments in the NFL have seen success across the pond.
There is also, unsurprisingly, a universal dislike for the growing LED billboards, with over half claiming that the digital ads put them off watching games.
With 78% of respondents admitting they get bored during football matches, it raises a crucial question: Do we need technological progression to keep the modern audience engaged?
While the answer isn’t straightforward, one thing is clear: the football viewing experience is evolving. As with any change, there will be proponents and detractors. But as the lines between the digital and physical worlds continue to blur, the beautiful game might just find a new way to enchant its fans, old and new.