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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 24 December 2016
SPORT 26 THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 24 DECEMBER 2016 FFA announces new $346m broadcast deal DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM FFA Chairman Steven Lowy hopes the new broadcast deal will grow the popularity of the game in Australia. PHOTO: FOOTBALL FEDERATION AUSTRALIA GEORGE STOGIANNOU After a long period of negotiation and amidst much speculation, the FFA has announced a new broadcast deal with old partner Fox Sports, Foxtel, and News Corp Australia. The new six-year deal means that Fox will continue to broadcast A–league matches, W-league and FFA Cup matches on a number of platforms including pay TV, internet and phone services. Commencing on 1July 2017, the new deal is worth $346 million over six years, with an annual average of $57.5 million compared to the previous deal of $40 million a year over the past four years. The deal with Fox includes certain Socceroos and Matildas matches but excludes final round World Cup qualifying matches, Asian Cup, and Asian Champions League matches which are controlled by the AFC (Asian Football Federation). The deal with the pay TV broadcaster does not include an additional broadcasting agreement for free-toair TV rights and radio broadcasts of A-league matches. This deal will enable a free-to-air broadcaster to televise the prime time Saturday evening match. It's understood all three commercial networks Seven, Nine, and Ten are interested in the rights to broadcast a Saturday night match but a new deal won't be finalised until the new rights to the Big Bash Cricket season are finalised. Whatever the outcome, the interest of the commercial networks almost certainly spells the end of SBS's partnership with the A-league. The additional free-to-air broadcast deal to be announced early next year is expect- ed to increase the FFA's revenue even further. Together with the increased revenue from the Fox arrangement factored into the deal when A-league expansion takes place, the FFA coffers will be substantially increased compared with the previous deal. However it stills fall short of the $80 million mentioned in reports during the broadcast rights negotiation period, and it still ranks well down the ladder of broadcast revenue compared to the other major sports in this country, headed by AFL ($417 million per year) and NRL ($360 million per year). Nevertheless the FFA is talking it up with FFA Chairman Steven Lowy calling the new deal "a quantum leap" for football in Australia. He said at the announcement, "Our game has never seen a deal of this magnitude before. This six-year agreement gives us the certainty to continue to implement our strategy to grow the Hyundai A-league and the Westfield W-league and invest more in grassroots football development and women's games." Just what the new deal means for the FFA's distribution of funds to the A-league clubs is not immediately clear. The 10 A-league clubs currently receive a total of $26 million per year which is enough to cover the salary cap of $2.6 million per club. FFA CEO David Gallop, speaking at the announcement, said "We spoke to the clubs this morning. We told them that we were working quickly to come up with a funding model and a distribution model that reflects their investment and that acknowledges that we have responsibilities to other parts of the game. But there is no doubt this will be an increase of some significance for A-league clubs. The cap position is already determined and we've made it clear for some time, that beyond the cap amount, we're looking for a funding arrangement which incentivises performance and I think all the clubs have bought into that idea. So we can't set a level today, but I'm confident we can move quickly over the next few months to get a significant increase for our clubs." Gallop added that there was a commitment to increase the Marquee fund introduced at the start of this season from $1 million to $3 million. "We will work with our clubs to chase Marquee players because stars work in sport - we have to keep chasing that kind of talent." A-league club chiefs seek assurances from FFA on funding arrangements following new broadcast deal GEORGE STOGIANNOU The FFA may have described the new broadcast deal with Fox as a quantum leap for football in this country, however the A-league club bosses have responded by seeking assurances from the FFA regarding future distribution of funds to the clubs, and expressing regret at not being directly involved in the broadcast rights negotiations which resulted in a $346 million six-year deal with Fox. According to their representa- tive body, the Australian Professional Football Clubs Association ( APFCA), they say they were only notified of the deal with Fox by the FFA on the morning of the announcement, and "regrettably the APFCA have not been directly involved in the negotiations and therefore are not in a position to comment on the outcomes." The statement went on to say "in the interest of Australian football at large, the focus of the APFCA remains on the viability of the clubs and the league and therefore on seeking appropriate distribution of the revenues that the Hyundai A-league generates." The club bosses have long argued that clubs deserve a greater slice of the A-league revenue pie. Currently the FFA allocates $26 mil- ion per year to the 10 clubs and the APFCA has been looking for a significant increase through the new broadcast deal. At the announcement of the new deal with Fox, FFA CEO David Gallop said in relation to the funding arrangement to the clubs, "So we can't set a level today but I'm confident we can move quickly over the next few months to get a more significant increase for our clubs. We want those licences to grow in value. We've seen the introduction of Chinese investment at the Newcastle Jets and it's really important that licence value increases". Since the announcement, there's been some media speculation that the FFA will delay deciding just how much the clubs will be allocated until it finalises its freeto-air licence deal. Currently held by SBS at $7 million per year to screen a Friday night match, the FFA hopes to attract substantially increased bids from the commercial networks for an alternative free-to-air Saturday night match of the round. However it is reportedly waiting for the outcome of the commercial networks vying for the Big Bash Cricket broadcast deal before it finalises its deal. Some A-league chiefs reported- ly fear that should the free-to-air licence fail to attract substantial bids from the commercial net- works, then under the current arrangement with Fox, it would then be able to step in as fallback option and pick up the free-to-air licence at a bargain price and onsell it a substantially lower price than the $10 million the FFA is currently said to be aiming at. The outcome could mean a less than hoped for outcome in FFA funding for the A-league clubs. According to its media release, "the APFCA has sought immediate assurances from the FFA regarding the future distributions and associated financial models required to ensure the sustainable financial health of the league and its clubs."
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