Opinion

Media arm is an option for FFA as News wants out of football

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News Corporation's utter contempt for Australian football has reached a stage where the domestic governing body should consider setting up its own media arm to fend off the constant stream of malicious reporting of our game.

The AFL does it and so do the NRL and NBL, so why should Football Federation Australia not follow suit?

The level of disdain that Fox Sports and News Ltd have shown lately for the game came to a head in the last few days when it emerged that the broadcaster values the A-League at no more than $11 million a season and the newspaper side of the business appears to be wiping its hands of the game by letting three senior football reporters go.

Only a few months after Fox dispensed with some of its better known journalists, the Advertiser's Val Migliaccio and another metropolitan writer have been made redundant while Tom Smithies will leave the Daily Telegraph in a clear sign that News wants little or nothing to do with the game.

Football in Australia - not least the A-League - is struggling big time and has been for a while and it would be foolish and unwise to blame COVID-19 or News for its woes.

And let's be frank about this: News is a big corporation that has been hit by the pandemic and it cannot be blamed for taking a business stand.

But since the media giant has now openly shown its hand, is it not time for the FFA to explore the merits of passing on the message to stakeholders via a more complete and professional website.

The FFA is doing a decent job of spreading the gospel, so to speak, via ffa.com.au, but there is room for greater improvement.

How about engaging a few jobless journalists to boost the quality of the game's media arm and give the punters out there the service that they crave and which they won't be getting from one of the mainstays of Australia's media as from next month.

The qualified journalists would be able to do even better jobs on the many human interest stories that will always exist without the conflicting interests of column space and other sports.

Retired football writer Ray Gatt is all for it.

"It's time to fight fire with fire," Gatt said.

"There is enough talent out there to do a great job and get the message out to the fans.

"There are so many feel-good stories to tell about our game ... like features and interviews.

"After all the crap our sport has had to cop over the years from non-football mainstream media, it wouldn't worry me in the slightest if our own media arm ignored the thorny issues and simply concentrated on the positive stuff.

"The one big issue, though, is whether the FFA and or A-League clubs have the finances and the courage to establish their own media arm. Time will tell I guess."

There is a serious drawback to this media arm notion, however.

Would journalists employed by the FFA be expected to toe the company line when dealing with serious issues that come up from time to time?

If they did do so, would they be doing the game a short-term service or a long-term disservice?

It is a delicate issue but this does not appear to hinder the efficiency or reach of the AFL's media machine, for example.

Its success would all depend, of course, on the attitude of the FFA.

It could apply discreet pressure on its own journalists to 'stay positive' and concentrate on the bright side at the cost of risking being seen as papering over the cracks, thus affecting its credibility.

Or else it could stay true to its proclaimed aims of transparency and put it out there and engage the whole family in its quest to resolve any issue.

It would need to be a fine balancing act no doubt but bearing in mind how badly our game has been treated by the national media over the years, despite an increase in coverage when it suited it, this media arm concept is worth exploring deeply.

More importantly, football would be in control of its own promotion.

Got for it, FFA.