Wellington Phoenix need to give back to Australian football

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Football

October 28, 2014

As we all know, the summer of 2014-15 is a big one for Australian football.

This season is the 10th for the A-League, the Western Sydney Wanderers are involved in the ACL final and Australia is hosting the Asian Cup is in January.

This season may also be a defining one for New Zealand football, and in particular the Wellington Phoenix.

After three rounds thus far, they have produced two wins and one loss. However, off the field, there is an elephant in the room that is lurking for the Phoenix.

The sticky issue revolves around Wellington’s licence renewal in the A-League. Earlier this year, the FFA renewed the licences of the other nine A-League clubs up until 2034. Wellington meanwhile have a licence that expires in 2016.

Australia and the A-League are part of the Asian Football Confederation. While New Zealand and Wellington are still in Oceania. AFC officials in the past have expressed a level of discomfort in having a team from another confederation involved in a league from Asia.

New Zealand Football Federation and Wellington Phoenix know this full well. If New Zealand want a second or maybe a third team in the A-League down the track, wouldn’t be wise if they moved to Asia?

It will be a huge benefit for New Zealand football and it will make life a little easier for the FFA. Been stuck in Oceania is not a future. If anything, the Oceania Confederation should be disbanded or merged with Asia.

We could be looking at five World Cup Asian spots rather then the current four and a half.

To make matters worse for the Phoenix, the A-League TV rights from New Zealand Sky TV is only $200,000 a season. And that was recently increased from $110,000 per year.

You would’ve thought that bringing a New Zealand team into the A-League would harness millions in TV revenue per year, not thousands. Compare that with Sky TV paying $17.8 million a year for the NRL.

Phoenix are owned by a consortium of seven Wellington businessmen, headed by Rob Morrison and Gareth Morgan.

Reading online elsewhere, there was a suggestion from a football fan that Wellington’s wealthy owners should buy the TV rights and on-sell it to the highest bidder on free-to-air. Let’s be frank, $200,000 a season is pretty paltry.

Many A-League fans over the years have questioned Wellington’s admission in the A-League.

The main concern for the Phoenix is why should Australia continue to help New Zealand football. If anything, helping New Zealand could come back to bite Australia, especially if one day New Zealand knocks out Australia in World Cup qualifying.

But the positives in having a New Zealand side in the A-League is that we get to see many New Zealand footballers ply their trade either at the Phoenix or other A-League clubs. Players like Shane Smeltz and Marco Rojas have made a positive impact in the competition.

Alas, having Wellington in the A-League has denied other areas of Australia that don’t have an A-League team. Places like North Queensland, Canberra, Wollongong and Tasmania.

Having said that, folding A-League clubs is not a good look.

If Wellington are granted a renewed licence then they need to start offering something back to the A-League. They can’t afford to be a club that regularly misses out on finals, have average crowds of around 7000 and offer very little in TV revenue.

Their licence renewal needs to be sorted by the end of this season. The FFA shouldn’t wait until 2016. The A-League does need a degree of certainty in place.

Wellington Phoenix need to give something back. Otherwise, it’s not Australia’s responsibility to help New Zealand football.

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The NRL grand final starts too late

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Rugby League

October 5, 2014

Souths qualifying for the grand final for the first time in 43 years has been a feel good story for the NRL.

The Rabbitohs will be up against the Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs today, a side who are never more than a few years between grand final appearances. Souths are favoured to win the grand final.

However, there is a slight dampener on proceedings. Why is the game starting at 7:20pm?

Grand finals should be a family day out watching the football during daylight hours. It is a day where people can have their barbecues or grand final get-togethers at a more convenient time.

hen you have a broadcaster that has a major say on when the game is played, then the broadcaster will always serve its own interests, not those of the game or the fans.

In the current five-year deal, Nine is paying $85 million in cash per year and $10 million in contra. Nine’s coverage consists of one live game and two delayed matches per week, State of Origin, finals and Test football.

When the deal was struck, there were sources who believed that Nine will be losing $15 million annually on the rights. But that’s what happens when bidding occurs during TV rights negotiations.

When you have more then one network bidding, the price of the TV rights rises. I understand that broadcasters like Nine want to have some concessions in place so they could recuperate the money they invested in.

There are some concessions that Nine has in it’s coverage.

– Two delayed matches per week
– Five Thursday night games
– A gambling segment at half time
– Cross promotion of Nine’s programming during matches
– Night time grand finals
– Night time finals
– State of Origin matches kicking off closer to 8:30pm

The other thing that happens is in the southern states, whenever an NRL match is completed, they go straight to a movie rather then having a full complete wrap up of the match.

Also what about fans in New Zealand? The match begins 9:20pm.

Meanwhile, Fox’s TV deal over five years was $100 million in cash and $10 million in contra. Fox is paying slightly more compared to Nine and that’s despite the fact that Fox don’t have exclusive rights to State of Origin or the finals.

Like Nine, Fox also has a few allowances with regards to the TV deal. The obvious one is that NRL fans need to pay to subscribe to Fox Sports and the second is Monday Night Football.

Fox does schedule Sunday night football in the first month. But during that time of the year, the weather is still warm. Having Sunday night football at that time of the year is not a bad thing.

When you look back the comparisons between Nine and Fox, Nine has far too many concessions.

Admittedly relying on just three games a week out of eight (less than half) probably doesn’t present much value.

Are the financial models of Nine or the free-to-air networks outdated where they rely on three-minute block of ads? Networks like Nine need to embrace new media like social media in their NRL coverage.

Whether it’s a live blog here on The Roar, or Twitter or any other form of social media, fans want to have their say throughout the game.

If Nine looks at potential revenue opportunities from social media, then all free-to-air networks could improve their sports coverage.

This would allow the Sunday NRL game to be live, and the grand final to move back to the daylight hours.

But what about today’s game? I am tipping Souths to end their 43-year drought. However, if Canterbury start off well and lead for majority of the game, then pressure and expectation may be too much to bear for the Rabbitohs.

However, Souths have the better team, and it is their premiership to lose.

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