Friday, November 28, 2008

2018 FIFA World Cup – Australia? (Part 1)

logo2For a couple of years the prospect of the World’s largest sporting  event coming to Australia has been talked about amongst Australian sporting circles. Some would have you believe that Australia is no chance of ever hosting a FIFA World Cup, others think it will be an easy task to win the bid.

There is no doubt about the impact the event could have on Australian football. Aside from bringing the FFA massive amounts of money, hosting the tournament would likely mean new stadiums for A-league teams and could generate a surge in interest that could finally propel football to the top of the Australian sporting landscape. But is it going to happen?

Over a couple of blogs I’m going to try and answer that question. First I will ask the question about whether it is logistically and financially possible for Australia to host such a huge event. Secondly I will look at our competitors, and try and make an assessment about whether or not we can crawl through the “seedy” political mess of FIFA to win the hosting rights.

Part 1 – Logistics/Stadiums

One of the major issues with the logistical side of hosting a tournament like this is the cost. In 2006, just under $3 Billion Australian Dollars were spent on stadiums, but that number is dwarfed by how much the German Government estimates they got back – close to $30 Billion.

Much of the money made from the tournament is due to a massive surge in tourism. The 2006 tournament drew 3.5 million people to Germany. It is difficult to predict if Australia could expect similar numbers, it is a much longer journey for fans from Europe and the Americas. However I think this could be cancelled out by large numbers of tourists from Asian countries. The 2006 tournament was held in Europe, yet more fans came from Japan than most  European countries – only England, the USA and Germany itself beat the Japanese in terms of total number of fans.

Money will also need to be investment in transport infrastructure – I am certainly no expert on the subject, but new airports/railway stations would just be another way that the FIFA World Cup would be of benefit to Australia.


When discussing Australia’s World Cup bid – this is something that gets talked about the most. Where are games going to be played? Is this stadium going to be good enough or big enough for World Cup matches? Will that satisfy the FIFA requirements?

Image6 Firstly, what are these FIFA requirements? What conditions does a stadium need to satisfy to be included as part of a World Cup bid. Before I go on, let me say that FIFA is FIFA – they make the rules, they can bend the rules, and really there is no such thing as a FIFA ‘requirement’ for a World Cup stadium. There are standards that FIFA would like stadiums to meet, but if they think a stadium is appropriate, they aren’t going to get obsessive about details. The FIFA ‘requirements’ are really just guidelines that a country can look at as it plans a World Cup bid.

Here is basically what you need to look at while thinking about World Cup venues:

- Capacity: Stadiums should be able to hold at least 40,000 people, and should be all seated. There should be at least 3 stadiums that hold more than 60,000 for semi finals and the World Cup final.

- Viewing Experience: Fans at the stadiums should be able to get a good view of the game from any position. FIFA do have specific details about maximum distance from the pitch, but as long as all fans get a decent view, the technicalities will not matter.

- Location: Generally FIFA has a one-city, one-stadium policy, however exceptions to this have been made in the past. Something that gets thrown up a lot is that FIFA will allow one city to have multiple stadiums, but no more than that. I have yet to find any sort of official source for this, and I expect it may not be true. Going back to my earlier point though, FIFA are not stupid – they aren’t going to enforce a bunch of rules just for the sake of it. It could certainly be argued that, because Australia is a country with a lower number of large cities, we are a different case to many past FIFA World Cup host countries. Another thing to consider is the distance between host cities – something that may be of concern for Perth.

 - After-tournament Use: FIFA likes stadiums to leave a ‘legacy’ for football for years to come. This makes a lot of sense, and we have already seen how much the Korean K-league and Japanese J-league have benefited due to modern stadiums after the 2002 World Cup. This is important for the government as well, it’s a lot easier to spend money on a stadium if you know it will have lasting benefits.

At a basic level, that is really it. Other requirements are technical things that can be done at a relatively low cost (a completely flat pitch is one example) – and as long as you have a good stadium these should not be an issue. The minimum number of venues needed is 10, and with good upkeep of grounds (ensuring quality of turf etc.) no more than this should be needed – although it would be beneficial to bring the tournament to as many cities/towns as possible. Maintaining playing surfaces may also be a little tricky in the middle of Winter.

So let me go through where I think World Cup games could  potentially be played, when and if Australia ever hosts a FIFA World Cup. I will do an estimate of how much might be needed to be spent upgrading or building a venue, to try and determine how easy it would be for Australia to afford this tournament. Let’s start with venues that will definitely host games:

Definite Host Venues:

- Brisbane –> Suncorp Stadium


Capacity: 52,500 -> Upgrade to ~ 60,000
Upgrade Cost: $120 Million

Suncorp Stadium is an obvious choice for a World Cup venue. Really it would need no money spent on it at all for it to be a perfect World Cup venue. Although a little could be spent upgrading the capacity a little, so that it is an option for a semi-final. For this and any other small improvements I have allocated $120 million.

- Newcastle –> Energy Australia Stadium


Capacity: 27,000 –> Upgrade to ~ 45,000
Upgrade Cost: $120 Million.

Newcastle is, in my opinion, also a definite host venue. Newcastle is Australia’s 7th biggest city, and will be needed if we are to get the required number of venues. Energy Australia Stadium is already undergoing upgrades to give it a capacity of around 35,000 and there are already plans in place to get the capacity to over 40,000. A lot more work needs to be done to make it a world class venue, but I have no doubt that will be done. My guess is it might need $120 million.

- Homebush –> ANZ Stadium

ANZ Stadium

Capacity: 83,000 –> Slight Capacity Upgrade to ~ 85,000
Upgrade Cost: $50 Million

Another obvious choice, Stadium Australia in Sydney is a truly World class venue. The only slight problem with the venue is that it is not completely rectangular, although the view for fans at ANZ stadium would be far better than at most oval venues. Homebush would probably host either the Final or the Opening game. Capacity could potentially be increased a little, I’ll allocate $50 million for some minor upgrading.

- Sydney –> Sydney Football Stadium

Sydney Football Stadium

Capacity: 45,500 –> Upgrade to ~ 50,000
Upgrade Cost: $50 Million

In my view, the Sydney Football Stadium will be a definite World Cup venue. It is a second stadium in Sydney, but with ANZ Stadium in out in Sydney’s West, a venue in central Sydney would make a lot of sense. The facilities etc. could use a bit of work, and expansion to around 50,000 would be possible, so I’ll allocate $50 million.

Probable Host Venues:

- Gold Coast –> Skilled Park

Skilled Park2

Capacity: 27,500 –> Upgrade to > 40,000
Upgrade Cost: $150 Million

Australia’s 6th largest city is very likely to be used in a World Cup bid – and Skilled Park is a very nice, modern stadium that is likely to be used. Expanding Skilled Park could be a little tricky, but as long as the Gold Coast’s A-league and rugby league clubs are successful, an expansion to over 40,000 will be quite feasible. I imagine that a second tier would need to be built on one (or both) sides of the stadium. This would likely cost close to $150 million.

- Canberra –> Canberra Stadium


Capacity: 25,000 –> Upgrade to > 40,000
Upgrade Cost: $200 Million

It seems likely to me that the nation’s capital will be used in any world cup bid. With NRL and Super 14 clubs, and hopefully an A-league club within a few years, Canberra stadium is in a good position to argue that an expansion is warranted. It would need to be a fairly significant upgrade though, as the ground would need a lot of work.

- Melbourne –> MCG


Capacity: 100,000
Upgrade Cost: $20 Million

Despite not being the best place to watch football, I expect the MCG will end up being used if Australia ever hosts a World Cup. The capacity of 100,000 is too hard to ignore, and really the view that fans get at the stadium is no worse than you get at places like Nissan Stadium (host of the 2002 World Cup final). If it does get used, it is likely to host the World Cup final, which FIFA will insist should be played at the largest stadium. I’ve allocated $20 million for general upgrades.

- Adelaide –> ???

New Adelaide (Frankfurt)

Capacity: Build with ~ 65,000
Build Cost: $800 Million

Currently Adelaide has no venue that is a chance of hosting World Cup games (although it would be possible to upgrade either AAMI Stadium or Adelaide Oval, but that would basically require knocking down the stadium and starting again anyway). However I think we can be virtually certain that games will end up being played in Adelaide. There are really two options for Adelaide – a rectangular stadium, which would hold a little over 40,000 - or a multi-purpose venue that would hold, maybe, 65,000. Obviously the only use for a rectangular venue would be Adelaide United games, as well as maybe the occasional Socceroos match and a couple of rugby games. A multi-purpose venue could be used for AFL as well, which would make it a lot more viable. Whether or not that will happen remains to be seen. Depending on which option is chosen, something like $800 million could be needed for the new venue.

- Perth –> ???

Stadium WA

Capacity: Build with ~ 60,000
Build Cost: $1 Billion

The planned new super-stadium in Perth, which would have been a perfect venue for World Cup matches, is currently in limbo. Around 12 months ago, the venue was ‘confirmed’, but now with a change of local government it appears unlikely to be built. Perth also has another major disadvantage, in it’s location. If Perth is used for World Cup matches, it is doubtful that it would see any matches beyond the group stage (asking a team to travel across the continent for a single crucial game would put them at a disadvantage). My guess is that Perth will end up building a suitable venue, and that it will be used to host one group during the group-stage – there is some chance that Perth might not be used at all though, so the local government will need to be willing to get a new venue built.

Possible Host Venues:

With 9 venues so far, only one more is really needed (although it would be nice to have 12 venues, the same number as were used in 2006).

- Townsville –> Dairy Farmers Stadium

(possible) - Townsville

Capacity: 27,000 –> Upgrade to > 40,000
Upgrade Cost: $150 Million

With NRL and A-league sides, it could be argued that Dairy Farmers Stadium would be a good candidate for an upgrade. Townsville does suffer from the problem of being quite a distance from any other venue, so if it were used, matches in the knockout stage would be unlikely. The North Queensland Fury (who will play during the wet season) could certainly benefit from giving fans undercover seating.

