Bleiberg trial the sound of the future

Miron Bleiberg will be miked up and his comments aired live this weekend in an innovation that will not be the last.

The Fox Sports experiment to place a live radio microphone on Gold Coast United coach Miron Bleiberg during the game against Wellington Phoenix at Skilled Park is another innovation for the Hyundai A-League. And it won-t be the last.

The microphone will give TV viewers unprecedented access to the coach and his decision-making about tactics, substitutions and his instructions to players. It should be a fascinating insight.

This is billed as a world first for football, but we-re not using what-s happening in other football markets as a benchmark. We are primarily concerned with what-s happening here in Australia. That-s why we relaxed the use of replays on stadium video screens this season.

For the first time in the Hyundai A-League, fans in the stadium can see the same replays available to TV viewers at home.

Some of these incidents involve decisions by referees that are considered to be controversial, but these are the hot topics that fans debate on the terraces, so why shouldn-t we show them the respect of providing access to replays?

The innovation has been well received by fans and has the added benefit of showing how the referees and assistant referees make the correct decisions in the overwhelming majority of cases.

In making this change, we are bringing football into line with the other mainstream professional sports in Australia that make extensive use of stadium video screen replays.

The release this season of the first official Hyundai A-League app is other innovation that enhances the live experience of fans. The traditional match program is now a relic because fans want to know the starting line up and match officials when they arrive at the stadium and want match statistics on the run.

Our motivation is to grow attendances across the A-League, with these innovations a way to improve the live experience and promote the game. However, football is the only mainstream professional sport in Australia that doesn-t allow for live microphones to be placed on match officials.

FIFA won-t allow this and has its own reasons for the prohibition, but the fact remains that this edict puts football at a disadvantage in the competitive market for TV viewership. It remains a topic of discussion between FFA and our broadcast partner Fox Sports.

As it stands, referees and assistants are wired for sound in order to communicate with each other, but the signal is a closed, encoded loop.

Earlier this year, Hyundai A-League referee Strebre Delovski was part of a test when audio was recorded during a Newcastle Jets v Perth Glory match at Ausgrid Stadium.

A brief sample was broadcast on the following Tuesday-s Fox Sports FC program and took the viewers up close and personal with the action. The 45 second grab of Strebre talking to players about why a free kick was awarded underlined just how much a live microphone on a referee would enhance the broadcast.

Let-s see how the experiment pans out with Miron. I commend him on his willingness to help the Hyundai A-League explore these innovations and open our game to a broader range of sports viewers.

Fox Sports also should be congratulated on gearing up for these opportunities and constantly working to improve the scope and diversity of their broadcasts.

The Hyundai A-League is living in a world where digital convergence is happening all around us. Will we embrace these changes and help take our growing competition to more Australians every year - whether they come to the stadium, watch on TV or consume the content on a myriad of digital platforms; as you are doing right now.

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