Opinion

What is our game worth? The bitter stand-off between Foxtel and FFA heats up

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The bitter stand-off between Foxtel and Football Federation Australia continues to heat-up with reports emerging that the broadcaster are refusing to see out the remainder of the current season unless the governing body accepts the new deal on the table.

The offer put forward by Foxtel is alleged to be to the tune of $11 million per year which would also include production costs and is a substantial reduction from the previous $57 million a year arrangement in place until 2023.   

FFA did not respond at the time of publication when asked for comment. It is Foxtel's policy not to comment on matters to do with commercial relationships.

It is however understood that those involved in the discussions are privately remaining cautiously optimistic a resolution will be reached, there is still a chance it could all blow-up in the coming weeks. 

If accurate, it’s a hugely insulting offer, when you consider that Rugby League recently struck a deal with Channel Nine and Fox Sports worth a reported $2 billion. 

Worse still, a struggling Rugby Australia also confirmed this month that they had reached a broadcast agreement with Fox Sports for a “revamped domestic competition”.  

“Broadcast dollars will begin flowing again as of early July, which is a welcome relief for Super Rugby franchises struggling financially,” reported The Sydney Morning Herald. 

“RA would not divulge the value of the revised broadcast deal with Fox but it is understood to be a commercially viable competition.” 

It is understood that Foxtel are well within their rights to walk away from the existing deal because the broadcaster has not been provided with content for over 20 days which has allegedly triggered a clause in the contract. 

To make matters worse, a source confirmed that FFA cannot approach other broadcasters during this period of uncertainty because they would be in breach of contract and could be liable for damages. 

In spite of this escalating saga, I am told that Head of Leagues Greg O’Rourke has been working tirelessly to get the competition back up and running by the agreed resumption date of 16 July and is effectively “ready to go” but is waiting on “the deal to be done”. 

A-League players are due in training next week and have already begun swab testing for COVID-19 with the Melbourne City cohort returning negative results and Melbourne Victory players due to be tested in the coming days. 

Further still, stadiums and hotels have reportedly been booked, all 11 clubs have received their schedules and FFA confirmed that they have spoken to Australian Border Force and received exemptions while the quarantine hub is close to being finalised. 

It’s also believed that player contract renegotiations for the period of June are on the cusp of being completed with Professional Footballers Australia and FFA reaching an agreement.  

However, rumours continue to swirl that there are a handful of clubs that don’t want the competition to resume in a bid to stem the financial bloodletting, adding further fuel to the fire. 

Whatever the case, FFA are preparing as though the competition will return with the hope that an acceptable deal will be struck in the meantime.  

It doesn’t exactly instill the football community at large with the greatest of confidences given that it appears Foxtel are largely in the driver’s seat.  

Since the A-League was postponed indefinitely, I have defended Fox Sports and applauded their investment in a competition that has been woefully mismanaged in recent years but this alleged offer of $11 million a season is simply one the sport cannot afford to accept.  

The message it sends to the remaining broadcasters once Fox Sports eventually do walk away is a dangerous one and could catapult football back into the dark ages.  

Time and time again we have said that FFA CEO James Johnson is in an unenviable position after inheriting crimes that the previous regime are guilty of committing. 

But for now, he is staring down the barrel of a legitimate crisis that both he and the board are responsible for and the biggest question they must face is: what is our game worth to them?    

Source SBS The World Game