- Gosford -> Central Coast Stadium


Capacity: 20,119 –> Upgrade to > 40,000
Upgrade Cost: $200 Million

This one strikes me as an unlikely host stadium, partly because it only has one permanent home team (Central Coast Mariners), and also because expanding the stadium may prove difficult, due to the stadium’s location (they don’t have stands at one end of the ground because there is no room between the stadium, a road, and the sea). It might be possible to get the capacity up to 40,000, but unless the Mariners start getting huge crowds that warrant the increase in capacity – I can’t see it happening. Could definitely be a good training/warm-up match venue though.

- Melbourne -> Swan Street “Bubble” Stadium

Melbourne rect

Capacity: 33,000 –> Upgrade to ~ 50,000+
Upgrade Cost: $150 Million

Currently under construction, Melbourne’s new rectangular stadium will only be used if the MCG is not able to be used (if it’s decided that it is not spectator-friendly). The “bubble” stadium was built with expansion to 50,000 in mind, so that would certainly go ahead if the stadium was to be used. If it was to be Melbourne’s only venue, I’d wager that the authorities would make sure it was expanded to over 60,000 so that a semi-final could be played there. If not used for the World Cup itself, it would certainly be used for warm-up matches and/or a training venue.

- Docklands –> Etihad Stadium

Telstra Dome

Capacity: 56,000 –> Convert to ~ 50,000
Upgrade Cost: $10 Million

If Melbourne is to have a second venue, it will be Etihad Stadium (FIFA won’t let us use both the ‘bubble’ stadium and the MCG, given that they are so close to each other). The “dome” isTelstra Dome2 ut beautifully modern, and if it were to be used for the World Cup, the stands could be slid out (and temporary stands built in the corners) to use the stadium in rectangular mode. No real upgrades would be needed, but I’ll allocate $10 million for general upgrades, and to temporarily convert it into a rectangular ground.

- Geelong –> Skilled Stadium


Capacity: 28,000 –> Increase to > 40,000
Upgrade Cost: $200 Million

Skilled Stadium in Geelong has a few significant advantages. Firstly, it’s nice and close to Melbourne. Secondly, an expansion of the stadium to 40,000 would definitely be viable, given the fact that all home games played by the Geelong Cats (an AFL side) are always packed. It is an Oval stadium, but it is quite small and thin for an AFL ground. The big problem would be upgrading the stadium, as it is currently of quite poor quality, so a lot of money would need to be spent (probably $200 million). Personally I don’t think Skilled Stadium would be a bad option.


There are a few more venues that I could have mentioned, but I don’t think there is any realistic chance of any of these venues hosting matches:

Tasmania – At the moment Tasmania doesn’t even have any  sides in any national football competitions. I certainly hope that Tasmania United are successful in their bid to enter the A-league, but even so I can’t see a 40,000 seat stadium being warranted. Some might think that upgrading Launceston’s AFL ground (Aurora Stadium) could be an option, but Aurora’s field dimensions are the same as the MCG’s, without the huge stands – I cannot see any possibility of a Tasmanian venue hosting matches.

win stadiumWollongong – If Wollongong was to secure an A-league team, then an upgrade to Win Stadium might be a possibility, but I can’t see it being expanded to hold 40,000.

Northern Territory – I’ve heard a few people suggest that Darwin should host a couple of games, but this isn’t going to happen – Darwin is not big enough for a decent sized stadium, and it’s too far away anyway.


So that’s it - if you think there are any other options, then let me know - but I think the required 10-12 stadiums will have to come from the 14 I’ve mentioned here.

Now – how much will this cost the country? If you add up the total amount I estimated for all 14 venues, it comes to around $3.2 billion dollars. That’s a lot, but when you consider that this number includes two brand new stadiums, and is for 14 venues rather than the required 10-12, Australia wouldn’t need to spend any more than Germany did in preparation for the 2006 edition. Of course with the current financial worries of the world, it’s hard to predict if this number might need to increase a little, but nonetheless I do think that it is financially viable for Australia to be bidding for the World Cup (perhaps that is why the federal government has been so supportive thus far).

My Choice:

So here is my choice for an ideal world cup. I’ve included which games I think each venue would host (remember that a World Cup is comprised of 64 matches – including 48 group stage games, 15 knockout games, and a 3rd place playoff). I’ve also tried to ensure that each ground is not overused, so no ground has more than two knockout matches etc.

Match Venues:

1. Melbourne – MCG – 100,000
> 4 Group Matches  (inc. 1 Australian game)
> 1 Quarter-Final  (Australia’s likely path)
> World Cup Final

2. Homebush – ANZ Stadium – 85,000
> 4 Group Matches (inc. Opening Match + 1 Australian Game)
> 1 Round of 16 Match
> 1 Semi-Final (Australia’s likely path)

3. Adelaide – New Multi-purpose Stadium – 65,000
> 4 Group Matches
> 1 Round of 16 Match (Australia’s likely path)
> 1 Semi-Final

4. Brisbane – Suncorp Stadium – 60,000
> 4 Group Matches  (inc. 1 Australian Game)
> 1 Round of 16 Match
> 1 Quarter Final

5. Perth – New Stadium – 60,000
> 5 Group Matches
> 3rd Place Play-off

6. Docklands – Etihad Stadium – 52,000
> 4 Group Matches
> 1 Round of 16 Game
> 1 Quarter Final

7. Sydney – Sydney Football Stadium – 50,000
> 4 Group Stage Matches
> 1 Quarter Final

8. Newcastle – Energy Australia Stadium – 45,000
> 4 Group Stage Matches
> 1 Round of 16 Match

9. Gold Coast – Skilled Park – 42,000
> 4 Group Stage Matches
> 1 Round of 16 Match

10 Geelong – Skilled Stadium – 42,000
> 3 Group Stage Matches
> 1 Round of 16 Match

11. Canberra – Canberra Stadium – 40,000
> 4 Group Stage Matches
> 1 Round of 16 Match

12. Townsville – Dairy Farmers Stadium – 40,000
> 4 Group Stage Matches

State-by-state breakdown:

Queensland – 12 Group Games + 2 Round of 16 Games + 1 Quarter Final = 15 Games

NSW/ACT – 16 Group Games + 4 Round of 16 Games + 1 Quarter Final + 1 Semi Final = 22 Games

Victoria – 11 Group Games + 2 Round of 16 Games + 1 Quarter Final + Final = 15 Games

South Australia – 4 Group Games + 1 Round of 16 Game + 1 Semi Final = 6 Games

WA – 5 Group Games + 3rd Place Playoff = 6 Games

mcgI think that is pretty fair on all states. Victoria only has 15  games, but that is made up for by having the final. NSW/ACT have 22 Games, which is to be expected. Queensland gets 15 games, which is good for them, although the last game in Queensland is a quarter final. South Australia only has 6 games, but gets a semi. Western Australia misses out a little, but due to their isolation I didn’t want to make any teams travel there for a knockout game – they host 1 group, but you can’t play all 6 matches from the 1 group at the same venue, as the last 2 games are played simultaneously. I also gave Perth the 3rd place play-off, which the two teams could travel too on their way home.

Another interesting point of note is how many Oval/Rectangular stadiums are used. Although I’ve never seen anything official, FIFA may have some sort of requirement limiting the number of oval stadiums used:

Rectangular Stadiums: Suncorp, SFS, Newcastle, Gold Coast, Canberra, Townsville = 6/12

Oval Stadiums: MCG, Geelong = 2/12

Semi-Rectangular: Homebush, Etihad Stadium = 2/12

Unknown: Adelaide, Perth = 2/12

I call Homebush and Etihad Stadium “semi-rectangular”, because that’s what I believe they are – this picture of Homebush demonstrates that:


I think, to ensure a good quality World Cup, Etihad Stadium needs to be used in rectangular ‘mode’, while the new Perth and Adelaide Stadiums must be built so that they can at least be ‘semi-rectangular’.

Training Venues:

One final thing I quickly want to look at is ‘training venues’. When 32 countries arrive in Australia, they will want to play warm-up fixtures, and to have good facilities to train at. This is a good opportunity for the Football Federation to explore upgrading some A-league grounds, that may not be included in the actual World Cup bid. Some potential venues may be:

adelaide- Hindmarsh Stadium, Adelaide – perhaps an upgrade to 25,000?

- Members Equity Stadium, Perth

- Central Coast Stadium, Gosford (Already Mentioned)

- Swan Street “Bubble” Stadium, Melbourne (Already Mentioned)

- Parramatta Stadium, Sydney – if a West Sydney A-league team is playing there

- Hobart Stadium, Tasmania – if a Tasmanian A-league side ever gets into the A-league.

That’s it for now, in my next blog I will look at the politics of our bid: How easy it will be to stop the AFL/NRL seasons for a month in June, and what sort of competition we have for the hosting rights.

Bye for Now,                                                                  Matt

Friday, October 10, 2008

Hindmarsh Vs AAMI - ACL Final Venue

Adelaide United are in with a huge chance of being the first A-league club to make a final of the AFC Champions League. After a 3-0 victory in the first leg of their semi final on Wednesday night (what a result!) they only need to prevent their opponents, Bunyodkor from winning the second leg by 3 clear goals and they will be through to the final - and will qualify for the Club World Cup.

It's been a brilliant run, a brilliant story and a happy ending seems very possible.

One big issue that has come up, is where Adelaide United should play the final match, should they get there. If Adelaide beats Bunyodkor, they will host the second leg of the Champions league final - against either Urawa or Gamba Osaka of Japan. On the surface, it would appear there are 3 options - Adelaide's traditional home ground, Hindmarsh Stadium, Adelaide Oval (where Adelaide have played a game in the past) or AAMI Stadium, the home of AFL in Adelaide.

Hindmarsh Stadium has been sold out for both Adelaide's Quarter and Semi final matches, which demonstrates the interest this tournament has generated in the city. The final would potentially draw a huge crowd, I would anticipate that even AAMI Stadium, which holds 52,000 people would be sold out for the final. Especially when you consider that we could have 10,000 fans coming from Japan for the game.

