Back in the Game: Covering Footy During COVID-19

By Patrick O'Beirne

The Melbourne Press Club today hosted Back in the Game: Covering Footy During COVID-19, an hour-long webinar facilitated by AFL – Australian Football League Media’s chief correspondent Damian Barrett.

The Seven Network’s Mark Stevens joined Alister Nicholson from Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) and AFL Media photographer Michael Wilson, with all guests offering some strong opinion and solid insight.

Here’s 10 take-outs:

    1. AFL players and executives have been a lot more willing to speak with media during COVID-19, with an easing of player access restrictions likely to be key part of the AFL/AFL Players’​ Association Collective Bargaining Agreement renewal.
    2. Trust in players / editorial media relationships has never been so important with direct engagement (rather then through a media manager) now commonplace.
    3. The traps of live mics during Facebook Live broadcasts are something to watch as technology and social channels form part of the modern-day coverage mix.
    4. All-in, in-person press conferences have lost their shine and might be a thing of the past.
    5. Removing the commentary ‘pause’ is just one adjustment to be made when covering footy without a crowd.
    6. Could adding fabricated and pre-recorded crowd noises impact the integrity of coverage – is it the same as super-imposing a fake crowd into a photograph?
    7. COVID-19 has tamed media’s attack on talent with a decline of the good old tenacity in questioning.
    8. If COVID-19 coverage changes are effective, and they cost less, they’ll remain post-pandemic, and that includes remote commentary of fixtures.
    9. Digital platforms, such as Amazon and Google, are unlikely to offer the same upfront finance for rights as traditional broadcasters like Seven.
    10. In the end, the relationship between clubs and media is about control of information and the ‘game’ is being played hard by both parties.

The session can be played back here: