Football moving forward in Aruba

The FIFA Performance Programme conducted both an Organisational Review and Leadership Retreat with the Aruba Football Association (Arubaanse Voetbal Bond– AVB) from 3-8 September.

A Caribbean island paradise off the coast of Venezuela, Aruba has a total population of about 120,000 inhabitants with about 3-4,000 registered football players and coaches. AVB was founded in 1932 and has been a member of FIFA since 1988 and while the country is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, it has full autonomy in internal affairs and is thus a full Member Association of FIFA.

What was uncovered by the FIFA Team of Staff and Consultants on site, including representatives from the KNVB in Netherlands which still actively assist in the ongoing development of football in the Dutch-speaking Islands, was truly remarkable.

Often it is a challenge for many Member Associations in smaller countries to get local National League or even National Team matches telecast on local television. In many countries via the Performance Programme, FIFA is able to facilitate discussions and provide some assistance to launch both a “Match ofthe Week” broadcast during the National League season as well as a “National Football Magazine” show, focusing on football developments in the country, highlights of recent matches and discussion of all key issues confronting the game.

Aruba benefitted greatly from this. In 2011, President Rufo Kelly and his Executive Committee endorsed the formation of an AVB Information Technology Committee,and appointed Ursell Arends as the Chair of this group, charged with the responsibility of exploring all avenues as to how the AVB can move the game forward using technology.

Andwhat was the first challenge this IT Committee took upon itself in 2012? No less than putting together a mobile TV broadcasting unit and live streaming selected matches on the AVB website. After raising approximately 40,000 USD to purchase and acquire 4 TV broadcast cameras, a switching unit as well as a mobile unit, the assembled team of a dozen highly committed volunteers began site preparations at the National Stadium in Oranjestad, installing cabling aswell as all other technical requirements in order to live-stream these matches. (These matches have been archived and can still be viewed on the AVB website.)

Mr. Arends and his colleagues thought they would be performing a good public service, but in no way were they prepared for the avalanche of interest that pursued. Ultimately, over 30 matches from February to July were produced and the public reacted with great interest. People showed greater interest in the League and what was happening in football in Aruba. Due to the local reaction to the initial telecasts, Mr. Arend approached a TV station (Channel 49) who immediately agreed, at no cost, to take the feed and put these matches on Island-wide broadcasts.

And what was the effect of live TV coverage of these matches on match attendance? Arends reported a more than doubling of attendance due to better media coverage of these matches as a result of the TV telecasts. Also a local radio station asked to take the audio feed of the games, so the AVB now is both telecasting,broadcasting and streaming their featured matches, resulting in more interest in football now than in recent memory, capped by the July winning match when Aruba captured, on home ground with their Senior National team, The ABCS Cup, a challenge tournament involving Dutch-speaking countries/territories of Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao and Suriname. The telecast proved immensely popular and reinforced the IT Committee’s plans to move forward in October with their weekly match telecast and football magazine show.

Discussions have now commenced with television networks as to further improving equipment, possibly looking at getting microwave facilities installed to better improve communications and signal quality as well as with businesses in the Aruban corporate sector wishing now to sponsor these telecasts and use them as a means to transmitting their business messages. All of this occurring now at a very fast pace before the launch of the “Top Classe” premier league in October, with all partners involved wanting as well to discuss long term commitments!

This is an excellent example of what one FIFA Member Association is doing on their own and using technology to further the interests of all aspects of football in this small Caribbean country. Hats off to the AVB and the IT Committee for spearheading this initiative and for now creating the opportunity for AVB to use this platform as a means to securing meaningful corporate sector support of football in Aruba in 2012 and beyond.