May would suggest, the best option would be Adelaide Oval. United have played there before, the venue is right in the heart of the city and it has a capacity of over 30,000. Unfortunately the Asian Football Confederation does not like grassed areas, so these may be unavaliable for the final, taking away the Oval's capacity advantage. Add to that, it is cricket season, and the pitch would not be in good condition for such an important match. Unfortunately, Adelaide Oval is out of the question.

What about AAMI Stadium, then? Is it a real option? I'm going to compare AAMI to hindmarsh, and try to outline all the advantages/disadvantages of AAMI, compared to Hindmarsh.

AAMI Stadium

AAMI Stadium is the home of Australian Rules football in South Australia. For many years it hosted SANFL matches, and more recently has hosted all home matches played by the Adelaide Crows and Port Adelaide in the AFL. It's an oval venue, it's stands have a gentle slope, and it has a second tier on one side, extending along one corner of the ground.
It's a poorly desinged venue in my opinion (why they built a second tier at the Northern end before putting a second tier on the outer side is beyond me). Even for AFL, the view for spectators is not good. If you attend a game of AFL at AAMI, you get used to watching half the match on the big screens. Not only that, but it is poorly located - crowds are definately affected by the stadiums location in West Lakes. The added drive time, plus the fact that there is not much to do before/after the game in West Lakes definately takes away from the experience of attending matches there.

Of course, if it's not a good venue for AFL - it's a terrible venue for football. The stands are quite a way from the action, and with a venue like AAMI you can't have the intimacy you get at Hindmarsh. The size of the playing surface isn't actually that bad. I used Google earth to compare AAMI's dimensions to a typical stadium with an athletics track (used commonly in world football) - this is the stadium I compared AAMI to, it's Miyagi Stadium in Japan, which hosted 3 world cup games in 2002:

The Miyagi stadium is about 10 metres longer than AAMI, and 2 metres narrower. If anything, AAMI should be better than Miyagi for football. Here are some dimensions of other oval grounds that have been used for football (all measurements are taken from the front row of seating):
AAMI Stadium: 143x182m
Ataturk (2005 UEFA Champions League Final Stadium): 130x190m
MCG: 148x177m
Olympic Park (Melbourne): 112x178m
Athens Olympic Stadium: 123x184m
Of course this doesn't take into account the slope of the stands, AAMI's stands have a very gentle slope, while most of the other stadiums have stands that rise steeply - so that those at the back are still fairly close to the action. Also, most stadiums with athletics tracks have the stands raised by a few metres, so if you are in the first row you are about 5m above the playing surface and still get a good view.
Still, AAMI doesn't seem all that bad to me - certainly no worse than the MCG, and not that far behind stadiums like the Telstra Dome or the Miyagi Stadium. I decided to try and 'visualise' what it would be like to attend a football match at AAMI, unfortunately I couldn't find any pictures of football matches which have been played at AAMI in the past (Argentina played Saudi Arabia at the venue 20 years ago - there has been an NSL game there as well), but this is what it would be like to watch football at AAMI:

Doesn't seem all that terrible, does it?

Of course there are other things to consider. By moving to AAMI stadium for one match, Adelaide United could have part of their home ground advantage taken away - a big home crowd could go part of the way towards making up for this, but I'm sure Aurelio Vidmar and the United players would ideally like to stick to familiar surroundings. Prehaps, if AAMI were to be used, United could hold a few training sessions there, to help with this.

Another thing to consider is the playing surface. It is not AFL season, so the turf at AAMI would be perfect, however one potential problems is that the surface at AAMI is not completely flat - the center is around 1 metre higher than the edges of the ground. This could be frowned upon by the AFC.

Overall though, AAMI doesn't seem like that bad a choice to me. Assuming the AFC allow it, we would make more money out of a game there (even though some of our money would probably have to go to the SANFL, who own the ground), and a lot of new supporters would get to see Adelaide United. It would also ensure that the hardcore fans (of both Adelaide and the away side) would not miss out on tickets. It would be good for the game to have 52,000 fans at the Champions league final.

Hindmarsh Stadium

On the other hand, we have Hindmarsh Stadium. Hindmarsh is United's home ground, and is a great place to watch football. You are nice and close to the action, the atmosphere is good (which happens when you have intimate venues), the surface is perfect and the general facilities are also good.

It does have it's problems - the ground is not that easily accessible, parking is hard to find, there is limited public transport to the venue and of course it only holds 17,000 people. All these problems are caused by the fact that Hindmarsh is situated quite close to roads and other businesses, meaning potential for expansion is very limited. Prehaps one day the surrounding properties could be bought, transport and parking could be improved, the ground could be expanded, and United could have a perfect home venue, but for now, this is irrelevant.

It has been suggested that temporary seating could be erected for the match - which was done for the Olympic football in 2000, but even if this could be organised in the few weeks we have untill the game, it would only allow another 3-4000 fans to attend.

If there's one major advantage that Hindmarsh has in this debate, it's the fact that it's United's home ground. The ACL final may well be very tight, and having a ground that the players are used to, may just be the difference. If we were to win the champions league, we would get an extra $200k in prizemoney (compared to coming second - of course we would probably gain more money than that from ticket sales if the match was played at AAMI), plus we would get an easier draw at the Club World Cup, and we would claim the title of Asia's best club. If United does end up playing the final at Hindmarsh, it should be for these reasons - if it wasn't for this, I think AAMI would be the obvious choice.

I think it would be a great shame, and maybe a little embarassing to have such a huge game played infront of only 17,000 fans. Not to metion the loss of income, when there are many who won't be able to get tickets, and many Japanese fans who won't travel to Adelaide, even though they would like to.

I would hate for dedicated supporters to miss out on seeing the game, and I do feel that it's better to have a ticket, than to have a perfect view.

For these reasons, I hope Adelaide United strongly considers AAMI Stadium as a venue for the ACL final, and I hope they do decide to hold the match there. Most of what I have read and heard in the press suggests that Adelaide United do plan to play the match at Hindmarsh (although there were some reports that they would look at AAMI stadium), but there is still time to reconsider.

In my opinion, the best thing to do, would be to use AAMI. Make the decision now, get into AAMI and install some good quality player benches, ensure the pitch is in as good condition as possible and try and get a good deal with the SANFL (so that the profit from the game goes to football, rather than AFL). It would seem appropriate, that United's biggest ever match, would be played in front of 50,000 fans.

Bye for now,

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Australian Football Broadcasting - Part 3

Having talked about the current state of football broadcasting in Australia - on both free-to-air and subscription television - I'm now going to talk about the future. This blog will contain a lot of speculation, some rumors, but mainly suggestions as to how the current broadcast situation could be improved to benefit football fans.

Let me say first, that I don't believe the current state of football broadcasting is that bad - if you have read my previous blogs on the topic, you will have read a lot about this. The arrival of Setanta Sports onto the scene last year - coupled with coverage of the biggest football leagues on Fox Sports and ESPN, has meant even hardcore fans are now fairly well catered for.

There are definately 'gaps' though - areas for improvement - important football matches being played, but not being shown. As well as this there is also the matter of Free-to-Air coverage. Pay-tv is always going to be the only place for the dedicated football fan, but it would be nice to see a little more football coverage on the FTA networks. These are the two topics this blog will be addressing - how hardcore fans can be catered for with more comprehensive coverage via pay-tv, and how some basic level of coverage can be provided for those without foxtel. Here it is, the 3rd, and final, part to my blog on Australian football broadcasting.

Part 3 - The Future

Free-to-Air Football:

Anyone with pay-tv will know how great it is for football fans. From watching 5 EPL games at once on Saturday nights, to guranteed live coverage of every A-league game. There are some, however, that truly cannot afford pay-tv. While for others, it's not a priority. There are plenty of 'casual' fans out there - who may only be interested in watching a game every now and then, it's completely understandable that you don't want to pay $50 a month, just for that.

Pay-tv also suffers from not being as accesible as FTA. You can pay to have Foxtel installed in your house, but if you happen to be on holidays, at a friends house etc - then there's no guarantee you will have access to foxtel. You can't just plug an antenna into a TV and start watching. Therefore, I believe that one way football broadcasting in this country really needs to be improved, is through more FTA coverage.

So what coverage of football would be best suited to FTA television? I've talked previously about all the advantages pay-tv has when showing football, and about the problems with FTA. This is why I would suggest that, rather than showing extensive live coverage of football, FTA networks should get hold of highlights packages.

This would be the best way for one of the big commercial networks to get a piece of the A-league. Coverage would suffer if games were shown live on FTA TV - you only need to look at Seven's recent coverage of the Olympic football to see this. If showing a highlights program, however, ad breaks are natural, and if the timeslot gets moved around a bit it's not a big deal.

Let me discuss a few points of interest regarding football on FTA:

- A-league/Socceroos

The A-league, along with Socceroos matches, are the showpiece for Australian football - and I think it would be good to see some coverage on FTA

Hypothetically, I think this would work well for the A-league:

- Fox Sports shows all A-league games live over the weekend
- Fox Sports produces a 40 minute highlights show, airing on Fox Sports on Monday Evening (around 6pm)
- Channel Nine (maybe 7 or 10) then shows this program at 10:30pm on Monday night

It would give the A-league some FTA exposure, while Fox Sports would still pay big money to keep exclusive live coverage, also fans wouldn't have to worry about coverage suffering as it would all still be produced by Fox Sports.

The reason I mention Channel Nine as a potential destination for the A-league, is that Nine have expressed interest in the past. Channel Nine have approached Fox Sports twice, first before the 2007-08 season, and again earlier this year - trying to convince Fox to give them rights to show 1 game each week. Channel 9 shows cricket during the Summer, but generally cricket matches are played on Friday and Sunday nights (apart from Test matches, which are finished by 6pm) so Nine sees a Saturday night A-league game as a perfect fit.

It was rumored that, on their second attempt to get some A-league rights from Fox, Nine were prepared to pay a few million dollars just for 1 game a week. Fox turned down the offer, which is not suprising because Foxtel is always very keen to keep exclusive content.

