Should football have its own dedicated channel on Fox?

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Football

April 24, 2014

In the months of March, April and early May, Australia’s four football codes are in full swing. Super Rugby, NRL and AFL have commenced their seasons, while the A-League heads towards the end of their competition.

When there’s four football codes on at the same time, such a congested market means it is challenging for every sport to get crowds through the gate and have reasonable TV ratings.

When the A-League finals commenced over the Easter weekend, one of those two fixtures was played on a Saturday afternoon at 4:30pm. This was an unusual time.

A-League matches on Saturday throughout the season always began at 5:30pm, yet for a finals match it was shifted to an earlier time.

Why?

It should’ve kicked off at the normal Saturday time-slot of 5:30pm or be moved to prime-time at 7:45pm.

It showed in the TV ratings as the match only rated 40K.

Then again, Fox couldn’t fit the A-League game on a Saturday night. There were two AFL matches played at 7:40pm, one NRL match at 7:35pm and one Super Rugby match at 7:35pm. Those matches were spread over the three Fox Sports channels and the AFL channel, meaning there was no space for football.

Towards the end of the A-League regular season, matches were shifted to the Speed channel.

While the A-League isn’t a high-rating league at the present time, this author believes that it is not right for the A-League to be shifted to different channels or time-slots so that it could accommodate other codes.

With the AFL having a dedicated channel, then does football deserve its own?

Here is the current content that football has on Fox Sports:

-A-League (all games live including finals);
-Asian Champions League (games involving Australian teams plus other matches including finals);
-Socceroos internationals (all games except FIFA World Cup matches);
-English Premier League (380 games live, plus highlights show);
-Covers other English Leagues like Championship, League 1 and League 2;
-Spanish La Liga (Two live matches and two on delay);
-Other international matches.

Also there’s football panel shows, including Kick Off, Shootout, Matchday Saturday and Santo, Sam and Ed.

In the future, football content will continue to increase.

Starting in July is the FFA Cup, where Fox Sports will show a minimum of 10 matches.

Those FFA Cup matches will increase over time once the FFA Cup becomes established. The A-League could expand to 12 teams as early as 2017/18, hence more content and matches from the A-League will appear on Fox.

An expanded A-League in the future could extend to eight months, meaning an earlier season kick off.

There could also be more content from overseas with other various leagues and more football panel shows from countries like England and the United States.

In the off-season, which generally consists of a couple of months, Fox could show replays of matches from home and abroad.

As I illustrated above, there is enough content for football to have it’s own dedicated channel. If football ever gets it’s own channel, it will allow the A-League to grow without the worry of clashing with other codes.

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Could Lehmann reverse the West Indies decline?

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Cricket

April 8, 2014

Australian coach Darren Lehmann has been lauded for turning around Australia’s fortunes in the Test arena, with series wins over England and South Africa lifting Australia to second in the Test rankings after hovering around fourth and fifth before his tenure.

Prior to his appointment as an Australian coach, Lehmann enjoyed success in domestic competitions in both the long and short formats of the game. As coach, he has won trophies in the IPL, Big Bash League and Sheffield Shield.

Not bad for someone who has only been coach for around half a decade.

So why is Lehmann, the man they call Boof, so successful as coach?

Lehmann has brought some old fashion values back into the Test side, one of which is brutal honesty. When Lehmann and the selectors dropped pace mainstay Peter Siddle from the final Test in South Africa, the reason was clear – he wanted Siddle to bowl around the 140kph mark, not the 130s that he was hitting.

Lehmann has scrapped the rotation policy in Test matches, as was evident in the Ashes series where Australia picked the same eleven for five consecutive matches. And Lehmann has picked form players regardless of their age, in the case of the two 36-year-olds in Brad Haddin and Chris Rogers.

Lehmann also wants his sides to be balanced by having an all-rounder, giving the fast bowlers a breather and taking the pressure off the spinner. Lehmann has also surrounded himself with the right personnel in his coaching stuff, such as Craig McDermott and Mike Young.

Although having said all that, not everything Lehmann has touched has turned to gold.

The inclusion of young offie Ashton Agar in the England Ashes series last year was puzzling, especially when you consider that Agar only had a handful of first-class matches to his name. They also had Nathan Lyon in the squad, who just a couple of months earlier took a Test five-for against India in India.

And of course, Australia’s below-average showing in the recent World T20 where Australia only managed one win out of four matches. In effect, Australia were knocked out in their second match with a defeat against the West Indies.

Speaking of the West Indies, they have been successful in the shorter formats of the game in recent times by winning the same tournament in 2012. But when it comes to Test cricket, the Windies haven’t been a force since 1995 when Australia defeated them to claim the Frank Worrell Trophy.

Since that 1995 series loss to Australia, the West Indies have taken part in 58 Test series over the past 19 years. The Windies have won only 17 Test series, with seven drawn series and 34 series defeats. Out of those 17 series wins, eight of them have come by beating minnows Bangladesh (four) and Zimbabwe (4four)

In that time, the Windies have not beaten Australia or South Africa in a Test series. The West Indies Test ranking has hovered around seventh or eighth, with just Bangladesh and Zimbabwe behind them. It’s such a shame for a cricketing powerhouse that ruled the world from the late 1970s right through to the mid 1990s.

It was an era that was dominated by a wonderful group of players; from batting maestros in Clive Lloyd, Viv Richards, Gordon Greenidge and Desmond Haynes, to fast bowling firebrands in Andy Roberts, Joel Garner, Michael Holding, Malcolm Marshall and Curtly Ambrose.

To not see any players of that ilk be produced since is just depressing for many cricket fans. Much has been made about the West Indian cricket infrastructure with regards to producing young players, and also losing promising talent to other sports such as basketball and athletics. It’s certainly another article for another day with regards to grassroots cricket in the West Indies.

The West Indies need something to stop their downward spiral in Test cricket. Maybe they could hire Lehmann as coach when his stint is up with Australia, and his coaching staff as well?

With the bevy of West Indian fast bowling greats, it’s a mystery that not one of them has emerged as a fast-bowling coach similar to McDermott and Allan Donald for Australia and South Africa respectively.

One thing the West Indies cricket board could consider is to hire a couple of batting coaches from South Africa – one for the Test squad, while the other would oversee the batting in first-class teams in the domestic West Indies competition.

Why a batting coach from South Africa? Since the West Indian decline, South Africa have produced world-class batsmen who are capable of both attack and batting out two days for a draw if necessary.

Another thing the West Indies cricket board could do is produce pitches that help develop fast bowlers and batsman. In recent years, Caribbean pitches have been similar to those in the subcontinent – dry. It has helped produced spinners like Shane Shillingford and Sunil Narine, but there needs to be balance with the pitches.

I’d like to see the West Indies produce a couple of pitches similar to the Gabba – a good wicket for fast bowlers with plenty of bounce and carry to the keeper. The ball comes onto the bat very well, and you get full value for your shots.

The spinners would enjoy good turn and bounce, so it’s pitch for everyone to develop all of their skill sets. In my opinion, it’s the best pitch in the world.

If Lehmann ever took over, he would have a nucleus of a side to work with. Darren Bravo, Dwayne Bravo, Shane Shillingford and Kemar Roach are players that should be in the Windies Test XI. The challenge for Lehmann, or anyone else for that matter, is to fill the other spots and take the West Indies away from the basement in Test cricket.

Test cricket needs a strong West Indies. If there’s one coach who could turn it all around, it would have to be Boof.

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