Wrexham AFC are eagerly awaiting the details of the proposed central streaming solution from the National League that is due to be launched in the second half of the season.
With the second half of the season commencing on December 13 (or one game after if progress is made in the FA Cup), fans who can’t get to the Racecourse Ground should not have long to wait to watch games live.
If the National League can’t meet this date, the Club will be asking the National League and rights holder BT Sport, to grant consent for all Clubs who can meet the broadcast specification that the National League’s own service will be based on, to stream games live with immediate effect until the central streaming solution is in place.
Wrexham AFC have been fortunate to have had our FA Cup Fourth Round Qualifying games against Blyth Spartans covered live in the USA. The original tie, with a kick off time of 12.30 in the UK, attracted a reported average audience of nearly 1,000,000 on ESPN and ESPN+, notwithstanding the early time this meant the game was available to watch live in the USA. The replay was also streamed live on ESPN+.
Following the hard-fought success on the pitch in that round, ITV will now broadcast the FA Cup 1st Round fixture with Oldham Athletic will be shown live in the UK on Sunday November 6, with kick off at 12.30 (UK), and we are aware it will also be shown live in both the USA & Australia, two key markets for the Club.
This is the evidence that the market exists to watch National League Clubs overseas on top of the already established UK audience.
The National League turned down an application from the Club to stream both the games against FC Halifax Town (25/10) and Maidenhead United (01/11) ‘near live’ with a 15-minute delay to both the domestic and international markets via WrexhamPlayer. The reason provided was that we had to wait for the central streaming solution to be delivered but without any other justification.
Not only was there lots of live football for fans to choose to watch on both these evenings, we could have streamed both games in full, immediately on the final whistle following the removal of the holdback on highlights, but as everyone recognises, the value is being able to watch the game live or near live, not when the result is known.
What inconvenience or damage did the insistence on the 90-minute delay make to either the National League or BT Sport, while it could have made a positive difference to Wrexham AFC?
The only conclusion that the Club can draw from this most recent refusal is that the National League seem adamant to hold Clubs back from growing their own fanbase which in our case, is now severely restricting our ability to maximise the Club’s potential, for reasons that are so far unexplained other than ‘not yet’.
The profile of the National League has never been higher and not just because of Wrexham AFC, but those in charge of the competition seem content to let opportunities to benefit the National League and all its Clubs pass, when there is absolutely no reason to do so; particularly when Wrexham have committed to remit any profits made from streaming games to the National League, so we don’t gain a financial advantage until the central streaming solution is available.