Entertainment now means something different in soccer

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The recent trend of soccer locker room documentaries is an interesting immersive experience that could have a dangerous outcome.

Many soccer fans are getting what they’ve always wanted: a behind-the-scenes look at their favourite clubs. But what does this mean for the future of the sport? Only time will tell but locker room dynamics are about to shift.

It all started a couple of years ago with the Netflix documentary First Team: Juventus, which followed different players outside the pitch showing their daily lives, struggles, and thoughts that fans normally wouldn’t know. Sunderland ‘Til I Die came out two years later and started the momentum that the documentaries have today. The documentary showed a Premier League team with an important history be relegated not only once but twice into the third tier League One, something that is rarely seen.

Amazon Prime is starting to reach its peak on sports documentaries, as it’s now the main producer of these. In the last three years, they have released documentaries on clubs such as Manchester United, Bayern Munich, Paris Saint Germain, and Chivas; and on players such as Lionel Messi, Paul Pogba, Sergio Ramos, and Maradona. It seems these are just the start of it.

Their All or Nothing series continues to expand its library ranging from different sports, but their soccer library now has footage from Manchester City, Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal, Juventus, and the Brazilian national team. It was recently announced that their next entry will follow the German national team in the coming world cup. This is a bold move, yes Germany is one of the favourites to win, but a documentary focused on the country that actually wins or maybe one that has a more interesting story, such as Canada going to their first world cup since 1986 would have been a more interesting choice.

With the spotlight on more teams possibly joining this set up, it makes one wonder if sports are changing into a different type of “entertainment.” While it takes a “fly on the wall” approach, cameras usually change the behaviour of people, it’s then a worrisome possibility that the locker room could adopt a reality TV type of behaviour from players trying to gain more attention.

From a marketing and business perspective, there is nothing stopping these clubs from exploiting this opportunity. Additionally, many soccer players have sponsors outside of their clubs by different brands. It wouldn’t be surprising if these brands asked to make a deal with the club or even streaming services to have some brand exposure or for their athlete to act a certain way on screen. Similarly, from a bigger perspective, clubs could use these documentaries to attract more sponsors, which leaves the sport feeling like a giant advertisement with no passion for soccer.

Sports documentaries can be inspiring and entertaining, but it excels in stories such as Sunderland ‘til I Die. Or one on Leicester City F.C.’s extremely unlikely Premier League win in the 2015- 2016 season, known as one of the sport’s greatest stories, would be a great example of the stories these documentaries should try to capture. Having a mass streaming library of soccer documentaries takes away from memorable stories like these; and yes, sports are meant to be entertaining but they shouldn’t become a business or a reality TV opportunity. It should focus on talent, strategy, and ambition.

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