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SidelineApp: The app rugby-loving New Zealand needs to get its grassroots sports fix

Ah, rugby. It’s religion here in Aotearoa, or at least that’s what we’re told.

Spiritual aspects aside, the fact remains that scores of Kiwis are hooked. Addicted. Enthralled. Fanatical. In love. And a whole lot of other superlatives suggesting great interest in something. You get the idea.

But the thing is, unless the mighty All Blacks are playing, if the Warriors are doing battle, or there’s a Super Rugby match on, it can be hard to catch any of the action unless you’re there in the stands – which can be especially tough for young people who play rugby in, say, Invercargill and have family up in Whangarei, or across the ditch in Oz.

But cheering from the sideline has just become easier with the release of a groundbreaking new app allowing parents, friends and family to watch new Zealand-based grassroots sports games live, anywhere in the world. The Aotearoa-designed app, called SidelineApp, has also piqued the interest of the country’s leading digital services company, Spark. With Spark’s support, SidelineApp launched a pilot this past Saturday (June 16) as part of the New Zealand Secondary Schools Super 8 Competition.

App creator Luke Thompson says SidelineApp is all about boosting support for grassroots sports in New Zealand by empowering schools to take ownership of their content to ensure fans never miss a game. “In the same way Uber mobilises people to become taxi drivers, SidelineApp wants to turn everyday sports fans into live sports broadcasters. 

“The app offers a controlled and safe environment for schools to foster team spirit off the field by providing online notice boards, social feeds and other ‘always on’ channels through which players and coaches can communicate.”

The launch is expected to mark a new era of grassroots sportscasting with the single platform offering a live streaming service, live-scoring technology and a coaching and media channel.

For a small fee, supporters wanting to view secondary sports games online can pay for a “ticket,” which gives them access to a live stream of their chosen match, as well as on-demand access for the next seven days. To boot, 20 percent of every ticket purchased is donated back to the schools to reinvest in sport.

Brendon Ratcliffe, Napier Boys High School rugby director, and founder of the world’s largest online rugby coaching platform, therugbysite.com, says it’s an exciting opportunity for New Zealand schools and grassroots sport. “SidelineApp ensures the school retains control and ownership of content with the ability to live stream any sport to current students, families, and supporters whilst adding funds to the school’s coffers to further fuel sport. The potential is limitless and will only grow in this digital age.”

SidelineApp has formed technical partnerships with a number of global industry leaders to provide world-class streaming and security, including a partnership with leading cloud video production company, 90 seconds, as well as the aforementioned support from Spark.

Spark head of new things Philip Ivanier said the telco was attracted to two aspects of SidelineApp’s proposition. “Every All Black or Black Fern has to start somewhere, and like all Kiwis, grassroots sport is close to our hearts. We love the way SidelineApp opens up the potential for a much bigger audience watching school and junior sports games anytime and anywhere. 

“But it’s also bigger than that, because SidelineApp has created a content platform that can be used for a range of other grassroots community-based events. As an entertainment proposition it is truly impressive.” 

The technology driving the app has been tried and tested in soft launches at both CrossFit competitions and kickboxing pay-per-view events, including King in the Ring and Battle of the Fittest.

The SidelineApp pilot is available to all schools in the New Zealand Secondary Schools Super 8 Competition, and there are an additional eight places for any Auckland secondary school that competes in a national or regional tournament.

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