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Is the viewing future of Australian football an all-encompassing app?

The worst keep secret in broadcasting is the slow and inevitable decline of Foxtel. With money being lost hand over foot and parent body News Corp bankrolling the media giant to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars, the changing manner in which people consume entertainment appears to have Foxtel’s days numbered.

In the first quarter of the 2019/20 financial year, Foxtel cited a A$306 million loss and the sporting arm of the business, Fox Sports, was the first to feel the weight of budget cuts and restructuring. So called ‘non-marquee’ content was cut or put on hold, staff were shred and the future of football and rugby union on the cable network beyond their current broadcast deals was thrown into serious question.

Bookies will be offering short odds that Australian football will have a new broadcasting home in the near future, despite the potential for FFA, the A and W-Leagues and Foxtel to be able to extend their relationship should the deal be mutually satisfying.

High hopes were held for Optus Sport’s foray into football when it acquired the Premier League rights in 2015 from Foxtel for a princely sum of A$200 million. With a World Cup taking place in Russia during the Australian winter of 2018, Optus stood to impress all and sundry with their state of the art coverage and well functioning app.

Sadly, it was an unmitigated disaster that led to SBS saving the day at the eleventh hour, after thousands of Australian customers went to bed bitterly disappointed in the early days of the tournament. Thankfully, things have improved markedly, Optus have extended their Premier League deal until the completion of the 2021/22 season and recently expanded their coverage into the Asian market by adding the J-League to their platform.

It appears to be the future of media consumption with consumers able to streamline their experience by using only the apps that appeal to them. No longer is there a need to purchase an expensive and cumbersome all-encompassing cable television package that provides some desired content and a vast amount in which the customer has very little interest.

Generally, Australian consumers appear pleased with the simplicity and reliability of the Optus service. Recently, CEO of Football Victoria Peter Filopoulos announced that the governing body were in talks with Optus and Kayo Sports in regards to a potential arrangement that would see expanded streaming of Victorian NPL matches.

Both Facebook and Youtube have recorded impressive figures over the past twelve months whilst streaming NPL content. Early figures from NPL rounds in Victoria appear to indicate a continued interest and there was much online interaction during the first round of New South Wales’ NPL season across the weekend just passed.

With the demise of Foxtel’s subscription service imminent and their Kayo brand appearing to be the way of the future, Australian football would do well to think long and hard about where to hitch it’s wagon in the short to medium term. With car manufacturer Hyundai’s role in the future of the domestic game and a restructuring of their current A$6 million per annum deal with the A-League likely when it expires this June, it is a nervous time for the domestic game.

Without a host broadcaster and major sponsor for the elite competition, things could turn very grim, very quickly. However, with near two million Australians using the Optus service to engage with Premier League content and thousands of Australians using Kayo, Foxtel and Facebook to satisfy their thirst for the beautiful game, the answer might be staring the powers at be right in the face.

A dedicated Australian football app that covers A-League, W-League and NPL play across the country should be a number one priority for the game moving forward. For a flat monthly subscription fee, fans of the Australian game would have access to every match and for the first time in Australia’s history, the entire population would be exposed to the country’s top tier and not the minority of Australian’s who hold Foxtel subscriptions.

Whether FFA, the A-League owners and sponsors could go it alone and finance such a project is unknown. Perhaps Optus or Kayo would be interested in filling some sort of parent role in the deal; taking a small wedge of the pie created by subscriptions.

Either way, the future of Australian football appears likely to look like the service currently offered by Optus Sport. The time is nigh to strike and concede defeat when it comes to subscription services being able to promote the A-League. By moving now, the increasing popularity of the NPL across the nation will also be dragged along for the ride.

There is still a place in the Australian football market for free-to-air content and after weak recent attempts, it might be time for a return to the spiritual home of SBS; if recent budget cuts allow it to happen.

Football in Australia looks a little ‘Brave New World’ right now. Let’s leave the dinosaurs behind and take the leap of faith required. It will be the best thing for the game in the long term.

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Sky Sports extends rights to NIFL

The Northern Ireland Football League has announced that Sky Sports will be the exclusive broadcaster of Football in the region once again.

