The EFL's dedicated live streaming service iFollow has become a lot more popular during the pandemic. What was once a lifeline for international fans is now essential for any supporter of a lower league club looking to keep up with their team on the pitch with stadiums closed this season. But how can you use the iFollow service and how good is it?
By Craig Humpage
Football Writer, Sporticos
Wednesday 24 March 2021
I'm from a town called Walsall in the Black Country. My local team plays in League Two, the fourth tier of English football. Needless to say they are not regularly appearing on Sky Sports or BT Sport, and with Bescot Stadium closed, I am left completely unable to see my local club. I'm not one of their most hardened fans, especially since our demise in recent years, but I decided to give iFollow a try to give the boys some support and check in on how they're doing. This is what I found.
Beginner's Guide to using iFollow
The EFL iFollow service is fairly straight forward and available via your club's website. It offers a broadcast of almost all EFL matches every gameweek, excluding those shown on Sky Sports or those clubs which have opted out.
Step 1: First things first. Not all EFL clubs support the iFollow platform, although the vast majority do. You can visit the iFollow website to check if your team is part of the system but they probably are.
Click here to see the list of EFL clubs which have opted out.
Step 2: If they are on iFollow, you need to go to your club's website, and go to the iFollow tab (all clubs involved have one at the top of their page). In my case, I went to the Walsall FC website homepage and clicked on the iFollow tab.
Step 3: You will then see their iFollow page with some basic info about the service. This page is identical (apart from colour schemes) on all the club's website, so yours will look just like the one below but in your team's' colours. Click on "see packages" to find out more.
Step 4: Next you will be redirected to the packages page and you should choose what iFollow subscription you want. You can get some kind of season pass, an audio pass, the basic free one (which gives you some highlights and interviews and stuff). I wanted to live stream the match only so I clicked on "check availability" under the "video match pass"
Step 5: After you click that you will be sent down the page to where your club's next game is available. There you can see our game away at Southend United, so I clicked on "Subsribe Now" to get started.
Step 6: You will then be redirected to a page to login to your iFollow account, or to register. If you already have an account you can login in and make a payment (your details are probably saved from before) or if you're a first timer like me you should register with all your details and your bank card, etc.
Step 7: Now you have registered/signed in and purchased the game. I did this about five hours before kick off so I went away for a while and came back an hour before the match started. When you're ready to tune in, you should visit the iFollow match page on your club's website and get ready to watch the game. To do this, you go to the iFollow tab at the top of the page and click "Next Match"
The page is always there but nothing happens until about an hour before the match when live streaming begins. Before then, it will look like it does below.
If you start the stream an hour before kick off like I did you get a feed of the stadium with not a lot going on, and then just before kick off some commentators join the feed are start walking you through the line-ups (more on that later)
Step 8: That's it, you're all set to sit down and enjoy the match.
Is the iFollow streaming service any good? (User Review)
The short answer is yes and no. Before reviewing it, I should explain exactly how I did mine. The screenshots above were taken on my laptop for the sake of quality, but in actual fact I did everything on my Amazon Fire Stick. It is the exact same process but you do it on the Silk internet browser using the remote, so it's a lot more more fiddly but I wanted to have the game on my TV so that's the route I went. You can do the same thing on your laptop and plug that into your TV with a HDMI lead, watch on your laptop screen or you can even download their mobile app from the Apple App Store or Google Play Store and follow a very similar process there on your phone or mobile tablet. Smart TVs and Amazon boxes/sticks are not compatible with the app, so sadly if you want to do it that way you'll need to use whatever browser is built in, like I did.
Now that is out of the way. Let's get into the stuff that iFollow can actually control as the clunkiness of Silk browser can hardly be laid at their feet. So, the whole thing has a very DIY feel. If you're spoiled by glossy HD picture quality and expert analysis from places like BT Sport, this may be a little jarring. In the build up to the match, the camera just watched the players warming up on the pitch which was quite nice - felt a bit like being one of the first fans at the game just having a pie and a bovril waiting for the teams to come out. The microphones are live and they pick up the indiscriminate shouting of players and coaches. I also heard the cameramen discussing where they were going to line up shots and whether or not to use tripods. For me it was funny and charming, but definitely a change of pace from Monday Night Football. The only other thing going on during this time is adverts.
