FF Australia responds to television sale criticism

Football Federation Australia has responded to criticism of its sale of broadcasting rights exclusively to subscription television. Seth Blatter, president of the world football body, FIFA, was one to publicly questiom whether the right decision was made. "It's a decision to take between money or exposure and I'm not so sure that the right decision has been taken, but it's not up to me to make this decision," he told The Sunday Age (Melbourne). "I will not interfere in governmental decisions, but when it comes to the national team, I would say, yes, the national team should be accessible to everybody."

FFA head of operations Matt Carroll disagrees. "Until last year, we really had nothing to sell," he told the Age's David Sygall. "We received some money for Socceroos matches and a small amount of money for the A-League. But, having said that, we needed to prove ourselves. We now have a competitive and attractive national competition."

Carroll said the governing body needed such a deal because the sport was "coming off a low base" and revenue was critical. "Specifically, this deal will enable us to provide $2 million grants to each of the A-League clubs, which is critical for those clubs to be able to grow," Carroll said. "Plus, it will put money into the FFA to enable us to grow the game in other areas, particularly grassroots, and through the state federations.

"(Pay TV) is accessed by more than 25 percent of the population, particularly in the big cities. The ratings Foxtel was achieving from the A-League were better than we ever got on free-to-air TV. It's always a question where to have our matches broadcast. We went to the market and the free-to-air channels, including SBS, had their opportunity, but no one could match the money offered by Foxtel. It's critical at this time in the game's renaissance in Australia that we have a secure source of revenue."

Asked whether, by signing an exclusive deal with Foxtel, the FFA had missed a chance to truly attract mainstream support for football, Carroll said: "Look at Super 12 and Super 14 rugby. It's been on pay TV since its inception and it's managed to be a reasonably mainstream sport. If we hadn't secured this broadcast deal it would have been very hard for us to stay alive."

Foxtel has the right to sell the football coverage, but it is unlikely to do so. Fox Sport's marketing director Adam Oakes said the broadcaster's aim was to acquire good quality, exclusive properties. "The benefit from that for the sport is that they get a lot of money," Oakes said. "The benefit for us is that we hopefully get a property that people are passionate about and are prepared to pay for."

See also: Blatter praises Australia but not FFA's pay TV deal (27 May)