Straight from the stands
Happy New Year. Okay, let’s settle for Better Than Last Year New Year. Yeah, yeah - okay, maybe still too optimistic. How about Let’s Just Try to Make It Through The Year New Year. Or... Can We At Least Survive Until Australia Day New Year?
With a cloud of doom and gloom hanging over the world, at least we have football. Football never lets you down. Yeah, I can’t believe I typed that either... For football in Australia though, there are signs it could be a great new year ahead. A new TV deal looks halfway complete with at least $57m a year in the bank from Fox Sports until 2023. There is also the expectation of another $10-15m a year from a new multi-channel package that could see the A-League at last go mainstream on one of the free-to-air channels like Seven or Nine (albeit most likely to be usually on their secondary channels though). But the prospect of a Saturday night Sydney or Melbourne derby on FTA, potentially on the main channel, is probably worth much, much more to football and the FFA than money. The exposure mainstream FTA could give to the sport for games like that could be pivotal to changing football fortunes and public perception of the sport in Australia. It’s vital to get that deal right. The spectre of the old NSL deal with Seven still hangs over football. At the turn of the century, Seven’s TV bosses bought the rights to the NSL – then deliberately kept football off the air to curry favour with the AFL. While a complete repeat would never be possible in the era of Fox Sports (you’d hope!), we can never again allow mainstream TV to have that kind of power over the sport. A commitment to growing the sport, and to promoting the A-League and its
community, must be written in metaphorical blood into any contract with mainstream TV. Central to the agreement must be an absolute clearcut vow to broadcast games live, in HD and promote them in advance at peak times on the main channel to generate interest and an audience, both for TV and in the stadium. Respect for fans and football fan culture will be absolutely essential. It can’t just be an excuse for getting access to endless hours of fan footage to be used later on A Current Affair etc... The opportunities are huge, the extra cash is a nice bonus – and that’s even before expansion kicks in with two new teams hopefully following next year. The world might be f*kt, but football’s looking good at least. Cheers!