Use of the web has come a long way in grassroots sport since the late 1990s. Since the Y2K bug was extinguished, enabling faith in technology to blossom, community sport is today receiving value from the emergence and acceptance of digital services such as MyCricket and MyNetball. Andrew Walton, Director of Sales and Marketing with online sports management solutions company InteractSport looks at the journey from then to now with a peek into the beyond.
Looking back from the current digital age to a seemingly distant 2007, the past online sporting landscape for governing bodies was a diverse assortment of brochure based websites, many containing little more than logos and images.Information was not fully regarded as an asset.
Some of the sports at the higher end of the scale had started to shift direction. They started to include audio file downloads, such as this from cricketer Shane Watson on his latest injury battle, screensaver wallpaper or fan interactions in this vote for Anthony Rocca in the Toyota Mark of the Year, recognising that content and relevance was desired. Using the Internet Archive Wayback Machine is a useful resource for remembering what we used to contend with – although some of the content within these random samples has not really advanced any further in the digital age.
During the time since, Cricket Australia duly recognised that the ability of connecting to anybody with a remote interest in the game was essential for the future. How to do this and deliver upon the considerations of efficiency, relevance and control presented a seemingly enormous task.
In the background starting in 2001, an online service for cricket known as ResultsVault emerged. It established a valued relevance amongst associations and clubs by allowing the simple data entry process of teams, match results and player scores to convert into scorecards and statistic tables. This was the early stages of learning about the value of information being available for any level of sport rather than relying upon traditional methods of the summary scores in the Daily Telegraph or the local reporter’s perspective in the Warrnambool Standard. It was learnt for this grassroots audience, that more than 75 percent of website traffic was for competition information – fixtures, ladders, results and statistics.
Cricket Australia formalised a partnership with InteractSport and converted ResultsVault into MyCricket, transitioning a considerable portion of the community cricket audience into this new portal with clear national direction. The important point here is that Cricket Australia took a definite position with clarity of delivering a service to the grassroots. This may not seem special or extraordinary, but in 2012 the majority of governing bodies flounder when it comes to having information or knowledge of who is exactly playing their sport.
Several occasions in recent times, conversations with CEO’s have revealed comments of the type where the sport in question has 35,000 registered members but more than 400,000 actually play the game – “somewhere, we think”. Begs the questions as to why be there such a regular disconnect of knowledge and understanding. Tragically the process of – “complete a paper registration form, please send us payment and once we receive the data it will be entered into an overpriced CRM solution that resides on an individual’s desktop because of licence fee restrictions” – will still be part of the “administrative process”. Hardly cutting edge, or barely functional.
Additionally though, there are regular alerts from respected sporting figures about the cost of grassroots sport. Respected football analyst, Craig Foster, has been banging this drum from direct experience in the suburbs of Sydney for many years. An online article that generates 367 comments is worthy of reflection as it also uncovers useful localised knowledge on which to base strategic direction – $500 per child not an uncommon amount being asked for to simply play the game. Where does the money go?
The challenge therefore for sport governing bodies is to deliver within the digital realm a cohesive platform consisting of membership management, online tools, competition information, website integration, fan engagement, showcase performances and on and on and on.
Cricket Australia Manager – Digital, Mandi McPherson, has been responsible for the implementation of Weet-Bix MyCricket. The national cricket management solution used by grassroots cricket around Australia, with almost half a million participants in the 2011-2012 season. The system allows club administrators to manage a wide range of tasks including fixture management, scheduling and scoring and also provides free websites for all cricket clubs. The match results and statistics managed within the system can be easily searched to view data by player, team, club and even by state and nationally.
Weet-Bix MyCricket also provides value-added resources to clubs and players aimed at streamlining club operations. These include online registrations and payments, player transfers capability, useful news and content, online teamwear and cricket gear ordering services. The system is constantly being developed to ensure it remains at the forefront of technology and the introduction of Electronic Scoring in the 2012-2013 season will allow clubs to upload their match data directly to MyCricket from laptops at a match.
“MyCricket has changed the way we think about grassroots cricket and driven deeper engagement with this important community. We now have much better data to drive our Game Development strategies and also the means to ensure our participant base are active fans of the game” McPherson says.
A digital asset that engages the community has been firmly established allowing technology to advance within the sport rather than being required to consider an alternate to reset the base position.
From here we have to ensure the capability of delivering to generation next, which have already accepted “swipe, wipe and push” over keyboard skills, are able to consume information from across their sporting club involvements whenever they want on whatever mobile platform they use.Mobilederived web traffic, just amongst the community sport from intimate awareness (cricket, tennis, netball, football, hockey, school sports) increases every month and at some stage in 2014 will be the majority.
Sports which are unable to produce anything more than a partial list of registered members and provide low digital value to participants will become less relevant. They will fail the needs of the existing and be unable to meet functional expectations of volunteers. They will not have a digital asset in their information to establish a position in negotiating sponsorship deals, branding opportunities or support funding.Information has a value. Attracting, capturing and managing the information effectively in the digital age is expected.
Image: Cricket Australia