Internet move may boost Swedish crowds

STOCKHOLM - As a goalkeeper he was part of the Sweden squad which excelled to finish third at the 1994 World Cup and now Lars Eriksson hopes the Swedish domestic game can also flourish thanks to web television.

"Tomorrow's fans don't read about the next league match in the morning papers, they are looking at websites, on their phone, on Facebook," Eriksson (pictured) told Reuters at the headquarters of TV production company Onside on Friday.

Onside is owned by the Swedish Football Association and is tasked with maximising exposure for the domestic game, with Eriksson leading a project to install TV studios at all 16 Swedish top-flight clubs so that daily news items are generated.

Eriksson believes the investment of 15 million Swedish crowns ($2.37 million) in web TV will bring new fans and new revenue streams, as well as keeping existing supporters happy.

"You can't create interest by putting an ad in the paper or putting posters up around town - that time is long gone," said Eriksson, who hopes the increased exposure will help arrest the slide in attendances in recent years.

"That is an income in itself, because if they are not there (on the internet), the supporters don't come to matches because they don't know it's happening."

Eriksson was understudy to Thomas Ravelli in the Sweden squad that beat Bulgaria 4-0 to claim third place at USA 94, and still coaches the national team's current crop of goalkeepers in his spare time.

He retired in 2001 having won the Swedish league with Hammarby and is now using relationships built up over a career in Sweden, Belgium and Portugal to develop the domestic game.

"It (my career) does make it easier to open doors, but you still have to deliver the goods. It helps that I understand the different needs of different people in football," he said.

In return for building the studios and training club staff in how to use them, clubs produce content which Onside then packages and sells on to other media outlets.

"There is one condition, and that is that they provide us with one hour of material every day, which we then can put into other programme formats."

But one downside for the clubs is that if they lose their top-flight status, they also lose their studio.

"If you're in the Allsvenskan (Swedish first division), you get a studio - if you get relegated, you lose it. That's how it is," said Eriksson.