A-League broadcaster Fox Sports is refusing to sign off on a plan to restart the competition by mid-July, unless Football Federation Australia accepts a radically re-negotiated rights deal.
All the dominoes are in place for a long-awaited resumption in a NSW hub format featuring 32 games in 36 games - with an August 22 grand final.
However, Fox Sports - according to reliable club sources - won’t sanction a return to action until the FFA agree to accept a funding package worth up to 50 per cent less annually than the existing $57.6 million a year commitment to the code.
There are three years left on the six-year agreement with the game’s long-time partner, meaning the FFA are being asked to wear a loss of revenue of around $86 million.
Questions had been raised over why A-League clubs were awaiting permission to resume training whilst the National Rugby League kicks off again tomorrow, after its own COVID-19 interruption.
The answer - it appears - has now been revealed, with Fox Sports playing hard ball with the ruling body.
Fox Sports’ parent company Foxtel is $2 billion in the red, and recently slashed 250 jobs with further redundancies looming, as subscribers ditch the pay-TV service for streaming alternatives.
The FFA are suffering the consequences of that downturn, with Fox Sports latching on to the loss of content during the coronavirus shutdown as a lever to revisit its 15-year relationship with the governing body.
Fox Sports has the right to terminate the existing deal by virtue of the A-League being off the grid since March 23, as a result of force majeure (unforeseen circumstances).
The broadcaster has been disenchanted for some time over falling viewing figures and diminishing attendances across the competition.
Its current stance - which some may construe as opportunistic - is likely to be a source of frustration at the FFA, who have reached an in-principle agreement with the players over payments, and the clubs over venues.
Stadiums in NSW - including Western Sydney Wanderers’ Bankwest Stadium have been booked - and health protocols are in place for a July 18 resumption.
The way the existing contract is structured, the FFA would be in breach - if they were resume unilaterally - and open to damage claims.
The ramifications of Fox Sports stalling on sanctioning a restart run deep, with existing club sponsorships dependent on the season being completed.
Both Fox Sports and the FFA declined to comment when contacted by The World Game.