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Fox Sports exits the room but bright times ahead for Australian football’s broadcast future

Last Sunday’s A-League Grand Final between Melbourne City and Sydney FC signalled the end of Fox Sports’ 16-year broadcast partnership with Australian football.

Over the course of this time, Fox Sports have had a substantial influence in showcasing historic moments that shaped this crucial period in Australian football, whether that was through the A-League, W-League, FFA Cup or Socceroos and Matildas matches.

For many years they developed these products effectively and these moments were given the appropriate coverage. However, in recent times their commitment to the game waned due to dropping linear TV ratings and a further shift to focusing on their ‘marquee’ sports in Rugby League, Cricket and Australian Rules.

Due to these multiplying factors, the Australian Professional Leagues (APL), a relatively new body who have now separated from the FA and effectively run the A-League and W-League, flexed their muscle and were first to announce a new broadcast partner in recent weeks in the form of ViacomCBS.

The US media company own Channel 10 in Australia and under the new deal an A-League game will be broadcast on the main channel of a commercial free-to-air station for the first time, every Saturday night (with a game in the W-League to be shown on a secondary channel every week).

The rest of the A-League and W-League games will be shown on new streaming platform Paramount+, which is set to launch in August of this year.

The deal presents an opportunity for the APL to make the domestic professional leagues appeal to the mainstream and tap into the young demographics that are prevalent across Network 10 programming.

Since the announcement of the deal, which also includes ViacomCBS purchasing a minor stake in the APL, we have seen snippets of cross promotion between A-League and W-League players on Channel 10’s flagship programs.

Michael Zullo and Jenna McCormick were featured prominently on The Project speaking about the game’s future, whilst Archie Thompson, a Melbourne Victory legend, will be a contestant on Celebrity MasterChef when the show airs later this year.

Efforts such as this, in normalising the sport and its heroes across the network, will ramp up in the months to come when the contract officially begins at the start of August.

Finally, the stories of our players will be told to a wider audience, in primetime slots, whether through variety shows or the pre-match lead-in program which will air before the A-League game every Saturday.

Alongside this, the APL administration are lining up a $30 million marketing strategy to grow the audience of the game, which is set to culminate in the creation of a digital hub for Australian football fans with expected content such as written stories, video content, news clips, behind the scenes footage and more.

While details remain scarce on the digital strategy, APL MD Danny Townsend told the Australian: “The digital product will be the biggest investment the game has ever made in itself. It is not just for A-League fans, it will be for football fans, participants, coaches, managers of grassroots clubs, members of A-League clubs, digital fans of other leagues around the world and so on.”

The focus of the strategy looks to incorporate the whole football pyramid, not just the professional game, but the question of how exactly NPL content will be included in the offering lingers unanswered.

Currently state and territory federations across Australia live-stream their NPL content through their Facebook or YouTube pages, or in Football NSW, Football Queensland and Football SA’s case through NPL.TV.

Will live-streaming of these matches now be broadcast on this new digital hub funded by the APL? That remains up in the air, but a nationally unified approach for NPL content may be more commercially appealing.

Townsend told this publication earlier in the year that talks have occurred to find the best solution: “We are up for working with the NPL and helping them grow the consumption of their content. They’ve got NPL.TV which is a fantastic initiative. How we work with that, with APL and our content, is important in bringing that unity back to the game.”

What will certainly help the APL’s mission of unity in the game was the follow-up announcement that the remaining Socceroos, Matildas and FFA Cup broadcast rights have also been snaffled up by ViacomCBS, with games to be shown on Channel 10 and Paramount+.

In a boost for the profile of the competition and the local clubs all across Australia who partake in it, the FFA Cup Final will for the first time be shown on free-to-air television.

The rest of the games in the Round of 32 onwards will be shown on Paramount+, with the competition set for a new name and fresh production values on the streaming platform.

The Socceroos and Matildas will also find a regular broadcast home on Channel 10 for games outside of the World Cup, after finding themselves on various free-to-air channels in the past few years.

Australian football may have departed from Fox Sports after a long-standing partnership, but significant investment from a new broadcast partner and stakeholders should push the game towards its potential.

Philip Panas is a sports journalist with Soccerscene. He reports widely on football policy and industry matters, drawing on his knowledge and passion of the game.

Will Melbourne City eventually move all of their games to the south east?

Melbourne City were the benchmark in the A-League last season, lifting the Premiers Plate in May and eventually the Championship in late June.

It was their first taste of A-League success after years of hard work on and off the pitch.