Although it led anywhere yet, this is a strong indication of the interest that is there from commercial networks. I would expect that we will not get any significant coverage of the A-league on FTA untill the TV rights are next negotiated by the FFA (even then, Fox may be prepared to pay through the nose for exclusive rights), but it is good to know that there is at least interest from the FTA networks. If nothing else, it will drive up the price for TV rights in a few years, which can only help Australian football.

Personally I would rather Nine make a move for rights to Socceroos matches - simply because I think the Socceroos are the perfect team to promote football in Australia - and it would be good if all Australians could watch them play. There has been talk that Nine wants to show the Socceroos' remaining World Cup qualifiers, but it doesn't seem likely that this will eventuate any time soon.

It is very likely that in 2014, when the current TV rights deal has finished, we will see at least some A-league coverage, and some Socceroos coverage on FTA TV. Whether or not it happens before then is entirely in the hands of Fox Sports and Foxtel. Fox has every right to try and hang onto one of it's top products, but it would be nice if they were to (at least) try and help out football in this country by giving FTA networks some amount of coverage. One could argue, that if there was an A-league highlights show on FTA, it would be a great advertisement for Fox Sports and Foxtel.

Ideally, I would encourage Fox Sports to make a deal with Channel 9 (if 9 are willing), and have Nine broadcast a weekly A-league highlights program, as well as delayed coverage of Socceroos matches. Fox would still be the only place to watch live football, but with a bit of football on FTA, it would surely grow the game.

- SBS... Where to from here?

SBS have long been the only FTA network to take football seriously, unfortunately the amount of football they show continues to dwindle. Their weekly Sunday afternoon football programming, known as "The World Game", is still the only weekly football programing on Australian FTA TV - long may it continue.

It does need some improvement though, the "Football Feature" part of the show is a great idea in theory, but the fact that the game played is usually from the middle of the previous week, or a week beforehand, is a little dissapointing. SBS should try and negotiate a deal with Setanta (who have proven a friend of SBS lately) so that they replay one of Setanta's matches from the night before.

Setanta has rights to the top leagues in France, Germany, Italy and Scotland and now has the rights to the FA Cup, as well as international football. Setanta would, in exchange for some free advertising and a bit of money, be happy for SBS to take one of these games each week, and replay it as their 'football feature'. SBS needs to make this happen.

Although it has dwindled lately, SBS has managed to keep some live coverage of football. Apart from tournaments like the FIFA World Cup and Euro 2008, SBS' only regular live coverage is from the UEFA Champions League and the UEFA Cup. In a worrying sign for SBS, their rights to the Champions league expire at the end of the current season, and if rumors are to be believed - they are unlikey to extend these rights, as coverage will go to only one provider, and SBS can't compete with the likes of ESPN financially. I really hope this is not the case, and I hope SBS does whatever they can to maintain rights to at least 1 game a week from Europe's premier club competition.

It has been suggested that one way for SBS to get back some football coverage would be to show local state leagues and grassroots Australian competitions. Personally I disagree with this - SBS is a world broadcaster, and in my view should focus on overseas football. One way they could do this better would be to have a weekly wrap of all the big football leagues around the world. I'm not talking about what they already do on "The World Game", I'm talking about a more in-depth show, dedicated exclusively to world football. The best timeslot for a show like this would be on Monday nights. They could look back at all the weekend's action, show highlights from all the different leagues (thanks to the fairly open media rules in Australia, they would be allowed to quickly go through leagues like the EPL and show all the goals, without paying for any rights), give an update on league tables, and keep all fans up to date with how their club is going. I think this type of show that would be well suited to FTA and SBS.

As far as other content goes, SBS needs to try and hang on to their FIFA rights for as long as possible (currently they have the rights to all FIFA tournaments untill 2014), or at least share these rights with a bigger commercial network - it will be difficult for SBS to keep exclusive rights to the World Cup after the ratings they enjoyed in 2006. Euro 2008 was also a nice coup for SBS, and I hope they do everything they can to have some coverage of all European Championships in the future - it's the type of tournament that belongs on FTA (at least in part).

I have enjoyed SBS's occasional broadcasts of Olyroos/Matildas matches over the past couple of years, and I hope they continue with those sorts of games, but I really do think it's time for SBS to focus a little more on international football, rather than Australian football. Of course the problem with this is that they are the only ones on FTA who talk about football at all, which is why I really hope another channel invests in some football programming - as I talked about above with the A-league and Socceroos.

- W-league

The Women's A-league (or W-league) is set to kick off this October, and it will have a broadcaster. I am 95% sure that it will be broadcast on FTA TV. The quality might not be up there with the A-league, but it will be very refreshing to see some regular coverage of Australian football on FTA. The broadcaster will either be SBS or the ABC, and I'm hoping that it ends up being ABC (as seems likely). ABC has broadcast netball and women's basketball in the past, and I think the W-league would be a good fit for the ABC.

It is likely we will see a Friday night game shown live on ABC2, with a replay over the weekend on ABC1. If we are really lucky, the ABC might show two games a week, maybe a live Sunday afternoon game - but that remains to be seen. You can expect an announcment to be made regarding the W-league broadcast rights within a week or two - probably next week.

- Is football big enough for FTA?

Many accuse the FTA networks of treating football like junk, there is no doubt that some networks have tried to prevent the sport from growing, but nonetheless, the FTA networks won't ignore football forever. The executives of Seven, Nine and Ten are just starting to see that football is indeed a product that can make them money.

In the past it has been NRL and AFL that have been the most sought after sports for the FTA networks, but they each have their problems - namely that neither is popular nationwide. Seven/Ten payed a huge amount for the AFL TV rights last year, but although the AFL makes them a lot of money, it doesn't really help their ratings in New South Wales or Queensland. This is causing FTA networks to look at football as a potentially superior product to both the NRL and AFL.

During the past year or so, football has had the occasional chance to prove how well it can rate - in 2005/2006 the Socceroos smashed ratings records for SBS and late-night viewing, more recently the LA Galaxy v Sydney FC match last year rated well for Ten, and Seven and SBS both had good viewing figures for football during the recent Beijing Olympics (as terrible as Seven's coverage may have been). I'm sure that FTA networks will be keen to continue to experiment with football coverage, and if they continue to get good figures, the FFA could be looking at a very big pay-day when the rights are next negotiated in 2013-2014.

I'll talk a little more about FTA TV when I look at an 'ideal scenario' later on, but now I'm going to look at pay-tv, and how it could (or will) be improved in the coming years:

Expansion of Pay-TV Coverage:

If you read my last blog you'll know all about how important I think pay-tv is in the football broadcasting 'picture'. I discussed in that blog a little about the future, and what could be done to provide an even better level of coverage - now I'm going to talk about some specific improvements that need to, or that could be made.

- More Channels?

Foxtel is planning to add as many as 20 new channels next year, so the chances of more sports channels for pay-tv subscribers are fairly good. Here's some of the channels we could potentially see:

- Eurosport Asia Pacific

Eurosport Asia Pacific, a channel already avaliable to Australian viewers through Selectv, is one possibility (discussed in my previous blog). The channel is likely to feature extensive coverage of all FIFA youth and womens tournaments. Eurosport and FIFA have an agreement, which allows Eurosport to broadcast the Beach Soccer World Cup, Futsal World Cup, Womens World Cup and the Men's and Womens Under 20 and Under 17 World Cups.

I am still not 100% certain if this also applies to Eurosport Asia Pacific - we will see later this year when the Futsal World Cup and the Womens Under 20 and Under 17 World Cups are played. Hopefully Eurosport extends this deal beyond 2010, so that we can always have good coverage of these tournaments.

Apart from FIFA tournaments, we could also see coverage of UEFA tournaments (like the Under 19 European Championships), the African Nations Cup and other international matches. Potentially we could even see coverage of the UEFA Cup or some European domestic football.

- Sky Sports News

Another potential new channel, with a lot of football content, is Sky Sports News. For a brief period last year, Fox Sports News used to take a feed from Sky Sports News between midnight and 6am, so Australian viewers have see the channel before. It appears likely that it may become a full time channel on Foxtel next year. If this happens, we will be completely set as far as results and live updates go, although Sky Sports News only has limited access to footage.

- Fox Sports Football Channel

There have been some rumors during the past year or so regarding a dedicated football channel from Fox Sports. It would make a lot of sense, given the amount of football that Fox Sports has access to now now - and the rumors about other content they might be interested in.

Whether or not the rumors have any basis is another matter, but here's some of the content the channel could potentially have:

- A-league
- EPL (With additional coverage/analysis from Sky Sports UK)
- Coca-Cola Championship
- Asian Champions League (more games shown with interactive coverage)
- Socceroos Matches
- International Asian Football
- Asian World Cup Qualifiers
- Youth/Womens Asian Tournaments
- Olyroos/Matildas/Young Socceroos games
- Asian Club Football
- J-league (which Fox Sports already has the rights to)
- K-league
- Chinese Super League
- Major League Soccer (Coverage from Fox Soccer channel in the US)
- South American Football (Argentine or Brazilian Leagues)
- A nightly wrap of all things football

There's no denying that the potential for a channel is there. Unfortunately the rumors I have heard regarding this channel are that, although it was being considered by Fox Sports, they have decided not to go ahead with the plan. However the recent launch of a new show from Fox Sports (Fox Sports FC) did fuel a bit more speculation. If you look at the show's logo, it does look suspiciously similar to the logo of the american, "Fox Soccer Channel".

Fox Sports Football Channel, prehaps?

- More channels from Setanta

Despite not being an 'official' Foxtel channel, Setanta Sports has made quite an impact, and has already gained some popularity since it's move onto foxtel a little under a year ago. The major problem with Setanta (as discussed on my previous blog), is that there is just not enough air time for the vast amount of football that they could be showing. It has, therefore, been suggested that Setanta will be looking at an additional channel in Australia before too long. My feeling is, however, that we won't see this for at least 12 months. Hopefully it will happen one day though.

- Other Potential New Channels

There are a number of channels that you can recieve in several countries, such as Gol TV (an American channel) and Goal TV (an Asian Channel), if Foxtel is looking to expand it's channel lineup, it wouldn't be too hard to rebroadcast one of these channels for Foxtel viewers. I have heard no specific rumors, but we will see.