The Northern Ireland Football League has announced that Sky Sports will once again be the exclusive broadcaster of top-flight football in the region for the next three years.

The Irish League has had a long-lasting partnership with Sky over the years and the agreement will see the relationship in place until the end of the 2024/25 season.

The new agreement will see four Danske Bank Premiership fixtures and the BetMcLean League Cup final broadcast live across the UK & Ireland each season.

Northern Ireland Football Chief Executive, Gerard Lawlor:

“We sincerely thank Sky Sports for their continued backing of our game and we look forward to showcasing some of the best NI Football League matches together over the next three seasons,” he said.

“To continue to have the invaluable support of such a high-profile broadcaster shows how far our league has progressed in recent years as we bring our game to an increasing audience of loyal fans.

“The NI Football League brand is continuing to grow outside of the confines of Northern Ireland, and through Sky Sports, many football fans are now becoming more familiar with the rich history of our clubs and as well as some of the household names that have played in the Irish League.”

Sky Sports Director of Football, Gary Hughes:

“As a long-term partner to the Northern Ireland Football League, we’re delighted to extend Sky Sports’ support of the league and ensure that its entertaining action continues to be available to our customers,” he said.

“Sky Sports customers will be able to enjoy the Northern Ireland Football league alongside our ever-expanding football offering in the UK & Ireland which includes over 500 live games in 2022, from the Premier League, EFL, Scottish Premiership and FA Women’s Super League as well as international action in the form of World Cup Qualifiers, and this month’s Africa Cup of Nations – placing Sky Sports as the home of live football.”

Valencia CF presents revised stadium upgrade plans

Valencia CF President Anil Murthy has stated the club will not deliver a “low-cost stadium” after holding talks with Mayor Joan Ribó over reviving the long-running Nuevo Mestella project.

Valencia CF President Anil Murthy has stated the club will not deliver a “low-cost stadium” after holding talks with Mayor Joan Ribó over reviving the long-running Nuevo Mestella project.

Valencia’s stadium, the Nuevo Mestalla, was originally under construction in 2009. However, over the last 12 years, due to financial issues and negotiation breakdowns, construction has never been completed and the situation has become known as one of the world’s most notorious stadium projects.

Murthy presented revised plans to a Council delegation led by Ribó, with the club seeking to recommence work on the stadium in order to ensure it retains the advantages granted to it under an ATE construction license given in 2012.

The plans presented to the council include a stadium capacity between 43,000 to 46,000, expandable to 60,000. The stadium would have a second ring dedicated almost exclusively to leisure and restaurant offerings, while the roof will be fitted with solar panels in an effort to drive sustainability.

Valencia Mayor, Joan Ribo:

“Initially it is proposed for a capacity comparable to that which the (Mestalla) stadium currently has (48,500), but expandable to 62,000 spectators. But I think this is not the fundamental element,” he said.

“The fundamental element is the novelty of this second ring that has seemed to me to be a remarkable element that is not in many football stadia. They propose a roof that is made of photovoltaic panels, which is an example at that level that I want to value.

“They have assured us that they have guarantees with the bank where they have the debt, which is now Caixabank.

“They have presented us with a calendar where in June 2022 the works of the sports centre would begin, in October 2022 the start of the works of the stadium and in August 2024 the inauguration of the new Mestalla. The calendar seems realistic and possible, but if it is not met, they will listen to us.”

In December, Valencia revealed plans to use funds from LaLiga’s strategic venture, with global investment fund CVC Capital Partners to help finance the construction of its new stadium. Valencia is reportedly set to receive approximately $189 million AUD from LaLiga as part of the LaLiga Impulso venture. $125 million of which is set to head to the stadium project.

Valencia CF President, Anil Murthy:

“The meeting has been very positive. After the two meetings with the Generalitat, today we have taken an important step by formally presenting the project we have to the important institution, which is the City Council,” he said.

“We have agreed on recommencing work as soon as possible, after presenting the project to the Generalitat and the City Council.

“Nobody talks about a low-cost stadium. It’s going to be a stadium that’s going to give a lot of people a lot of hope and it’s going to mean a lot of investment in the city. It’s going to be something different and something attractive.”

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