Groundbreaking it is called by the Rotterdam club. The announced documentary series of Feyenoord at the Disney+ streaming service, where a camera team followed everything around the team of trainer Dick Advocate for a year.
Videoland has just broadcast a three-part series about Ronald Koeman and is also talking to FC Utrecht about broadcasting a docu-series about the club. Last year Amazon released a series about the London football club Tottenham Hotspur.
Are we at the beginning of a time when streaming services will offer one series after another about Dutch football clubs?
The Netflix series Sunderland ‘Til I Die, in which the English club is followed in a dramatic season in which Sunderland is relegating again, may be called the mother of streaming service football documentaries. There are plenty of people around the world who don’t know Sunderland from football, but from Netflix. And those are all potential fans. Tapping into a new market is what Feyenoord wants.
Why would you want a documentary like that as a football club?
“ This fits perfectly with our ambition to increase the appearance and impact of Feyenoord. Feyenoord wants to be an open and transparent club and this is the ultimate proof of that,” says Joris van Dijk, commercial director of Feyenoord.
Sportmarketer Chris Woerts is seen as the architect of the project. In the past he was director of Feyenoord, the Eredivisie CV and Sunderland.
“ As a club, you can really show your DNA in such a series, provided you really show everything,” he says. “Many people have no idea what things are like behind the scenes at a club like Feyenoord. And you get global exposure.”
Disney+ not only holds the Dutch rights for the series, which now still holds the working title Feyenoord Rotterdam, but also the international one. Woerts: “Suppose it is a success in Argentina, Feyenoord can benefit from it by going to training camp there, playing a practice duel and appealing to new fans.”
What is also of great importance: Feyenoord gets a decent sum of money for it. It would be a gross sum of some EUR 3 million, which, incidentally, will be reflected in the main players and producers of the series.
“ It‘s a new source of income,” says Jan de Jong, director of the Eredivisie CV. “In coronatijd, every extra euro is very welcome. We welcome all new initiatives. In this way, you can reach a new audience that is not really that interested in football yet. After all, it is a unique look in the kitchen. Always exciting, even if you don’t like cooking.”
Why, as a streaming service, would you want to make a series about a football club?
“ To win subscribers”, Woerts answers the question. “They are also entering a new target group”, knows De Jong, who comes with an example from abroad. “In Italy, Amazon has bought the Champions League rights to attract more men. Until now, women were mostly subscribers.”
But why would Disney+ want to make a series about Feyenoord in this particular case? Marco the Horseman knows the answer to that. He‘s the Country Manager of The Walt Disney Company Benelux. What turns out? There is no complicated vision before it.
“ The producer approached us with the idea and that fit well on a number of points”, explains De Ruiter. Disney also owns ESPN, which holds the live rights of the Eredivisie in the Netherlands. Formerly known as FOX Sports.
And Disney, which is best known for its cartoons and amusement parks, wants to appeal to a more mature audience. That’s why a new platform has been launched: Star on Disney+, with many more adult shows and movies, as is already the case with Netflix and Videoland.
De Ruiter: “We think in wider entertainment. Our ambition is to create Dutch content. And at Feyenoord something always happens. It is exciting for a large part of our subscribers and for potential subscribers. It serves a large target group.”
But does Disney+ not become a competitor to itself, in the form of ESPN? Also there are documentaries and reports of the Dutch football clubs on display. “No,” says De Rider. “This goes much deeper. Here the story of a year is mapped. It complements each other.”
When is it a success? “If many people have watched with pleasure. It‘s as simple as that… “, says De Ruiter.
Disney now decide what happens at Feyenoord?
“ Even if you go to the bathroom, they’re there.” Attorney told me earlier that he sometimes finds it difficult that there is a constantly rotating camera nearby. “Then you want to swear and that‘s what the camera is in there again. That annoys sometimes, but the docu is excellent for the club and the players go therewell along”, said the trainer.
No one has anything to do with a boring show. So could it be that Disney is pushing for certain things at Feyenoord? No, says The Horseman. “The producer invented it, makes it and has the editorial leadership. As a customer, we look to see if the product meets our quality.”
Yet there is a certain fear among the clubs, trainers and players. Because what happens if it gets too exciting?
Discussions in De Kuip about the presence of the camera crew have already been there. In that case, each party shall have a veto right. Basically everything is filmed, but if Feyenoord, Disney+ or the producer want something out of it, it can be done after good consultation.
Conclusion: is this the beginning of a series of Dutch football documentaries?
That’s very obvious. The clubs can make good money and a streaming service appeals to a new audience. “But it‘s not the case that we at Disney have a roadmap that goes from Feyenoord to the next club”, it sounds from the mouth of De Ruiter.
“ We are open to anyone with a good story. This is a good story. And it happens to be about Feyenoord, but it could have been Ajax. We have no specific ambition with football clubs. But should it hit and the clubs serve themselves to…”
At Netflix, the creator of the aforementioned Sunderland series, a spokesman says that “market developments in this area are being watched with interest”, but there is nothing to announce at the moment.
“ Such a series only works if a club fully cooperates. So it costs some of your privacy,” knows sports marketer Woerts, who doesn’t expect every club in paid football to get its own series soon. “It has to be a club with depth. Folk clubs with large supporters, such as Feyenoord and Utrecht.”
Kees Jansma is involved in both the series of Feyenoord and Utrecht, in a kind of role as editor and interviewer. For example, at Feyenoord he spoke for a long time with trainer Dick Advocate and at Utrecht with owner Frans van Seumeren.
The idea of a documentary behind the scenes lived with Jansma in 2010, when he was still press secretary of the Dutch national team. “We wanted it at the KNVB around the 2010 World Cup, but then the players stopped it. That could have been a nice little glimpse. We almost became world champion.”
By the way, there are plans not only for series about clubs, but also about individual players. Productions have already been made about stars such as Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Cristiano Ronaldo and documentaries about players from the Dutch national team are now being discussed.