It would also be fairly easy for Foxtel to include specific club channels in it's lineup. Real Madrid TV is already avaliable on Selectv, it's definately possible that other channels like this could one day end up on Foxtel.

One more thing to mention is foreign language channels. While probably not of interest to most, there are several channels on Selectv and UBI World TV (two small satellite operators) that offer football coverage from smaller countries, in that countries local language. Foxtel already has a couple of channels like this -RAI International and Antenna Pacific, which show coverage from the Italian (granted, that's a big league) and Greek leagues - expect more of this on Foxtel in the next few years.

There are a few other channels that would make sense, maybe ESPN2, Fox Sports 4 would be nice, but this is just pure speculation.

- Expanded Coverage

Football coverage on Foxtel is fairly comprehensive, but I'm now going to discuss it's shortcomings, and where coverage will (and could) be improved over the next few years.

- Asian Football

This is one big area where I think coverage needs to improve. It would be great to see some coverage of the J-league and K-league in Australia - and it would be great to see more coverage of the Asian Champions leauge as well as other AFC tournaments. Coverage of Asian football is probably going to have to come from Fox Sports, or maybe SBS. ESPN and Setanta are both focused pretty heavily on European football, and that's probably appropriate. Fox Sports, however, have rightly developed a bit of a focus on Asian football lately.

Starting next month, Fox Sports will have coverage of every single Asian World Cup qualifier as the road to 2010 reaches it's climax. This is exactly the sort of coverage that I would like to see more of. Much of it will be at a good time of day for Australian viewers, and I think Asian football is great to watch - of course the Asian region is now very relevant to Australia since we joined the AFC.

Hopefully Fox continues to expand it's coverage of Asian club and international football, but with their limited resources they are never going to be able to really cover Asian football comprehensively. This is why Fox needs to make use of the resources of other networks like Star Sports. Better yet, Foxtel could see if they can get ESPN Star to start an Australian version of Star Sports (that would focus on Asian football, as well as cricket and other Asian Sport from ESPN Asia/Star Sports Asia). Virtually every country in Asia has access to Star Sports, and it would be awsome if Australia did as well. The amount of quality sports content from ESPN Asia and Star Sports is huge, and it's a great potential source of content for Foxtel.

- European Football

Most big European leagues are now covered in some form, hopefully with more channels this coverage will continue to improve. There are, however, a couple of leagues that aren't being covered, that prehaps should be.

The Russian league is fast becoming the 6th biggest league in Europe, and games are played at a fairly decent timeslot for Australian viewers, so it would be nice to see some coverage from Russia. I'm not sure which channel would be most likely to pick up the rights, prehaps Fox Sports would consider covering it, but I would rather see coverage on Setanta - or maybe even Eurosport.

The UEFA Champions League is something I've always loved to watch, and I'm a little dissapointed that we still don't get great coverage of it here. ESPN shows most champions league games, but a lot of their coverage is delayed, and neither SBS or ESPN even has widescreen coverage or European commentators. If Fox Sports were to buy the rights to the champions league, they could take coverage from Sky Sports UK, use viewers choice, and provide coverage worthy of such a great competition. In 2009 the rights to the champions league are up for grabs, chances are that only one broadcaster will win the rights - so I really hope Fox Sports spends the money and picks up this competition.

If it stays on ESPN, as expected, I hope that they will start a second channel and show at least 2 games at once - that would at least be an improvement. If Setanta manages to get the rights, at least we should see widescreen coverage, but the chances of multiple games being on at once is fairly low.

- South/North American Football

With Setanta, we now get decent coverage of the two big South American club competitions, and ESPN have coverage of the MLS, but it would be good to see coverage from the Argentine or Brazilian leagues. I don't know who is most likely to show these leagues, but hopefully someone picks them up.

It would also be good if Fox Sports could start showing some of the MLS. ESPN only ever shows games that they also show in the US, and Fox could pick up the rights to games that are shown on Fox Soccer channel in the US. Fox Soccer channel is another potential source of programming for Fox Sports - especially for North/South American football - Fox Sports should definately look to make use of their resources.

An Ideal Scenario:

Now that I've said all I wanted too about broadcasting of football in Australia, I'm going to wrap everything up by presenting my 'ideal scenario' for which channels should have which riawqzxghts, which new channels should be launched etc. Here's what I would like to see:

- FTA:


- Coverage of the W-League. (1-2 Live games a week, maybe a highlights show)
- Coverage of State Leagues/Local Competitions (probably only to local markets)
- Coverage of Womens/Youth National Teams. (Although I'd be happy for these to be shown on Pay-TV)


- FIFA World Cups (Possibly with a commercial network), Confederations Cups, Other FIFA Tournaments
- European Championships
- UEFA Champions League and UEFA Cup
- FA Cup (Personally I'd like them to show this more extensively)
- Highlights from big European Leagues

- Commercial Network(s)

- Socceroos Matches (Delayed coverage of Friendlies and Asian Cup Qualifiers, Live World Cup qualifiers)
- Asian Cup (With Fox Sports)
- Highlights of the A-league (maybe some live coverage)
- Asian Champions League (either highlights or 1 game per matchday)

- Pay-tv:

- Fox Sports (1,2, 3 and 4)

- A-league (all games live, plus highlights, extensive coverage)
- A-league Youth League (maybe a game a week live, plus highlights)
- Asian Champions League (all games live with viewers choice)
- Asian Cup (all matches live, as well as coverage of qualifiers)
- Socceroos Matches (all games live)
- Other Asian Football (World Cup qualifiers, Youth Asian Cups, Womens Asian Cups etc.)
- English Premier League (most games live, highlights of all games, extended analysis etc. with content from Sky Sports)
- English Lower-Leagues and League Cup
- UEFA Champions League (Most games live)
- Major League Soccer


- Spanish La Liga
- Italian Serie A (Premium Coverage)
- UEFA Cup
- Major League Soccer
- International football from Europe/North America

- Setanta Sports (1 and 2)

- Scottish Premier League
- French Ligue 1
- Italian Serie A (Lower quality games)
- German Bundesliga
- Dutch Eredivisie
- Portuguese Liga
- English Conference
- FA Cup
- International Football from Europe and South America
- Copa Libertadores, Copa Sudamericana
- Copa America (South American Nations Cup)
- Brazilian and Argentine Leagues

- Eurosport Asia Pacific

- FIFA Tournaments (Womens, Youth, smaller tournaments)
- UEFA Tournaments (Womens, Youth tournaments)
- African Nations Cup
- Russian League
- Coverage from smaller European leagues
- Club football from Africa
- International football from Europe and Africa

- Star Sports Australia (I don't think it's really likely we will get this channel, but it would be nice)

- J-league
- K-league
- Chinese Super League
- West-Asian leagues
- AFC Cup
- Gulf Cup
- East Asia Cup

- Other International football from Asia

Wrap-Up, Final Remarks

Well, that's it. I have said all I wanted to about football broadcasting in Australia. I will definately do more blogs on the subject at some point, when new deals are made, more broadcast rights come up for negotiation etc, but for now - that is the end.

Some would ask why I would spend so much time on such a series of blogs. The answer is that they aren't really intended to be blogs that I will read right through. I intended them more as a record of where we are at at the moment - it will be very interesting to read this again in a few years, and see how far we have come - to see if we still have the same sort of problems, or if my ideal scenario has been achieved. I would hope that within 10 years or so we will be able to take it for granted that any significant game of football will be shown live - I can't wait for the day when I can just turn on the TV and always be able to watch live football from somewhere in the world.

But for now, the situation really isn't that bad - as I have outlined there are many areas which need to be improved, but even since I started thinking about and writing this blog there have been significant improvements. Let's hope the situation continues to improve untill that ideal scenario can be reached. Let's also hope that the FFA can continue to get more money from TV rights, so that Australian football and the A-league can benefit.

Bye for now,

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Australian Football Broadcasting - Part 2

The great thing about football being the world game, is that there's so much of it. So many leagues, competitions, cups and tournaments all over the world. Have you ever been to a site like On any given day there are at least 10 to 20 games of football scheduled, and on weekends there can be a couple of hundred. So much football that you would need several dedicated football TV channels running 24 hours a day (with no repeats) to be able to show every game. This is why, in order to have even remotely comprehensive coverage of football, pay-tv is going to have to play a major part.

You see free-to-air television has some inherent problems. FTA networks make money through advertisers, thus what is important to them is not viewer satisfaction, not even ratings, but advertising revenue. A FTA network could, for example, pick up some coverage to the English Premier League. They could show a live game each week late on Saturday nights. Their ratings at 1am on Sunday mornings would improve substantially, but when you consider the price to buy rights and produce coverage of the Premier League, the small increase in advertising revenue would not be enough to make coverage viable. Therefore, for a FTA network to actually make money out of sports broadcasting, they need to be pulling substantial ratings - an improvement in ratings is not enough.

Now I'm not going to claim that pay-tv channels like Fox Sports care deeply about their viewers, or that they have some moral superiority to FTA networks, but the fact is that the majority of their revenue comes straight from viewers - meaning they are forced to put viewer's satisfaction first. It's why pay-tv makes sense, and it's why hardcore football fans will always need pay-tv to be able to get comprehensive football coverage. And so, here is part 2 of my blog on Australian Football broadcasting, regarding coverage of football on Australian pay-tv.

Part 2 - Football on Pay-TV

In Australia, the major player in the subscription TV industry is Foxtel. Over 60% of subscribers in Australia get their TV from Foxtel, and the vast majority of the other 40% receive pay-tv through Austar or Optus, companies that feature Foxtel's channel lineup. The result is that there is very little competition when it comes to pay TV in Australia. This has it's disadvantages, but I'd rather the current situation to how it used to be, with several different pay TV companies having different channels and different football coverage - meaning nobody would get complete coverage. There are small pay TV companies like Selectv, which are so insignificant that they can't really be considered competition for Foxtel, although they do have some limited football coverage.