A couple of minutes before kick off I was delighted to hear the commentators join the feed. They had thick Walsall accents which made me feel all warm and gooey inside. It was so cool to hear local lads commentating on the game on "TV", you'd never dream of hearing that on Sky Sports. They also complained about having a large pillar blocking 5% of their view of the pitch which again made it feel authentic and down to earth. Fans of lower league football or grassroots football will find this type of thing - while seemingly not done by choice - very endearing.
Another cool thing I discovered during one of the adverts was that you can watch EFL extended highlights on Quest. The show is called "EFL on Quest" and it airs every Wednesday at 10.30PM and Saturday at 9PM. I'm ashamed to say I didn't know about this beforehand. You can also watch it by live streaming with Discovery Plus. Fans of EFL clubs should definitely make a mental note of this.
Click here for more about EFL on Quest.
Now let's get down to the really important factors. The iFollow stream itself was reliable. It went the entire game with zero pauses or blackouts. If you have even a half decent internet connection you can be safe in the knowledge that you will see the full 90 minutes without interruption. The quality on the other hand was a little lacking. I of course didn't expect anything special but it is a little blurry and on a big HD TV that does stand out. It could be that on a smaller screen, on a mobile device like a smartphone or tablet, the quality is better. Nonetheless, it works and if you're a fan of a League Two side fighting a relegation battle all you really want is to see the game. Perhaps £10 a pop might be a little much but I understand the clubs are all struggling right now and a big part of this service is about supporting your local club, something the service reminds you of with regular banners and adverts thanking you for helping out.
On the whole, I would say iFollow is a buy. It's not spectacular, it's a little rough around the edges but it does what it says on the tin and for a tenner you can watch a lower league side on your TV while supporting the club you love. I would recommend it especially while stadiums are closed.
Southend United 0 - 0 Walsall (Match Review)
A quick word on the game itself for anyone who is still reading (sorry for the rambling). It was a drab 0-0 draw which was the exact prediction I made to my long suffering girlfriend about 5 minutes in. The quality was what you'd expect from two sides struggling to stay in the fourth tier - a lot of head tennis, a lot of hoofing it from one side of the pitch to the other, and very few brave enough to get the ball down on the deck and play. Southend lost Sam Hart to a red card with 23 minutes remaining which injected some life into the contest but not in the way you would expect. Walsall have been on a terrible run of form in the second half of the season, are dropping like a stone and even with a numerical advantage they seemed to capitulate towards the end of the game. Southend actually came into life upon going down to 10 men and had some great chances to win. Our boys did have a late chance which was frustratingly spurned by Osadebe, much to the agony of the local commentators. All in all, it was a pretty dull affair involving two sides desperately lacking quality and confidence but Southend seemed to be the one in better nick overall.
Final Thoughts on the iFollow Streaming Service
I had a blast watching my local boyhood team for the first time in ages on my TV thanks to live streaming. I think for fans of League One and League Two clubs in particular this could be a great thing. Apart from perhaps the odd FA Cup draw against a big side, we are almost never going to see our teams on the telly and so I got a real kick out of the experience. If you're living abroad it's also a fantastic option, but right now with Covid-19 even if you live down the road from your local ground, you can't go in and so this is the next best thing. It has its flaws but they mostly charmed me to be honest. I'm sure you'll find a subscription which works for your budget. Give it a go and see what you think. If my method isn't your cup of tea, get the app on your tablet or smartphone from the Apple or Google Play Store and start live streaming your club's next game.
Everything you need to know about live streaming football
Don't forget to check out our live streaming page, where you can find a wealth of information about watching your favourite teams from around the world including TV broadcast info, links to trusted legal sources of live streaming and much more.
Click here to check it out.