The latest instalment of Industry Insider sees us venture to Australia to speak to Will Latchford, Broadcast Partnerships Manager at the A-Leagues…
Tell us about yourself, what is your current role and what roles have you done previously?
Hi there, I’m Will Latchford and I’m currently the Broadcast Partnerships Manager at the A-Leagues, the home of professional football in Australia and New Zealand across elite Men’s and Women’s competitions.
I have also previously worked in a similar Broadcast role at the National Rugby League (NRL), managing the partnerships of the television, streaming, radio and digital rights holders.
Prior to this I have worked in the Commercial Partnerships space within national media outlets, closely working with both agencies and direct brands on their advertising campaigns.
What do you do in your current role?
In my current role, based in Sydney, I’m part of a small, yet dynamic Broadcast team responsible for managing the day-to-day relationships and operations with our production partner (Global Advance), our television broadcast partners (Network 10, Paramount ANZ, Sky Sport New Zealand) and IMG for our international distribution of the A-League Men’s and Women’s coverage.
What does this even mean, you ask?
I serve as a primary contact between the A-Leagues and our broadcast partners, conducting weekly review sessions to address any operational, technical, or production issues. I also collaborate with our internal departments to ensure the most up-to-date information relating to our broadcast is being utilised. In addition, as a team we’re regularly working with our clubs to engage fans through initiatives like competitions and by improving behind-the-scenes access within the television coverage.
Our goal is to seamlessly work with all stakeholders to ensure an exceptional broadcast experience that puts our fans at the centre.
“Normal” isn’t a thing in sport so what does an “ average” week look like for you?
We’re coming towards the end of our off-season, with the A-Leagues seasons (Men’s and Women’s) traditionally running between October and June.
In our “off season” (if we can really call it that), we focus on planning, reviewing and implementing changes for the season ahead. This could be anything from reviewing timeslots and fixturing with our Operations, Commercial, Marketing and Strategy teams; to collaborating with Clubs and broadcast partners. Our department is busily working through broadcast operations, production requirements and improving all workflows to deliver the media rights to our partners.
During the season, we are in regular weekly meetings with our broadcast and production stakeholders to review recently completed matches and therefore implementing any possible changes or solutions ahead of preparing for the upcoming rounds. We are often looking two, three, four weeks in advance to get ahead of any possible issues. This could be anything from conducting venue site visits, testing broadcast feed connectivity, planning alternative camera positions or discussing upcoming hosting and commentary plans.
We also provide our broadcast partners with detailed information, feature content, and graphics to further enhance the coverage and inform the audience about A-Leagues decisions, initiatives, achievements, and upcoming events.
How did you end up where you are right now?
I have been in a similar ‘broadcast’ specific role at the National Rugby League (NRL), working closely with the broadcast rights holders, managing the relationship and focusing on improving the coverage of the game domestically and internationally across a diverse range of media platforms.
I thoroughly enjoyed this, enforcing all stakeholders to comply with the media rights; increasing the overall awareness of the broadcast coverage, establishing effective communications with partners, implementing new initiatives such as innovation and working with clubs to provide unique access, bringing the fans closer to the action.
I’ve also spent quite some time within media networks after graduating from University, working in Commercial Partnerships roles at some of Australia’s biggest national media outlets.
The experience that I gained working with advertising/media/creative agencies and brands allowed me to further understand the landscape and to really hone my stakeholder management skills, particularly when you’re juggling a plethora of campaigns at the same time (and their contracted deliverables) against tight deadlines. It was here where I gained exposure working directly with producers and talent, learning what is required to execute our clients campaign deliverables on-air effectively (and naturally).
I haven’t come from a traditional television ‘production’ background, however through my previous experience within media networks and working closely with broadcast producers, I’ve developed a strong passion, gaining fantastic exposure and a wealth of knowledge along the way.
When did you know you wanted to work in sport?
Having grown up in Adelaide (South Australia), cricket and Aussie Rules football were my passions. Even after completing my studies, I continued playing both sports at club level and has always been a significant part of my life, competitively driven by having two younger brothers!
Australia has a rich history of successful national teams, and it’s truly remarkable to witness how our sports stars inspire the next generation. The recently held 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup featured incredible (former A-League Women stars) Matildas players like Sam Kerr, Steph Catley, and Cortnee Vine, and we look forward to witnessing their continued tremendous impact on the growth and exposure of football in this country.