On Foxtel, there are 3 main networks that provide football coverage. Fox Sports, ESPN and Setanta Sports. To get access to Fox Sports and ESPN, one needs to pay an extra $18 a month (on top of a basic subscription). Setanta costs an extra $15 a month for Foxtel viewers and $6 month for Austar viewers. (Austar viewers need to have Fox Sports and ESPN before being allowed to access Setanta).

Fox Sports:

Fox Sports is Australia's biggest sports network, it is actually made up of several different channels - Fox Sports 1, Fox Sports 2, Fox Sports 3, Fox Sports News and Fuel TV (an extreme sports network). Fox Sports also has access to a 6th channel (Main Event Channel, channel 518 on Foxtel), which they can use if they have a full schedule or want to broadcast an event exclusively to selected areas of Australia.

Since the late 90s, when Fox Sports was just getting started - the network has broadcast the English Premier League. Since then, the premier league has been a key part of Fox's lineup. As well as this, Fox has also had a little coverage of other football, notably the European Championships in 2004, which they broadcast exclusively.

In 2005, when the A-league was created, Fox Sports took somewhat of a risk and guaranteed to broadcast at least two games each week live. Within a few months they had extended this commitment to now show every game live, and were quickly negotiating with the FFA to extend their exclusive deal. The A-league was a massive hit for Fox Sports, and saw football become one of their most important products. In 2006 Fox signed a deal that gave them exclusive rights to the A-league, Asian Champions league, Asian Cup, Socceroos games as well as the Japanese J-league untill 2013. For these rights, Fox Sports payed $120 million - or around $17 million a year.

The A-league quickly became a ratings success for Fox, in it's first year it's ratings were better than the Super 14 (a rugby competition Fox also has exclusive rights too), which had already been around for several years. Although generally not matching the AFL or NRL for ratings during the regular season, the ratings for the A-league finals series (especially the grand final) were huge. Fox doesn't have live coverage of the AFL or NRL finals, and so Fox were very happy to have exlusive coverage of the A-league finals. The 2006/2007 A-league grand final was, at the time, the highest ever rating event on Australian pay-tv, drawing over 250,000 viewers.

Fox really saw how valuable their investment had been when they had exclusive coverage of the 2007 Asian Cup. The record for most pay-tv viewers was smashed, over 419,000 watched the quarter final between Japan and Australia, a record that still stands. The ratings show how Fox Sports had (probably for the first time) managed to secure a really big event. To me the ratings are also an indicator of how many people had subscribed to Foxtel just for the football coverage. Foxtel quickly noticed this, and have invested extra money in the FFA and Australian football through a couple of sponsorship deals.

Currently, this is what Fox Sports broadcasts:

- Hyundai A-league

Fox's coverage of the A-league is really quite superb. Fox shows every game of the A-league live, with replays of every game, highlights on Monday nights and Total Football previewing the weekend's action every Thursday night.

For Friday night and Sunday afternoon games, Fox has a half-hour pre-game show which builds up to kick off nicely. There aren't really a lot of things I could criticise about Fox's coverage of the A-league. The commentary is good, the coverage is produced very well with good graphics etc. Prehaps the analysis is a bit lacking, but still isn't that bad.

- Socceroos Games

Fox broadcasts all Socceroos friendlies as well as Asian and World Cup qualifiers. All games are shown live, and are generally accompanied by an hour-long pre-game show and around 30 minutes of review after the game. Fox produces all home games, and will generally take a feed from a host broadcaster for away games. This means that for home games the quality of the broadcast is very good, while for away games the quality is variable.

Simon Hill commentates on all Socceroos games, along with Robbie Slater, both do a good job. Andy Harper usually hosts the coverage, he is okay, although probably isn't as comfortable being a host as he is doing special comments.

- Asian Cup

Fox had exclusive coverage of the 2007 AFC Asian Cup, showing every game, with 28 out of 32 games live. It was very good to see Fox showing this sort of commitment to Asian football, and it was thanks to them that we were able to see how good Asian football can be.

Fox actually provided commentary for most English language broadcasts around the world, and despite being stretched a little thin - the commentators did well.
You would hope that Fox's coverage of the next Asian Cup, in 2011, is as comprehensive as it was in 2007. With the ratings that the 2007 tournament pulled, you would expect that this will be the case.

- Asian Champions League

Fox's coverage of the Asian Champions league is decent. All games involving Australian teams are shown, usually live, although when the two games are played at the same time fox has often delayed one of them. Recently they have been using a viewers choice system, similar to that of the English Premier League, to ensure all games involving Australian teams are shown live.

In the group stages, no other games have been shown (so far), however last year they showed one game from each matchday in the knockout rounds, usually delayed, with live coverage of the final.
Hopefully it won't be too long before their coverage expands to include several more games, as I think the ACL is a great tournament and deserves good coverage.

- English Premier League

Fox's coverage of the EPL has stepped up a notch this season, a new interactive "viewers choice" application has allowed Fox to broadcast more than double the number of matches live than it has in the past. Of the 380 matches in a season, Fox now shows close to 300 live. That's very impressive, and Fox deserves a lot of credit for their innovation. As far as live coverage goes, Fox's coverage of the EPL is as good as comprehensive as you are likely to get, anywhere in the world.

In England there are strict rules about live broadcasting, and they will usually only get 3 or 4 games shown live each weekend. They do have delayed coverage of every game though, and that's something that Fox could improve upon. When a game is not shown live, there is really no coverage of it at all (other than a minute or two on the highlights show).

Another complaint I have is that Fox never replays any of the games that are broadcast via viewers choice. Even if you have a Foxtel IQ (a recording device), you can not record the active content, so unless you watch it live, you can not see coverage of many of the games Fox shows. The reason Fox does this is (unofficially) to promote it's online service, where people can watch these games on-demand (as well as live). Of course even Fox Sports subscribers must pay extra to access this service, I know that for me - it's just not convenient to watch games, in poor quality, on my PC.

Another problem with Fox's coverage is that occasionally there are some big games that are not shown at all. This doesn't happen often, usually around 9/10 games each weekend will be shown, but the choice of the games that are not shown seems (at times) strange. I understand that the rights Fox has for the EPL are complicated, and although I don't know the exact terms fo the contract - there is a maximum to the number of games, played by each club, that can be shown. Looking at the games Fox have missed this year, I would guess that there is a restriction on Fox's rights, which prevents them from showing at least one game played by each club over a period of a couple of months.

This wouldn't matter so much if Fox had highlights of every game the next day, however the EPL highlights show isn't shown untill Monday, so often you have to wait a couple of days to see all the goals from each game. It would be great if Fox could take programs from Sky Sports (such as "Goals on Sunday", which reviews the highlights of each game - which is shown on Sunday mornings in England, and could be shown on Sunday evenings in Australia).

Overall though, Fox's coverage is superb - Simon Hill does an excellent job of hosting coverage of the big games from the studio, with Robie Slater and Spencer Prior providing decent analysis. It is a shame that Fox's somewhat limited resources mean that the coverage is generally only hosted from the studio one night a week (or very rarely at all during daylight savings).

- Coca-Cola Championship/League Cup

Fox basically shows any games from the Coca-Cola Championship that are shown on Sky Sports in England. Generally they are shown live, occasionally on delay. They take their coverage straight from Sky Sports so it's top quality. It would be good to see a few more games broadcast, but that's not going to happen untill Sky are allowed to show more games in England.

Coupled with the rights for the Championship are the rights for the League Cup (or the Carling Cup as it's been know for the past few years). This year Fox showed a couple of games from the fourth round, and then every game from the quarter finals onwards. No complaints about this coverage, it's nice to watch as it's something a little different to league football.

- Other

One criticisim I have, at times, of Fox Sports is that they tend to sit on the rights that they have, with good coverage of things that they already have the rights too, but they tend to be reluctant to show 'extra' coverage. For example, last year the Olyroos went through a long campaign to qualify for the Beijing Olympics - despite coverage being produced of all their games for various Asian markets, Fox only showed one game during the entire campaign.

This was quite frustrating for fans like me, there were a couple of occasions when the A-league was scheduled not to clash with Olyroos games - for example when the Olyroos played North Korea in Newcastle, there was no A-league game scheduled for that Saturday Night. It would have been perfect for Fox to show the Olyroos game, however we were left with a night of no football to watch.

Similarly, this year Fox has been reluctant to show World Cup qualifiers played by anyone other than Australia. Fox has to buy rights to these games on an individual basis, which means it's more complicated for them. It's not like these rights would be expensive, but the process of obtaining them has stopped them from providing coverage of games that would be very good to watch, and would be at a very nice time for Australian viewers. There has been one exception so far, when Fox broadcast a World Cup qualfier between Qatar and Iraq, a game that impacted directly on the Socceroos. That was nice to see, but I'm hoping Fox steps up it's coverage over the next few years.

To be fair, over the past few months Fox has tended to be improving when it comes to 'extra' coverage. Since late last year, Fox have shown games like Wellington v LA Galaxy (friendly), North Korea v Olyroos (Olympic Qualifier), Sydney v LA Galaxy (Pan-Pacific Championships), Qatar v Iraq (World Cup qualifier) - which would all be considered 'extra' coverage, as Fox would have had to buy the rights to all these games individually. Fox also has coverage of Melbourne's friendly against Juventus later this week, so maybe these problems are behind them.


Fox Sports has indeed played a major part in Football finally becoming a mainstream sport in Australia. It is very doubtful that Australia could have a football league anything like as good as the A-league without the support that Fox Sports has given.

They could improve though, they do tend to have an English bias at times - it would be good if they could pick up coverage of some European football. Ideally they could pick up rights to Spain's La Liga, and take coverage from their English sister channel, Sky Sports. At the moment the Australian rights for La Liga are held by ESPN (see below), their coverage isn't great, and if we could get the same coverage that Sky provide in England it would be ideal.

On that topic, I think Fox Sports could be using the resources of Sky Sports a lot more than they currently do. If you've seen any of Fox's coverage of the Coca-Cola Championship, you will have seen one of Sky's broadcasts. The quality that Sky Sports brings to it's football coverage is second to none, the analysis, the commentators and the presentation is all first class.

