By Isaac Lockett
After finding the live stream of Hawkes Bay United’s home game against Team Wellington, Isaac Lockett provides his perceptions of the ISPS Handa Premiership after watching his first game from the competition and why he thinks the league could become an attractive proposition for other viewers.
The first thing of note is that it is entirely free to watch due to the sport being live-streamed on Youtube. In a world where sports viewers are subjected to multiple expensive subscription services to tune into ‘the people’s game’, watching a football match without the expense or hassle of subscription services is a refreshing experience. Without going into how the free to view nature of the league may affect the competition’s finances, which I admit I do not know, the live streaming allows more people to tune into the action, brought to screens across the world via a high-quality production from Sky Sport.
The quality of the broadcast and overall production was very impressive. However, it must be said that compared to the broadcasting of some of the world’s biggest leagues like the Premier League the broadcast did lack some features. For example, there were very few on-screen graphics, limited replays and a lack of alternate viewpoints. Although, this is no criticism of the broadcast, as the lack of the extra features allowed the match to flow naturally providing me with an opportunity to experience the game in real-time bringing me closer to the action. Another invigorating element to the broadcast was the honesty of the commentators. Quite often, when I have tuned in to a game, I have become tired of the same criticisms being levelled at players and commentators viewing their knowledge of football as final. However, throughout the round eight fixture between the two teams, there were moments where one of the commentators asked another for their perspective on the action. Some could misinterpret this refreshing honesty as ill-informed commentating, but instead, it reminded me that football is a sport without any right or wrong answers. Instead of turning the sport into an exact science, the commentary allowed the encounter to be viewed as an activity where people can express themselves without the continuous search for perfection.
The lack of perfection, however, does not mean that the on-field action was lacking; instead, it was quite the opposite. With this being my first experience of the ISPS Handa Premiership, I had no idea about the two teams’ quality or the competition’s overall standard. Previously, my only insight into New Zealand’s men’s football was gained through the national team’s performance during the 2010 World Cup or watching Wellington Phoenix compete in the A-League; whilst the ISPS Handa was different in a lot of ways, it was no less entertaining. The match finished 2-2 with Hawkes Bay United completing a second-half comeback after being 2-0 down at half-time. With both teams playing with commitment and passion, there were elements of skills, physicality and desire on display by both teams throughout the game. Compared to other football I have watched, the players may not have been as polished; however, there was evident talent on display. I found myself consistently impressed with Gavin Hoye’s performance before he was substituted during the second half. When I googled the league following the game’s conclusion, it came to my surprise that Team Wellington was towards the top end of the league while Hawkes Bay United was in the bottom half. A league with consistent competitive action will always attract fans due to the promise of exciting football no matter who is playing. If this game is the usual ISPS Handa Premiership standard, I am sure there will be plenty of people who enjoy it and gain an attachment to a team.
The final aspect of the game that enticed me and made me want more Premiership action is the surroundings that the match took place in. As a cricket fan, there are many things that I associate with New Zealand, including scenic sports grounds. In my opinion, what the stadiums of New Zealand do well is they allow the sport to be played in their natural habitat instead of often intrusive stadiums. The Bluewater Stadium allowed for the idea in my head that all sporting facilities in New Zealand are athletically pleasing to be maintained. Despite the basic stand, the stadium allows football to be watched surrounded by countryside, yet another reminder of what is being lost in other countries worldwide.
Whilst I am not trying to argue that the ISPS Handa Premiership is the best league on the planet, I am saying that fans who tune into the matches are presented with a highly enjoyable final product. Whether you tune in to the action for background watching or become attached to a team, the league offers fans around the world the opportunity to watch a decent standard of football and become reminded of what football is like without the impact of high levels of commercialism. The league is best watched with the modern-preconceived norms of football left behind, instead enjoying the matches for what they are and the context they exist within.
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