The club has invested heavily since City Football Group (CFG) took over the Melbourne Heart in 2014, initially building a $15 million City Football Academy in Bundoora, in the city’s north, which has housed the club for the past few years.

In what seems like a strategic investment however, the club revealed late last year that they will move from their Bundoora headquarters and relocate to Casey Fields in Melbourne’s south east.

Earlier this month, the club announced construction had begun on the new elite City Football Academy facility within the 84-hectare Casey Fields Sporting Precinct.

“The first stage of construction includes the central elite training pitch, with its 115m x 115m hybrid grass surface, and is due for completion by the end of 2021. The new pitch is adjacent to the site’s existing four full-sized pitches – one grass and three synthetic – which will be primarily used by the Club’s Academy teams and for City in the Community programs, as well as for City of Casey school and club programs.

“The next stage of construction will see the development of Melbourne City’s new two-storey administration and high-performance building at Casey Fields, currently in detailed design phase. Construction on that phase of the facility is due to commence in the coming months, with completion estimated for mid-2022,” a Melbourne City FC statement read.

Stage three of construction will look to implement a 4000-capacity mini stadium in a significant space in the precinct.

With the club’s A-League players to officially begin training in the facility in August, recent developments in regards to the possibility of a 15,000-capacity stadium in Dandenong may see the end of the team playing all of their games at AAMI Park, in the years to come.

The Victorian Government has already pledged $100,000 in funding for a feasibility review and development of a business case to build the 15,000-seat boutique stadium, with the City of Greater Dandenong also set to match that contribution.

According to Cranbourne Star News, The Greater Dandenong Council is lobbying for $110 million to build the stadium, which will also host festivals, concerts, rugby matches, alongside hosting future Melbourne City games.

While of course at this stage there is no guarantee the stadium will be built, Melbourne City head honchos may have to grapple with the idea of permanently leaving AAMI Park behind, the stadium they have hosted games at since their inception.

With Victory ditching their deal with Marvel Stadium to move all their games back to AAMI Park next season and Western United set to play the majority of their games at AAMI for at least the next two seasons, the 30,000-capacity rectangular stadium is not short of regular football content.

If the proposed stadium does get the go-ahead, City may look to move all of their home matches to Dandenong, and alongside their new academy location, this can prove to be beneficial in establishing a clear geographic identity.

They will have a stronger presence in the local areas and will have the chance to better connect with the local football community and grow their membership base.

City should also still have a reasonable chunk of members who live in the south and south eastern suburbs of Melbourne, with a report from 2018 stating 28% of their members came from those areas.

Adversely, a move away from AAMI Park has the possibility to alienate members and fans who may not want to travel to the proposed stadium for reasons such as proximity.

Sharing the home games between the stadiums could be a viable option, but also brings on the challenge of not having a singular home ground, as well as match scheduling conflicts.

A big call from City administrators may need to be made in the end and not all members and fans will be pleased.

Knights Stadium: More than just a home ground

Knights Stadium is one of the most iconic venues in Australian football – for many it is more than just a stadium.

The ground was built in 1989 with storied history. Melbourne Knights, formerly known as Melbourne Croatia SC, were two-time National Soccer League (NSL) champions and four-time minor premiers at the ground during the 1990s.

The Mark Viduka Stand can seat up to 3,000 people, while another 12,000 can stand around the pitch. The ground represents the largest football-only sporting ground in the state of Victoria – testament to the history and strength of Melbourne Knights FC.

Knights Stadium in 2002 with the Mark Viduka Stand.

Former Melbourne Knights president Andelko Cimera says he was part of the club while Knights Stadium was becoming a reality.

“We were playing at the old number two pitch at Olympic Park, where the dog track was, and that was virtually our home. We were looking for alternatives and a couple of properties came up – a drive-in in Altona and a drive-in at North Sunshine,” he said.

“We settled on Sunshine because it was a little bit cheaper. I think we paid $180,000 at that time in 1984. 12 months later we started developing the stadium.”

Melbourne Croatia at the time tried to secure the rights to play at Heidelberg United’s home ground Olympic Park and several other venues, before a decade-long donation drive allowed them to raise the money to purchase the land and develop a facility at the current site of Somers Street.

94/95 NSL champions

Melbourne Knights FC President Pave Jusup says that much of his childhood was spent at Knights Stadium.

“We only saw the stadium for games. We would always strive to go there, and sometimes the juniors would have an important game that’d let us on the second ground, even the main ground,” he said.