Asian Sports TV channel, Star Sports - a sister channel of both Fox Sports and Sky Sports - uses a lot of content from Sky Sports. They rebroadcast many of Sky's shows and coverage, and even take a Sky feed for some Premier League games. During their news coverage, they will always show highlights from every game of the overnight Premier League and take the footage from Sky. Compare that to Fox Sports, who never show footage of the games they don't broadcast.

With Australian football's recent move into Asia, I for one would love to see Fox Sports forming stronger links with ESPN Star Sports (who run Star Sports as well as ESPN Asia), ESS have some great personalities and talented presenters and a lot of resources that Fox could use. I visited Singapore earlier this year and was very impressed by the quality of Star Sports and it's broadcasts.

Star Sports have a lot of similar content to Fox. They show the EPL, Asian Champions league, and other Asian football. For many of Adelaide and Melbourne's Asian Champions league games this year, Star Sports has flown their own commentators to Australia to commentate for Star's coverage. Star even provided commentary for a couple of the Olyroos games last year, providing coverage to most of Asia - we got no coverage in Australia. It would make a lot of sense if Fox and Star were to work together and share resources - they could share commentary duties for the ACL (prehapse ensuring we always have commentators at the games rather than in the studio), they could even work together to always have a studio panel for EPL coverage. With Fox Sports looking to expand it's coverage of Asian football, forming a partnership with and using the resources of ESPN Star Sports would be a very smart strategy.


The immediate future for Fox Sports involves the launch of a new channel, Fox Sports HD. As the name suggests, the channel will provide sport in high definition, and form part of Foxtel's launch of their new HD service. As far as football content goes, Fox Sports will soon have some A-league games as well as Socceroos matches broadcast in HD. English Premier League is not 100% confirmed, although it is very likely that at least some Premier League will be shown in HD next year. We'll have to wait and see how Fox's coverage looks in HD, needless to say it should mean a big increase in picture quality - anyone with a Plasma or LCD TV would certainly benefit from that.

ESPN is one of, if not the biggest, sports network in the world. It's main presence is in the US, where it has been popular amongst Americans since the early 80s. In the US it operates several channels, avaliable to more than 100 million homes. With it's various international ventures, it is accessible in over 150 countries. Really the only place ESPN doesn't have much of a presence is Europe, the only channel ESPN broadcasts anywhere in Europe is ESPN classic, a channel that simply shows replays of old and classic sports events.

At the moment, ESPN is attempting to further expand it's operations - recent acquisitions in Europe leave ESPN poised to further cement itself at the top of world sports broadcasting. Unfortunately ESPN, and the Walt Disney Company (who own ESPN), haven't yet invested a large percentage of their massive resources in ESPN Australia, the channel we can receive here. Hopefully this is changing, as ESPN are about to launch their first international High Definition channel in Australia.

This is what ESPN Australia broadcasts:

- La Liga

ESPN is the exclusive broadcaster of the Spanish league in Australia. Unfortunately their coverage does not match the quality of the football on display. The picture quality of ESPN is generally poor, but for La Liga it is terrible - it varies from game to game, but often it is almost unwatchable.

The commentary for La Liga is done from a studio in Bristol, in the US - as is virtually all commentary for football on ESPN. This is part of the reason the picture quality is so bad, the coverage has to go from Europe to Bristol, where commentary and the ESPN graphics are added before it gets to Australia. Along the way there are a couple of conversions between different formats - this is (partly) what causes the poor picture.

ESPN's commentators aren't the worst I've ever heard, although they can get annoying. Because they are never at the games when commentating, they can never describe the action quite as well as a commentator at the stadium could - plus the 'atmosphere' of the game is generally slighly diminished, as the crowd doesn't sound quite as lound as they normally do.

One thing that ESPN insists upon is using it's own graphics for matches, that means that when the host broadcaster has a scoreboard on the screen, ESPN has to cover it up. Usually this isn't a problem, but for La Liga the scoreboard tends to be the wrong shape for ESPN's graphics, and we end up getting pretty ugly looking graphics on the screen. It would be good to see ESPN just use the host broadcaster's graphics, and put their watermark in the corner - like most other channels do.

At least ESPN's coverage is relatively comprehensive, they usually broadcast 3-4 games a week, which isn't too bad. Usually all these games are live, although on occasion they will delay coverage in order to broadcast something like Sportscenter (a news program) - I think most would agree that this is pretty poor on ESPN's behalf - although they haven't done this for a while now.

One thing that is missing from ESPN's coverage is a highlights program or a wrap, that's certainly one thing I'd like to see. ESPN certainly have to make a lot of improvements with this coverage before I'd classify it as 'good'.

- Serie A

ESPN have just signed an agreement to broadcast the Italian Serie A in Australia. They don't have total rights, but they do have what are described as the 'premium' rights, which include home games played by the following clubs: AC Milan, FC Inter Milan, FC Juventus, Fiorentina, AS Roma, SS Lazio, Genoa, Cagliari, Catania and Torino. These are, generallly, the better clubs from the Serie A, so expect to see all the big games on ESPN next year.

Unfortunatley nobody held these rights for the just completed season, so although Setanta had coverage of some of the smaller games, we didn't get to see matches like the Milan Derby. ESPN did, however, manage to secure these rights for the last two weeks of the season, giving us a taste of what to expect next year. I thought the football on display was very good, but like ESPN's La Liga coverage, the picture quality wasn't great.

Part of the problem with the picture quality of the Serie A lies with the Italian broadcasters though. Sky Italia (the foxtel equivalent in Italy) does high definition coverage of the Serie A for it's Italian viewers, but these high quality pictures are not sent to other countries through the international broadcast feed - which is somewhat poor quality and not in widescreen. If they get their act together, maybe there's even a chance that ESPN HD might have Serie A in HD next season.

- UEFA Champions League

The coverage that ESPN does of the Champions league is quite a bit better than their La Liga coverage. The picture quality is decent (still a long way behind Fox Sports and Setanta), the coverage is fairly comprehensive (with replays, highlights, reviews etc.), however the commentary still leaves a little to be desired.

Personally I prefer to watch Champions League on ESPN, rather than on SBS, mainly because I don't like the commentators that SBS uses. It is a shame, however, that such a great tournament doesn't get the coverage it deserves in Australia. If Fox or Setanta were to get the rights, they would probably take coverage from Sky Sports (in the UK), which would see a dramatic improvement (we still don't even get it in widescreen).

- UEFA Cup

This year ESPN have stepped up their coverage of the UEFA Cup, coverage is shared between ESPN, Setanta and SBS, and although ESPN isn't as good as the other two broadcasters (who have widescreen coverage and good picture quality), their coverage is fairly comprehensive.

- FA Cup

This will be the last season the FA Cup will be on ESPN. For the 2008/2009 tournament, coverage will move to Setanta Sports. ESPN's coverage is okay, though still suffers from the same problems as their other coverage. Poor picture quality, somewhat poor commentators, no widescreen coverage etc. Their coverage has been relatively comprehensive. Here's hoping that Setanta will improve the coverage in all of these areas.

Incidently, it would be nice to see SBS covering a bit more of the FA Cup as well - at least the semis would be nice.

- Major League Soccer

There's no question that ESPN's best quality coverage is of the American domestic league, Major League Soccer. The picture quality doesn't suffer from the same problems as their European coverage, and the commentators are actually at the game - which makes a big difference.

Personally I find the MLS quite entertaining, obviously it's not up to European standard, but I still watch it every now and then. ESPN usually covers a live game on Thursday nights (shown on Friday mornings here). It would be good to see a little more coverage here and there, and some kind of highlights show would be nice, but 1 game a week is probably enough for me.

- Internationals

ESPN will usually pick up coverage of a couple or international friendlies or qualification games during an international week. ESPN holds the exclusive rights to England's home matches, although those rights will pass to Setanta (along with the FA Cup rights) in August. Other games they show often involve Germany, Ireland or Sweden - although these rights are decided on a game-by-game basis, so it's hard to predict what games they might show. Between ESPN and Setanta, however, it is likely that most of the bigger games will always be covered.

Because coverage for these games come from different sources, picture and sound quality are varied, although ESPN will still always use their commentators from Bristol. Generally, their coverage is fairly poor.

ESPN also shows home games played by the United States national team, the coverage for these games is similar to their MLS coverage, and is quite decent.


Like Fox Sports, ESPN also has a High Definition channel coming soon. It will be interesting to see how this improves their coverage. Obviously their coverage of American sports (including the MLS) will come to us in beautiful high definition, however whether or not the Champions league or La Liga are shown in high definition is another question. It's certainly possible, as I know that some of La Liga is avaliable in HD in the US, through a channel called "World Sport HD". The Champions league is avaliable in HD in the UK, so maybe there is a chance we will also be getting HD coverage here. We will have to wait and see though.

As part of launching ESPN HD, ESPN has installed a new fibre-optic link between the US and Australia, which will soon be used to send both ESPN HD and the standard ESPN channel to Australia. Hopefully this will also mean that the standard ESPN channel is improved, maybe even going widescreen.

On a more global scale, it will be very interesting to see what ESPN does in the next few years. There have been rumors that ESPN is interested in buying Setanta Sports - ESPN has already bought the North American Sports Network (a channel avaliable in Europe), which was previously owned by Setanta. ESPN plans to relaunch the NASN as ESPN Europe, if they were to purchase Setanta Sports, ESPN would quickly become a major player in the European sports tv market - the one market where they don't already have a significant prescence.

The impact on Australia? Well that also remains to be seen, the obvious advantage would be that ESPN would be forced to establish a proper European base. That would mean we need no longer be forced to get all our coverage through Bristol, and could take coverage of European sport straight from Europe - fixing a lot of ESPN's problems. I will wait untill I see ESPN HD before saying whether or not this is needed, but something certainly needs to be done, because at the moment ESPN Australia is poor.

One other comment I will make is again in regards to Asia. ESPN runs a channel in Asia that is really fantastic. They take their coverage straight from Europe, with European commentators, and some of the shows they have like Sportscenter Asia are superb. Like Fox Sports, I think there are some major untapped resources that the Australian channel could use here.

