Thursday, February 07, 2008


Hanging by a Cable

The fact that last night's historic game was only available for viewing on Pay TV seems to have generated some heated discussion in football circles. An article appeared in today's Australian confirming that, under the terms of the renegotiated Fox deal for A-League and Socceroo broadcast rights, national team matches won't be on the anti-siphoning list again until 2013 at the earliest.

Some Socceroo fans are bound to be upset by this. In my view, it's simply a necessary state of affairs...and Stephen Conroy's complaint about the "slap in the face" for football fans is slightly disingenuous.

The Fox deal - which, of course, would not have been remotely as lucrative had the Socceroo games been excluded - has, quite simply, kept the A-League afloat in its first three perilous years of existence. Next year's youth league, the Asian Champions' League jaunts, the women's league, Pim Verbeek's salary...none of these would have been possible but for the Foxtel cash.

And it's worrying, in fact, to speculate on what might have happened had the national team's matches been considered sufficiently important to be placed on the anti-siphoning list.

The history of free-to-air TV's engagement with football has been, with the honourable exception of SBS, a very painful one. Although the Channel 7 nightmare at the turn of the millennium was the worst episode, there have been other sorry tales.

SBS would surely have embraced the A-League and the post-Crawford Socceroos with vigour had they been able to compete with Fox on the open market, but they couldn't...and the FFA could not have survived, given the move into Asia particularly, on the sort of money the multicultural broadcaster would have been able to offer. Sadly, the resulting disappointment seems to have engendered a culture of belittling and complaining about Australian football at SBS, but that's a different issue.

The counter-argument to the pro-Foxtel economic fatalism (to which I unashamedly subscribe, I might add) generally runs that kids are no longer able to watch their national team heroes in action in the comfort of their own homes, if their families cannot afford cable TV.

It's a cogent argument up to a point. But there are always options, however inconvenient. And the 'roos aren't in action all that often, after all.

I can't afford Foxtel, but last night I sauntered down to my usual haunt, watched the game in the company of some boisterous South American friends over a couple of beers, and enjoyed myself enormously.

It is a different matter for those with children, certainly, as Hamish at Football Down Under has pointed out in the past. But our Pay TV benefactor must, unfortunately, be permitted to call the tune for a little while longer.

totally agree,

we needed the money and so had nochoice.

It may be different next time but that is next time.

I take my two kids down to the local leagues club and we watch the A league and the socceroos when I can.

I saw the Asian cup at the local pub. It was huge.
7 years is a pretty long time though - that's basically a whole generation - I'd argue it's much too long.
think we all understand the reason we needed Fox Mike, but with hindsight and maybe even foresight 7 years for Socceroos was/is way too long.

Perhaps it's the length of the Socceroos part of the agreement in particular that is the problem.

I know I know a seven year deal back then secured the future, ability to bring in sponsors with certainty etc but 7 years...have to think FFA should have gone for less..for the Socceroos component at least.

next time.

I want Socceroos to be bid for separately from the A-League. Surely we can get $120 mill for both components next time..or more

Rolled into one..should be worth a lot more.

Kids can't watch the Socceroos, now but FTA coverage of football that's another issue...and FFA better sort the coverage out when it goes FTA who wants crap Aussie sports coverage like cricket and league/afl fans get, excusing SBS, for football

and of course all contracts can be bought out, so you just never know..
Interesting that the Australian said nothing bad about fox sports and instead criticized Helen Coonan. As for the fox sports deal Fox sports offers more money but there is a lot more exposure on free to air TV and the a league needs that too. I think the a league made the right choice but I'm still sad.
...Perhaps it's the length of the Socceroos part of the agreement in particular that is the problem...

It does seem to be the problem for most fans, going by what I read on the forums. But IIRC, the FFA made it clear at the time of the renegotiated deal that without the Socceroos component, the deal would have been worth only about half as much.

...I want Socceroos to be bid for separately from the A-League. Surely we can get $120 mill for both components next time..or more...

Depends on how the A-League goes over the next few years, and on whether the 'roos are successful in Asia. I tend to agree with you - I think the Asia move is the best thing that has happened to Oz football in decades, as you know - but it's early days yet.

...Kids can't watch the Socceroos...

As I said in the piece, there are always options (maybe not out in the bush or the smaller urban centres, admittedly) if you're keen enough.

Having said that, I don't subscribe to this "if you want the 'roos you'll find a way of affording Foxtel" arrogance.

...and of course all contracts can be bought out, so you just never know...

Stephen Conroy seemed to be implying that it wouldn't happen under the current government, at any rate.
The most remarkable co-incidence happeneded this week. The QLD Government gave the QLD Roar 1.5 over 3 years.(Last year the QLD Government cancelled their sponsporship of the Broncos under the banner QLD health and instead used the money for medical equipment)
The Rudd Federal Government took away 25 million from Rugby Union and 10 million from League that the Howard Government promised pree Election. The Rudd Government promised 32 million for football over 4 years before the Election and that money is staying.
The other codes are pissed off and for the first time Football is being taken seriously by the Government.
If people complain enough then the Socceroos will be back on free to air.
I suspect as the qualification series progresses that more pressure will be placed on the Government to do something.
This is my favourite quote of the week
"They (the Socceroos) are as significant as the (rugby union) Wallabies, they are as significant as the (rugby league) Kangaroos, as our cricket team, and this attitude of Helen Coonan and the former government was very, very disappointing and a slap in the face to soccer fans," he said.

This is the first time this has been said by a leading member of the Australian government. That Football in this country is part of the national pshyche.
Let the battle continue
Well said Mike. Not least because I happen to agree with you.

I was about to post on the troubles out in the bush. Even that depends on where you are. More than a few times I have asked the barman for a pint and the second TV to be tuned to the A-League game. The request is almost always obliged and more often than not most of the pub will join in with an eye on the game and a bit of banter.

In a funny way, it could be beneficial to the game.

Clearly not when the match is on at 2am. But the truly determined shall find a way.
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