“If you walked into the wrong part of the ground the groundskeeper would grab you and make you be a ball boy, and you’d get a hotdog and drink after the game. It was a whole childhood for a lot of us.”

Jusup adds that Melbourne Knights and the stadium serve as a key pillar within the Croatian community.

“There are a lot of memories that have been created there. A lot of people are tied to the physical place and it is a hub of the Croatian community along with the Croatian club in Footscray and the original Croatian church in Clifton Hill. We are the three constant and long-term fixtures in the community,” he said.

Cimera explains that there were both positives and negatives towards the stadium being community ran and operated.

“There were advantages and disadvantages. It was our property, it was our ground. It was up to us whether it was Sunday night, Saturday afternoon, or Friday night game. It was always available to us,” he said.

“The disadvantages were that everything was up to us. The maintenance of the ground was up to us. The facility became a burden to the Croatian community, which involved all our payments, all our rates which were paid for by the community.”


Both Jusup and Cimera agree that the biggest games were always against South Melbourne.

“It became a fortress for us in the 90s. It was difficult to take points away from our ground for teams,” Cimera said.

“I think our record crowd was when Hadjuk Split was here, that was close to 15,000. I remember when we played South Melbourne we had 12,000 people. The games between South Melbourne and us were always the biggest crowds.”

During the 2000 National Soccer League season, over 11,000 people descended upon Knights Stadium to watch Melbourne Croatia vs South Melbourne Hellas.

“Around 2001, they were top of the table and unbeaten, while we were mid to low-end of the table. We beat them 4-0. That is one game that sticks out in my mind,” Jusup said.

For both Cimera and Jusup, they acknowledge that the supporters and members of Melbourne Knights want to see Knights Stadium and the club feature in a second division.

“It’s not only the Melbourne Knights. It’s the juniors too because they can have a career path. Right now they can’t see a career path. Without promotion and relegation, it makes it very difficult,” Cimera said.

“We’ve got a lot of latent fans who are disappointed in the situation we find ourselves in. There are a lot of people who would put their hands up and into their pockets to help propel the club if given the opportunity. We’ve gone through a period of consolidation, but there’s a new generation of people who want to propel the club into the limelight as their parents and grandparents did,” Jusup said.

If the opportunity to join a second division does arise for Melbourne Knights, then their home ground won’t look out of place on the national stage.

Referee Recognition Week underway for Northern NSW Football

Beginning Monday July 19 and ending Sunday July 25, Northern NSW Football’s Newcastle Permanent Referee Recognition Week is dedicated to advocating for respect of match officials.

Motivated by the sole aim of providing the football community with the chance to express their gratitude and appreciation for referees and their assistants, Referee Recognition Week is NNSW Football’s annual celebration of match officials.

In addition, the week also acts as a reminder that match officials are intrinsic members of the football community who are to be respected by players, coaches, volunteers and supporters.

Referee weekNNSW Football Head of Football Development Peter Haynes explains that the initiative, which is planned alongside NNSW Football’s long-term community partner Newcastle Permanent, aimed to put a spotlight on the contributions of match officials across Northern NSW whilst encouraging members of the football community to demonstrate their appreciation.

“Officiating a match is often a thankless task. But without our referees we wouldn’t be able to play our beautiful game,” Haynes said.

“Referees and assistant referees play a key role in not just allowing players to go out and play but also keeping our players safe. Then there are our referee assessors and coaches who are also such a vital part of our sport as they help teach and educate our referees of the future.

“We encourage all our members to show their respect and appreciation towards our referees during the week, particularly thanking them for their efforts in ensuring a safe environment, underlined by a sense of fair play, for everyone.”

Newcastle Permanent supports match officials throughout the season through its monthly Community Recognition Awards Program, where a referee from each of Northern NSW Football’s seven Member Zones are recognised for their outstanding contribution.

Newcastle Permanent’s Chief Customer Experience and Delivery Officer Paul Juergens adds that continued recognition of match officials is a step in the right direction to respecting them for the work they do.

“We know referees and match officials play a vital role in community football,” Juergens said.

“They’re not only responsible for keeping players safe and making sure the rules of the game are followed but they also help create a great experience for players and spectators.

“Newcastle Permanent is proud to shine a light on their importance and contribution through our monthly Community Recognition Awards program. And this week, as part of our annual Referee Recognition Week campaign, we invite the football community to join in and say thanks.”

Northern NSW Football will acknowledge referees throughout the week at northernnswfootball.com.au and through its social media channels.

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