Belfast Telegraph

Lights, camera, action as Epic Sports Solutions show live youth football

BY KEITH BAILIE

Normally young footballers don't get the opportunity to play in front of the cameras until they make their first team debuts, but a local broadcasting company is offering kids the opportunity to show the world what they're made of at a much younger age.

Epic Sports Solutions have teamed up with the Northern Ireland Boys' Football Association, to broadcast both live and recorded action from local youth leagues.

Last month, Epic TV broadcast a highlights package of the NIBFA Mini Soccer Festive from Mallusk Playing Fields, while last Saturday morning, the company, ran by directors Stephen Lowry and Tony Wise, showed three live games including an Under-14 clash between Linfield and Glentoran.

Youth coach and football fanatic Stephen Lowry took the time to explain how Epic TV got started.

“We set up Epic Sports with intention of doing video analysis for clubs. We can film a match and then bring a club into our studio on the Castlereagh Road and use our technology to help the club learn more about their team," he said.

“Then we thought, if we're filming these games why don't we sell the matches as DVDs or put the highlights online. Then Tony suggested streaming games live on the internet and it all snowballed from there.”

Tony Wise, a Bangor-based businessman, was keen to stress that fans of the NIBFA can expect a professional production.

“The plan is to produce a weekly highlights shows that our subscribers can access from our website," he said.

“We filmed a pilot at Mallusk Playing Fields two weeks ago, which covered the NIBFA Mini Soccer Festival and featured the likes of Pat Jennings and Ian Stewart.

“It was a huge success. We had over 7,000 viewers in our first night.

“I must stress, this isn't somebody filming the game pitchside with a handycam. This will be filmed using the same equipment I've used in the past to film Northern Ireland games.

“The show will be professionally produced, featuring presenters and commentators like Barry Greene and Scott Goldblatt. It's a quality production that wouldn't look out of place on television.”

Stephen Lowry believes that his company's output will help coaches develop their young players.

“Of course it's fantastic for parents and relatives to see their kids on our website, but it will also be beneficial to both players and coaches, as they will be able to see what they're doing right and what they might need to improve," he stressed.

“It's brilliant way to help kids develop their game. Hopefully we will see the players progress over the course of the season.”

So far Epic have broadcast three live matches, which Tony Wise hopes will be the first of many.

“Last Saturday we showed three live games from the NIBFA League. We started with Linfield v Glentoran U-14s, then we showed St Oliver Plunkett v Ballymena United U-14s and we finished with Cliftonville and Maiden City.

“The first Match of the Day style show and Saturday's three live games were broadcast online for free, but from this week we will be moving to a subscription model, which will cost £25 for the year.

“For that you will see our weekly highlights package, plus a range of live games. We'd like to do a live game every week but that will depend on how successful the project is.”

Wise hopes that this link-up with the NIBFA will allow his company to expand into other markets.

“At the moment we're covering youth football, but that's not the end game. If this is a success then we could cover Irish League football, or any other type of sport like GAA, rugby or hockey.

“The tie-in with with the NIBFA is massive for us and we're very grateful for their support, but we want this venture to open doors for us.”

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