More Spin than Substance?

Spin is a big thing in politics and is slowly creeping into other areas of our lives, and probably never more so than the sporting arena.

There were many smiles a few days ago when Frank Lowy the Chairman of the Football Federation announced the new television deal for football, and initially it looked to be a great deal for the game. There is no denying it is a vast improvement on the initial deal brokered with Fox Sports four years ago.

Fox Sports have shown their commitment to Football over the next four years with a massive increase in investment, and it is good to see free-to-air football as part of the overall package. However one has to say if Fox had opted not to take up the coverage of the Hyundai A League, what would they have filled their air time with? In the Australian summer there is not a great deal else to watch, hence many games from the EPL and the A-League being repeated.

Another question that should be explored is if the viewing figures do not continue to rise over the next four years, and at some point they plateau as you would expect them to do, where does that leave football at the negotiating table next time around?

The carrot for most broadcasters is the Socceroos games, and should the unthinkable happen and Australia fail to qualify for the 2014 World Cup in Rio, how will that affect the viewing figures, interest and negotiations next time around? Australia currently has the lowest number of players playing in top flight leagues for over ten years, there is no stand out player on the world stage in terms of the marketability of Harry Kewell or Tim Cahill. So football needs to be very careful as it could find itself in a very precarious position.

This is why the current television deal is so important. $160million over four years, however $12 million is in taken up in free advertising on the networks concerned, SBS and Fox Sports. Which means that the overall figure comes down to $148million over four years, or $37million per year.

Frank Lowy then hinted that the additional funds would be passed onto the A-League clubs to cover the salary cap which is currently 2.5million a year. If that is the case then suddenly $25million a year disappears from that nest egg; with all ten A-League clubs having their players salaries covered by the FFA.

At this point in time one has to question this move. All of the clubs in the Hyundai A League are franchises, how many franchise arrangements do you know where the franchisor covers the costs of the Franchisee’s staff? Surely the money from the television rights should be split on a percentage basis amongst the clubs as is their right, and they should be allowed to spend the money as they see fit. After all it is each owner’s private business.

However, the big concern once the $25million per year is deducted, and let us not forget the Players representative body the PFA are pushing for the ceiling on the salary cap to be raised, and that may happen in the next four years, only $12millon a year now remains from the deal.

Football has more representative international sides than any other sport in Australia, with teams for both sexes and at various age levels, and with the Socceroos games being part of the deal the chances are they will swallow up most of the remaining dollars.

Yet what of the future Socceroos and Matildas? What of the Australian deaf Football team, The Paralympic football team, the Futsalaroos, or the much talked about Australian Premier League? Where is the money going to come from to develop young players before their talent has been identified?  How much of the money is going to filter down to the state bodies to improve the lot of the majority of Australians playing the game?

These are questions that need to be asked, as doing the simple maths it would appear that the average young player or amateur player will see no benefit to their lot at all from this new television deal, and that cannot be good for the game. Money has to be invested into the other levels of the game and urgently. The FFA will enter its eighth year of running the game in 2013 and it is time the stakeholders found a voice and asked what was being done for the levels of the game outside of the elite programs, as they have been forgotten; yet without them the elite program’s players will simply not emerge.

So is the new Television deal more spin than substance? It is great that the game is being recognised as having more worth than in the past, but will this deal help carry it into the future? Only time will tell, but one thing is for sure a great deal of money will need to be found from elsewhere as well.

More Spin than Substance?
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