Growth is like the holy grail. It’s high up on the list of aims for most, and clubs and organisations across Scottish sport are no different there. How does a sport grow from almost a standing start though? In this piece I’ll offer some ideas on how I think futsal in Scotland can grow.
We’re all aware that football is Scotland’s national game. That popularity hasn’t transferred down to futsal, yet. Across the world, the story is different though. There’s an estimated 30 million people playing futsal and the sport is synonymous with honing the skills of generations of Brazilian talent in particular, from Pele to Neymar.
Close control and being comfortable playing in tight spaces aren’t two qualities you tend to associate with the majority of Scottish footballers. The ball with reduced bounce and tight court with no walls enclosing it, where it differs from 5 asides, means futsal is widely regarded as ideal for developing a level of ability that is rare across Scotland.
Admittedly, up until a month ago I wasn’t too familiar with the futsal landscape in Scotland. Browsing through Twitter, as you do, I stumbled across Wattcell Futsal Club. Spotting that they’d developed partnerships with 6YardBox and Nutmeg Magazine further caught my attention as a club to keep an eye on. With no other plans for a few hours one Sunday, I drove along to Oriam to take in their friendly with Bolton ahead of competing in the UEFA Futsal Champions League as Scottish national champions.
🔷🔶 Kit coming together nicely for next season and UEFA Futsal Champions League ⚽️
— Wattcell Futsal Club 🏆 (@wattcellfutsal) July 28, 2018
Starting from scratch is difficult. A good place to start though would be at the base, the grassroots. It might take some time and effort initially, but why not visit youth football clubs and create links with them? Scottish futsal players aren’t megastars who don’t have time to engage with fans, they could go along to a youth football clubs training session and showcase what futsal is all about to them.
Futsal is under the remit of the Scottish FA’s performance director and while the sport can help aid the ability of future Scottish footballers, it’s also important to develop futsal specific players too. The long-term aim is encouraging more futsal to be played in the hope it helps Scottish football in general, but in the short-term, increasing participation can help the growth of futsal clubs across the country. Increasing the number of participants could potentially boost the number of potential spectators. Once that under 9s team has a taste for playing, they might fancy going along to Oriam on a Sunday evening to watch it be played live. A long-lasting connection created.
Our attention spans are getting shorter. We all want everything instantly and feel inconvenienced when it isn’t available at the tap of our finger. I reckon the fast-paced nature of futsal, in addition to the 20 minute halves and 15 minute half time, can see the sport serve as football’s version of 20/20 cricket or rugby 7s. Not requiring as much of a time investment on our part. We’ve all seen how successfully the Scottish Rocks, Braehead Clan or Fife Flyers have attracted fans in recent times too. The increased entertainment factor and goalmouth action similarly to those sports is another way futsal can be packaged and promoted.
One big plus point for Wattcell, and our other Scottish futsal clubs, is another same plus point that benefits basketball and ice hockey in Scotland. The matches are played indoors. It would enable the clubs to go deep on activating and retaining fans by improving the overall experience for them. Use that increased level of accessibility to get kids involved in doing the warm up with the players or futsal skill challenges during half time.
This is where sponsors could get on board too. When I reviewed the Braehead Clan experience previously, I remarked at how much around the whole experience was sponsored. Again, there’s possibilities available to futsal here. Each team has a one minute timeout they can use per half, sponsor it. There’s likely to be more goals than your average football match, sponsor them. More interest leads to more people attending which leads to futsal becoming a more attractive proposition for more businesses to get involved with which brings more money into futsal enabling clubs to do more. Starting that cycle is the difficult part.
Attempting to retain fans might just be a bigger challenge than acquiring them in the first place. Based on my experience of the match itself, I’m definitely keen to go back and I think others will feel exactly the same if they give it a chance. If you’d like to give futsal a shot, then head along to the Scottish Futsal League’s Open Day. All the details are in the Tweet below.
Futsal Open Day on Sunday 16th September 10.30 – 15.30 @thepeakstirling
— SFL Super League (@sfl_superleague) August 17, 2018
Good luck to Wattcell in their Champions League campaign. They’re more than quick to point out that they’re one of only two Scottish clubs left in the Champions League this season with Glasgow City!
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