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.

Staff Writer
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Allambie Beacon Hill United FC’s Steven Gravemade gives account of the Local Sport Grant process and its benefits

Two historic clubs from the Manly Warringah Football Association – Manly Allambie Football Club and Beacon Hill Football Club – have amalgamated to create Allambie Beacon Hill United FC (ABHUFC) in the 2024 season.

Since the decision last year to merge together, the Club has been busy streamlining and preparing its operations in its inaugural campaign.

As part of their expansion, the ABHUFC have recently been approved by the Local Sport Grant Program form the NSW government.

They have successfully received two grants, helping to get a new coffee machine for the clubhouse and new flags for the numbering of fields costing just above $7,000.

With the new fields and more club members, these purchases have become important cogs in the building of this new Club’s culture.

Soccerscene spoke to ABHUFC’s grant advisor Steven Gravemade who saw a great opportunity arise through the grant.

How did you find out about the grant?

Steven Gravemade: I usually find them posted on social media adverts and many committee members forwarded stuff they find from social media.

We always need to keep our eyes open for any grant offers.

What was the process to get the grant?

Steven Gravemade: You need to start with the right documentation especially invoices and quotes for the products, such as the expected cost, and what they are needed for, club info.

Then you need to complete a lengthy online form with the details of the grant on the app called SmartyGrants.

This grants app then forwards the information to whichever grant program is requested. Us being the Local Sport Grant Program.

The Senior Men facing Narrabeen.

Was it a hard process to go through or straight forward?

Steven Gravemade: It was not lengthy and not hard. You need to know what you are doing in the sense of creating a quote for the grant and following a similar well-created format. You do have to work methodically through the form.

There was positive correspondence for 3-7 weeks before it hit the accounts. This means we can go out and purchase the products now and keep the invoice.

The final stage of the grant is putting back into the app system the purchase, and this should finalise the whole process.

It is dependent on the grants, these were smaller grants than others. Though we did two separate grants which added time but overall, a similar experience and therefore a fluid task.

There is obvious difficulty added when you are applying for grants that involve infrastructure zoning as it takes many months and is very taxing,

You’ll have to go through other systems as well including the local council and this naturally makes it a longer process.

Whereas with this grant it can be done just by the club without the association or council involved. Just through the app.

“Now he’s done it a couple of times for both infrastructure and smaller grants. I think we’ve become pretty efficient.

Do they think the funding was a good amount and adequate for the Club?

Steven Gravemade: In this particular case, it was exactly what we requested,

The form also asks if you are willing to contribute which can help gauge the grant, but for us, it was more than adequate and perfectly suited to what we had wanted.

How do you think this will benefit the club overall?

Steven Gravemade: These grants are a big help and help save valuable fundraising, that can go elsewhere.

For example, it was a big bonus in helping us with the processes that needed other funding such as our completely new purple kits, training equipment, updating facilities and club image.

It’s a massive help to the club and to the budget. Every little bit helps.

ABHUFC’s Women’s First Grade team against Manly Vale.

For the bigger picture and first-hand experience, do you see this program as a positive plan for grassroots football?

Steven Gravemade: Yes, we feel supported through grants like this as a club. You obviously need to work hard to get it.  Though the process was fluid and for our club, any grant is appreciated.

On this topic, do you think enough clubs/associations are aware of these grants?

Steven Gravemade: They do pop up, where mailing systems are also around and the main way to know of these grants and how to get them, a lot of clubs I presume are on them.

However, you still need someone proactive in the clubs to get the ball rolling such as a grants officer.

This one came up before the start of the season so maybe many weren’t looking then”.

We found out and applied for this one before the start of the season.

Also, if you look at all the grants there are a lot given out to all sports clubs, and they only show the grants that got accepted.

You can only guess how many actually applied for a grant and maybe could not be accepted.

However, I think a lot also don’t apply in the end. Overall, for me, I think these grants are beneficial.

ABHUFC’s mixed grading day in February.

 

The Local Sports grant was a massive project from the NSW government to help fuel the growth of the many codes within NSW.

The positive effect this has is massive on the infrastructure for the game and the quality and experience of grassroots sports.

The grants also show that the NSW government is invested in the growth of community football and wants to actively encourage and financially support the ambitions of these grassroots clubs.

Australia awarded hosting rights for the AFC Women’s Asian Cup 2026

Football Australia have announced that the country has been awarded the hosting rights for the 2026 edition of the AFC Women’s Asian Cup.

This decision followed official ratification by the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Executive Committee at their meeting on 15 May 2024 – held in Bangkok, Thailand – on the eve of the 34th AFC Congress after lengthy discussions. Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Uzbekistan had expressed interested in hosting but withdrew from the process.

This will be the second time the country has staged the Women’s Asian Cup, having previously hosted the competition in 2006.

This tournament will feature 12 of the qualified AFC nations, placed into three groups of four with matches played in the confirmed host states of New South Wales, Queensland, and Western Australia.

Australia co-hosted the record-breaking FIFA Women’s World Cup in 2023 alongside New Zealand, with the Matildas making it to the semi-finals and have grown the sport exponentially over the past 12 months.

The success of Australian national teams, including the Subway Socceroos and CommBank Matildas, has led to a nationwide increase in football participation, with an overall 12% increase in 2023 and an impressive 20% increase already noted in 2024.

Football Australia is leveraging the AFC Women’s Asian Cup as a platform to further boost participation and develop the sport, aligning with upcoming international events like the Brisbane 2032 Olympics & Paralympics.

AFC President Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa explained the exciting decision to reward Australia another major women’s football tournament.

“On behalf of the Asian Football Confederation, I offer our sincere congratulations to Football Australia on being confirmed as hosts of the AFC Women’s Asian Cup 2026,” he said in a statement.

“I am confident that we will see a more vibrant and competitive edition in 2026 in Australia where the unrivalled passion for the women’s game is so palpable and we wish the Local Organising Committee the very best of success in their planning and preparation.

“I know the Asian football family joins me in reinforcing our confidence in Football Australia to elevate the ever-evolving stature and growth of women’s football in Asia.”

Football Australia Chairman Anter Isaac mentioned the benefits this will bring to the game in Australia.

“Securing the AFC Women’s Asian Cup is a testament to our nation’s dedication to football. It is not only a victory for the sport but for every Australian, offering significant economic and cultural benefits,” he added in a statement.

“We would like to express our sincere gratitude to the AFC, its Executive Committee, the Secretariat, and our fellow member associations for entrusting us with the privilege of hosting this prestigious tournament. We are committed to advancing the exceptional initiatives already established and delivered by the AFC and the broader Asian football community in women’s football.”

Football Australia confirmed its intention to launch a hosting bid in September 2022 and now expects the Women’s Asian Cup to generate up to $260 million in economic output and create over 1,000 jobs for the host states.

These states were chosen after discussions with state governments to ensure they are fully prepared to support the successful delivery of the tournament.

Football Australia CEO James Johnson expressed his excitement for the winning bid and upcoming tournament being played on home soil.

“We are profoundly honoured to host the 2026 edition of the AFC Women’s Asian Cup. This decision reflects the global football community’s confidence in our capability to deliver outstanding events. Following the resounding success of last year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup™, we are eager to create another tournament that celebrates women’s football and inspires a new generation,” he stated.

The tournament dates in 2026 will be confirmed with the AFC in due course and training and venue inspections will occur in the coming months.

It remains an extremely exciting time for women’s football in Australia, with the Matildas consistently selling out large stadiums, the growth of the Liberty A-League and now another major tournament on the horizon that is sure to boost the grassroots game as well.

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