Having filmed matches to help analyse Dubai Exiles performance, former player Marc Why last weekend took the first steps into live broadcast and will next shoot and transmit their Premiership away match against Jebel Ali Dragons on Friday
Why's answer on how to expand UAE rugby coverage: live broadcast it on social media
An idea that started with a player wondering how his family back home in South Africa could watch him play live in the UAE might be about to transform the way rugby in the region is consumed.
When Marc Why’s playing days with Dubai Exiles were curtailed by injury two years ago, he offered his skills as an amateur photographer as way to stay involved at the club.
Not long after, Exiles coach Jacques Benade asked him if he could start filming matches instead, as a way of helping analyse the first XV’s performances.
Having honed his skills by making edits for tactical assessment, try montages set to music, as well as the occasional spoof video, last weekend he took his first steps into live broadcast.
“A couple of weeks ago, DuRandt [Gerber, the Exiles captain] said to me, ‘It would be really great if my family back in South Africa could watch the game’,” Why, 39, said. “I thought, why don’t we make it happen?”
Why, who is a project manager for a granite and marble construction firm, says he spent most of last week on Google and YouTube researching what was required to synchronise his camera to Facebook Live.
As a result, Thursday night’s win for the Exiles over Dubai Hurricanes in the West Asia Premiership was viewed by thousands online, rather than just the usual handful of supporters who were able to watch in person.
“Normally, when we put anything on our social media, particularly Facebook, you might get a reach of maximum 3,000 to 4,000, with 300 clicks,” Why said.
“What we found with the game was we had a potential reach of 60,000, and 3,500 views. We had an average of 65 people at any one time watching the game.
“People want to feel like they are there and feel the excitement. This is the only way we can do that at the moment. It is not professional, but we are trying to find a solution for something that is needed and wanted.”
The first effort was not without its troubles, perhaps understandable given Why was reliant on data on his mobile phone rather than wifi to make the transmission.
Filming the full 80 minutes was also a new experience for him, given he is used to cutting recording when the ball is dead, sparing battery life, and meaning he is generally limited to between 39 to 42 minutes of footage to edit for analysis.
“I realised after about 20 minutes that, because I was concentrating on making sure the viewer saw everything without me forgetting to do things, I forgot to press record,” he said.
“The only way anyone can watch that game now is to look at what is stored on Facebook.”
He is hoping to cover as many matches as possible in this way, starting with the away trip to Jebel Ali Dragons in the Premiership on Friday.
“Work permitting for me, I would say 90 per cent of the games are going to be filmed,” he said. “Now we know we have this ability to do this, it should get even easier.
“It isn’t just for us. We have nothing to hide. We are putting it out on the Exiles Facebook page, so it is for all to see.”
Friday’s fixture will pit together two fierce cross-city rivals, who will be meeting for the first time since the Exiles shocked the Dragons in the final of the Dubai Rugby Sevens in December.
That said, Why will be welcomed at the Centre of Excellence, according to Dragons chairman Stuart Quinn who appreciates the impact such an initiative could have for all clubs.
“I think it’s fantastic,” Quinn said. “It is all about time and resource, but hopefully it is something that, further down the line, clubs can agree on [collaboration].
“It is great for sponsors, and it is great for the game in general across the region, because clubs like the Exiles have a huge reach globally.
“They are 50 years old. I was watching some of the comments [on the Exiles v Hurricanes broadcast] and it was great seeing old players, past members all around the world commenting.
“In terms of sponsors, the start of how clubs tried to leverage exposure was through social media. Video is on top of that, and if it is actually live, that is fantastic.”