Monday, August 21, 2006

 

Who's Afraid?

“Smell the fear” is a phrase in common currency in Australian football circles at the moment. It is generally used with reference to fans of the other football codes, and the journalists who cover and favour them.

Ray Chesterton, the veteran rugby league hack at Sydney’s Daily Telegraph, is one such scribbler, and recently he penned a typically sneering piece deriding the crowd numbers at the Australia v. Kuwait game last Wednesday. When one considers that 32,000 turned up to a game between an ersatz Socceroos side and less than formidable opposition, you could say that his point was, well, laughable. As a post-World Cup counter-punch, it was a risibly feeble one, and a quick laugh is about all it deserved.

Imagine my surprise, then, at seeing the venerable Les Murray, at the beginning of yesterday’s increasingly threadbare The World Game program, launch an embittered attack on Chesterton, delivered in Murray’s usual portentous tones. Full of painful prose and awkward metaphors, Murray’s onslaught merely served to imply that Chesterton’s drivel was worthy of such an impassioned reply.

In truth, all it served to do was to make Murray look overblown and foolish.

Both Chesterton and Murray are, of course, preaching to the long-ago converted, and neither Chesterton’s silly sniping nor Murray’s literate invective will have changed any minds. But when SBS is regularly hinting to us that the other football codes are fearful of football’s continued advance in Australia, an editorial which gave every indication of righteous panic was surely poor PR, at best.

The sad truth is that, in football terms, SBS is in real danger of becoming irrelevant, and, quite understandably, Murray must be pained by this. His network has, in recent times, been the only media outlet prepared to give football a fair go in coverage terms – the disgraceful shafting of the game by Seven should never, ever be forgotten – yet the market has deprived SBS of almost all its crown jewels, and the World Game program now comes across as an ill-digested hodge-podge of futile polls, inane chatter and occasionally insightful but often half-baked analysis.

In a future post, I intend to offer some suggestions as to how SBS might be able to remain a useful and popular purveyor of football coverage and analysis, but in the meantime, they could surely show a little more dignity in the face of attacks from the likes of Ray Chesterton.

At the moment, sad to say, Les Murray gives the impression of being more afraid than the assorted rugby hecklers.

Comments:
I feel no sorrow for SBS as many others do. A station whose abuse of not only the English game but the English people (particularly upon losing the rights to the EPL) is not what this country needs.

No newcomer to the game could sit down and watch Craig Foster - I for one was glad to see Simon Hill on FOX the other night as I returned home from the PSC game to take in my first night of Foxtel. Those are the people this game needs and SBS and their agendas simply spoil them.

Death to Craig Foster.
 
I know as a Pom you'd feel particularly slighted by their recent editorial slant Jaz, but they do deserve sympathy IMO. Now that football is suddenly getting some exposure, they're being completely priced out of the market, which is ironic because (a) they have been the only ones to provide any FTA football coverage worthy of the name over the last ten years, and (b) they were one of the significant sources of pressure for reform in the pre-Crawford days (you might not have been here when the "Insight" program which set out in grim detail all of the corruption of the Labbo era was shown on SBS. Many of us knew the story already, but it did open a lot of eyes IMO).

I'm sure Les feels damn frustrated at the turn of events, and he has some reason to, but he needs to keep a modicum of dignity. That rant yesterday was just an embarrassment, pure and simple.
 
I knew exactly what Les was about to say almost before he opened his mouth. You could tell by the look in his eye ;-).

I was a little surprised at first that he would bring it up, but then I realised that a lot of viewers (probably most) would have wanted Les to say at least something to put Chesterton down. But he did go on for far too long. Fozzie's comments were correct though.

Shorter Les Murray: Get help, Ray.
Shorter Fozzie: No-one cares what Ray thinks, and Australian soccer knows it, Ray's readers know it, and even Ray knows it.


About SBS's coverage: They still have the World Cup, which are the real Crown Jewels. Their coverage was okay, but definitely could have done with improvement. I'm glad they're showing the u-20s Matildas games, I actually preferred watching that to the EPL games on at the same time. But the ratings must be a killer for them.

I think SBS has increased A-League discussion, as they spent quite a bit of time on it last Sunday, and have done a few segments on TWS. So it will be very interesting to see how much they talk about the A-League as the season goes on. There's definitely a niche for SBS's analysis, so long as they don't keep losing too much talent to rival stations. I think there's a highbrow target market they could go after. If they put in the effort.
 
Damn, I wish I'd seen the show on Sunday. I agree with magnum that something has to be said, although not having seen it, I can't comment on what was said.

I think people like Craig Foster have a right to give their opinions, but that maybe SBS should have some kind of counterpoint...

Are any of you going to any A-League games this weekend? Me and some friends are going to the Sydney-Central Coast game.

Go Sydney!
 
If it wasn't for SBS football would be still in the doledrums in this country.

Before SBS came on the scene you'd be lucky to see any local football. Yes, some commercial stations did try to show it but it was dropped like a hot potato once more 'profitable' sports were acquired.

They showed the NSL, they were the one who got us the world cup live for the first time.

I could go on to say that they were a big part in the reforms of our sport that created all the positive outcomes we see today. According to the late great Johnny Warren the broadcast of the Japan/Korea World Cup, which was shown in a convenient time for us, make some influential people how big the event was and asked why we were not there. It was from that that the Government started the Crawford inquiry that changed the landscape of Autralian Football.

And as Mike said, once it got popular then other more cashed up stations went for it. SBS cannot be blamed if it could not match the FOX empire to get the EPL. They even tried to at least get a package but FOX said no.

The only thing that I say is that SBS is very 'NSW-centric' when it reports on the A-League.
 
Thanks for the comments, all.

Guido:

...I could go on to say that they were a big part in the reforms of our sport that created all the positive outcomes we see today....

That part I agree with, up to a point, but...

...According to the late great Johnny Warren the broadcast of the Japan/Korea World Cup, which was shown in a convenient time for us, make some influential people how big the event was and asked why we were not there. It was from that that the Government started the Crawford inquiry that changed the landscape of Autralian Football....

That's nonsense, IMHO. Wishful thinking. The national body was broke, the NSL was an embarrassment, and most importantly of all the HEAD of the national body was actually prepared to countenance an independent review (Labbozzetta never, ever would have been). The fact that the Japorea WC was on during national prime time was a pretty minor factor in all this, IMO.

The late Johnny, bless his cotton socks, was occasionally quite keen to take credit on SBS's behalf where it was not entirely deserved.

Mags:

The World Cup may be the crown jewels for a brief period every four years, but their bread-and-butter jewels (if you'll forgive the metaphor!) have been steadily whittled away over the last few years. I'm just not sure if they've looked hard enough (or in the right places) for replacement jewels.

Simon:

Yep, I'll be there on Sunday. Forza SFC! ;-)
 
Fox may have come up with a pile of cash for the A-League (I'd love to know more about the contractual stuff), but in my view not having the games on free-to-air is a severe impediment to further progress of the game among Australian audiences.

Right now the A-League needs audiences more than cash. Sponsorships and cash will follow the audiences. Mind you, I don't know the actual numbers involved, but the principle seems clear to me.

If a free-to-air A-League season had have followed the last World Cup, the stadiums would have twice as many people in them, and the TV audience would be far bigger. The arrangement at the moment is benefiting Fox, not football.
 
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