Growing up I’ve always dreamt of working in the sports industry. By combining my university studies in Marketing and Communications with my passion for sports, I’ve been able to establish a career out of it. Let’s be honest, it’s pretty amazing to look back on a major event like an A-League Grand Final, or an NRL State of Origin series and reminisce about the collective effort that went into making it a success.
What is your number one focus when it comes to your work?
I find this a tricky one to narrow it down to just one point.
For me, it would be the relentless pursuit of improvement in the broadcast and production space, fostering innovation, leveraging technology, and nurturing strong stakeholder relationships.
A significant part of our work involves continuous analysis and review of the broadcast throughout the season. We constantly ask ourselves, “could that have been executed better, or approached differently next time?” It’s about identifying any areas for improvement and ironing out any kinks that could potentially impact the broadcast output for our fans and valued broadcast partners. By implementing robust processes and maintaining open dialogue with our partners, we have witnessed significant enhancements in the overall broadcast product.
Given the intricacies involved in live sports broadcasting, I prioritise attention to detail in messaging. Ambiguity is not an option when dealing with so many moving parts and people. Clear communication is essential to ensure smooth operations and a seamless viewer experience.
Lastly, staying informed about global trends involving other sporting bodies and broadcast rights holders is important to me, especially in terms of deploying new technology and embracing innovation. This ever-evolving space offers fascinating opportunities for storytelling within the coverage.
Can you tell us about a time you failed and what you learned from it?
Albeit not by choice, however being made redundant from my role at the NRL during the initial phase of the 2020 COVID pandemic was devastating, I felt like I had failed myself. It was an intimidating time, there were mass employment cuts right across Australia (and the world) and so the job market became increasingly competitive (in an already competitive space).
Thankfully, in my time at the NRL by forging strong relationships with key internal and external stakeholders, including my direct manager at the time, who was instrumental in her pursuit of finding me another opportunity to get back into sport. It’s certainly a lesson in life to never burn your bridges, as you never know when you’ll need a lifeline!
What are you excited about in your industry at the moment?
It’s an exciting time to be aligned with football, particularly on the back of the recently held 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup, there has been plenty of hype and attention around the world game here in Australia and New Zealand!
After great Men’s and Women’s seasons in 22/23, the A-Leagues had wins right across the board; from record broadcast and streaming viewership, increased overall crowd attendance and fan engagement numbers up significantly across our social and digital platforms. Ahead of the 23/24 season, we are increasing the Women’s competition by one team, and then welcoming a further two Men’s teams in the near future. It’s certainly a solid period of growth, expansion and excitement!
Our ‘KeepUp’ content team have been instrumental in producing and delivering world-class content and stories to football fans, across a multitude of our platforms. The team has been constructed with the sharpest, most creative, professional and football passionate minds to curate compelling and meaningful content day in and day out.
This also included the rollout of ‘A-Leagues All Access’, a weekly mini documentary series, created to take the fan closer than ever before.
Typically, a production crew followed an individual player per episode, to tell their stories within football, their preparation at training and in the lead up to and during their match. The unique element about this series was that it was released for A-Leagues fans to consume in-full (roughly) 5 days after.
Right around the world, sporting bodies are using these long form content opportunities and behind-the-scenes access to nurture existing fan bases but ultimately growing new audiences.
If you could change one thing about your industry, what would you change?
I know for a fact that it’s not a localised issue, particularly given the ease and increased accessibility of social media these days, however anonymous online abuse is something that needs to be eliminated. I feel that there needs to be stronger regulations and penalties in place to curb these issues moving forward.
Sport is a hectic industry, what do you do to switch off?
Funnily enough to switch off, I generally watch more sport (only when I have the rights to the TV remote of course)…
I also like to unwind by spending time with my partner, family and friends, attending live sport, playing golf, heading down to the beach and keeping fit and healthy.
Our almost 2-year old English Cocker Spaniel (Moose), certainly keeps us busy!
What is the one piece of advice you would give to someone wanting to work in the sports industry?
The sports industry is great, it’s challenging but rewarding, and you’ll make friends for life across governing bodies, clubs, media networks, and through many different associated partnerships, you never know when you may need to call on them for a favour!
My advice if you wanted to join the sports industry would be to keep persevering. Continuously up-skill and expand your knowledge through researching what other sports are doing in your desired field, volunteer at local clubs for extra experience, attend sporting conferences or seminars where you hear from industry experts and are then given an opportunity to network with key decision makers after.
I found LinkedIn to be a great place to start with. Reach out to individuals working in sports organisations, catch up for a coffee, network and stay in touch. What’s the worst thing that can happen?