Setanta Sports:

Setanta is still relatively new on the scene in Australia. They are originally an Irish channel, but have quickly become established in many countries around the world - specifically the UK, US and now Australia. They have been in Australia for a couple of years now, but it's still only been 6-8 months since they were made avaliable to most Australians through the major pay-tv providers - Foxtel and Austar. As soon as they were on Foxtel, they made a big impact on Australian football fans - as there is now a whole lot of football coverage that was never avaliable before. Here's what they broadcast:

- Scottish Premier League

In the United Kingdom, Setanta hold exclusive broadcast rights to the Scottish Premier League, so you can imagine that this is a big product for them, and hence their coverage is of high quality. It isn't quite up to the standards of their main English rivals, Sky Sports, but we don't generally get Sky's coverage here - so for Australian viewers, Setanta's coverage of the SPL is probably superior to the coverage we get of any other league.

A fair percentage of games that are shown in the UK are also shown here, usually live. Setanta also has a couple of good wrap-up/highlights shows.

- Bundesliga

Setanta holds the Australian rights to the German Bundesliga. I think the German league is a really good one to watch, it's the most attended football league in the world - and the great atmosphere at the games is evident while watching on TV.

Setanta's coverage leaves a little to be desired - firstly, it's not in widescreen. This is a shame, because all games are shot and produced in widescreen (some in HD) by Premiere (The main pay-tv company in Germany/Austria), but Setanta doesn't get this widescreen feed. (update - this is actually because the widescreen feed has a scoreboard graphic right in the top corner, and it would be cut off if you don't have a widescreen TV - I think it's time to modernise, if you have a 4:3 TV you should just watch the program in letterbox mode - widescreen makes such a difference if you have a big TV) Setanta also holds the rights to the Bundesliga in the UK, so it's a little suprising that they haven't been able to get widescreen coverage from Germany yet - hopefully we will see it next year.

Commentary is usually fine, Setanta usually uses their own commentators if they are also showing the game in the UK, but otherwise we get a single commentator (supplied, I believe, by Gol TV, who show Bundesliga in the USA), who usually isn't as good.

My major complaint with Bundesliga coverage is, however, the level of coverage. Setanta usually has 2-3 games a weekend from Germany, always a Friday Night game (Saturday morning for us), as well as another game or two on Saturday/Sunday - sometimes live, sometimes delayed.

They also have a highlights show during the week, which is good, although isn't well put together and good be a lot better than it is - Setanta doesn't produce this show though so I won't go into specifics - hopefully it is improved within a few years.

- Serie A

Setanta have the rights to the "lower quality" Serie A games. Their coverage is pretty standard, no widescreen picture, standard English commentator. Setanta doesn't cover the Serie A anywhere else in the world, so we don't get any sort of fancy coverage here in Australia.

Their coverage of live games isn't that comprehensive, but given that they only have the lower quality games you can hardly blame them for often giving other leagues priority. They do have a highlights show, which shows highlights from all matches, which is well worth watching. Like the Bundesliga highlights show, it's not all that well put together.

- Ligue 1

Like the English Premier League, the French Football Federation outsources production of all the games in the top league to IMG Media and their sports arm, TWI. TWI produces coverage of all games in Ligue 1, with a highlights show just like they do the EPL. Like the EPL, coverage is always in widescreen and is top quality - often the commentators are even the same as the commentators used for TWI's EPL coverage.

Setanta do a decent job of their Ligue 1 coverage, usually they will show 2-3 games a week, sometimes live, sometimes on a slight delay. They also broadcast the highlights show, which is good quality - and very similar to the EPL highlights show that you can see on Fox Sports.

- Eredivisie

The coverage that Setanta do of the Dutch Eredivisie is superb. The coverage is always in widescreen, and very well put together. The commentators are provided by Setanta (they also broadcast games in the UK) and are very good.

Usually there are one or two games shown every week, often there is a live game on Sunday nights (usually not to late, which is good for Australian viewers) with maybe a replay of another game or two during the week. The highlights/review show is also very good - unlike other highlights shows, it is very simple - really you just get to see 5 minutes of highlights from every game.

- Portugese Liga

Setanta also has the rights to the Portugese Liga. Their coverage is fairly decent, although the picture quality is somewhat poor. They usually show one game a week.

- Blue Square Premier League

Setanta holds the rights to the English Conference (The 5th tier of English Football - otherwise known as the Blue Square Premier League) in the UK. We get some coverage here as well. The good thing about this league is that being so low level, they don't take international breaks and often play at times that the big leagues don't have games scheduled. The football isn't that great to watch, and personally I've never sat through a game, but if nothing else is on, it might just be worth watching.

Setanta's coverage is very good, they are allowed complete access to games and will interview players while on the bench, coaches during the game, players in the dressing rooms after the game etc. You will often find a couple of Blue Square Premier League games shown on weekday mornings, and occasionally a game on Saturday night when there is no higher level football on. They also show the play-offs at the end of the year, which are always exciting.

- UEFA Cup

Setanta shares the complicated rights to the UEFA Cup with SBS and ESPN. Setanta's coverage is again very good, however they can only show coverage of live games from the earlier stages of the competition.

- Copa Sudamericana/Copa Libertadores

For the first time this year, Australians have finally got to see some live coverage from the two major South American club competitions. Their coverage is nothing special - poor picture quality, your standard South American commentator who barely speaks English (although he does add a South American feel to the games), but the football is good and it's just good to see some live coverage of these tournaments.

During the early stages of the tournaments their coverage has been a little lacking - usually only one game has been shown per matchday, but as the tournaments progress they have been showing a few extra games. It's enough for me, but South Americans living in Australia would probably like to see a little more coverage.

- Club TV Content

In Europe, the football clubs are so big and so popular that they run their own cable tv channels. Setanta has signed deals with several of these clubs to rebroadcast content from these channels in Austrlaia. Clubs that Setanta have signed deals with include Chelsea FC, Man United, Rangers, Celtic and Barcelona.

Not only does Setanta broadcast various shows from each of these channels, but they are also allowed to show delayed coverage of all matches played by these clubs. That means that Setanta shows all Premier League games that Chelsea and Man United play, La Liga games involving Barcelona as well as Champions League games played by any of the five clubs. Occasionally there is also coverage of reserves matches and other club friendlies.

Funnily enough, Setanta's coverage of the Champions League is of much higher quality than SBS or ESPN provide. Okay the coverage is not live, but it's in widescreen with commentators from Sky Sports.

- Internationals

Setanta broadcasts a lot of international football. Rights to most international games are decided on a game-by-game basis, but Setanta seems to always deliver by securing the rights to a wide selection of matches. Obviously the quality of their coverage depends on host broadcasters, although I usually find their coverage is pretty good. The more common teams featured on Setanta include England (away games) Scotland, Wales, France, Spain, Turkey, Greece, with a few others.

As far as 'comprehensive' rights go, Setanta does hold rights to all South American World Cup qualifiers over the next couple of years. Setanta's coverage of these games have been very good - with most games shown live. The football on display is really good, not suprising with teams like Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Peru, Paraguay etc.

Setanta will also gain control of the rights to all England home matches later this year, which should see a great improvement in coverage compared with ESPN.

- Euro 2008

If you've only heard of Setanta Sports recently, it's probably because of Euro 2008. That's right, Setanta is the only place to watch every game of Euro 2008 in Australia. SBS does have some limited rights, but any serious football fan will really want to have access to Setanta this June. The beauty of Setanta is that any Foxtel and Austar subscribers can just ring up and subscribe for the month of June (and then cancel when the tournament is over). Unfortunately Setanta have added a sign-up fee, meaning that if you just want to subscribe for the duration of the Euros, then you have to pay $30, but still - it's pretty good value.

Setanta will show 28 games of Euro 2008 live, the only games not shown live occur when games are played simultaneously during the last group matches. The games not shown live on Setanta, however, will be shown live on SBS. Setanta will also have highlights, replays, analysis - in short, very comprehensive coverage of Euro 2008.

They will be taking their coverage from English broadcasters BBC and ITV, which some fans who remember channel 9 and their coverage of the 2002 World Cup might dread, but with no England team playing this time, we shouldn't see too much biased commentary.


There's no doubt that Setanta is a fantastic broadcaster. Although they do have some problems with their Australian channel, which is a little unprofessional in the way it is run, they do provide an amazing level of football coverage. Thanks to Setanta, we finally have football coverage that is up to the standards of other countries.

Where to now for Setanta? Well the biggest problem they have at the moment is really with air time. So much coverage, and only one channel to show it all. Some have suggested that a viewers choice system (see Fox Sports) is the best way to fix this, but I very much doubt this will ever happen (simply because it would require too much cooperation from Foxtel). It would be great to see Setanta Sports 2 one day, let's hope that happens eventually.

Other Channels/Sources:

The main players have been covered, but there's a couple of other channels or similar that I would like to briefly comment on.

- Eurosport Asia Pacific and Eurosportnews

Currently, if you have Foxtel, you will probably only recognise Eurosportnews. Eurosportnews is a channel on Foxtel that constantly loops through 15 minutes of sports news. It's a nice channel and occasionally it will have some good highlights from various tournaments, but content restrictions mean that Eurosportnews is far from comprehensive in what it covers.

Eurosport Asia Pacific is a new channel, that has recently begun broadcasting in (as you would expect) the Asia-Pacific region. If you are in Australia, the only way to receive it is through the low-cost pay-tv network, Selectv. There is, however, talk that a launch on Foxtel and Austar is a real possibility.

As far as football goes, Eurosport Asia Pacific does not actually have that much coverage of leagues etc. What they do have is coverage of tournaments. In January they were the exclusive broadcaster of the African Cup of Nations, and recently they have shown the UEFA Under 17 championships, the UEFA Under 19 Womens championships, and a mini tournament involving various under 21 teams. There's not a lot of 'big' football on Eurosport, but there's certainly plenty of, somewhat random, smaller tournaments - and if you are like me, you'll agree that any football is worth watching.

Of most interest to Australian fans, will be that Eurosport have signed an international agreement with FIFA, that will see them allowed to cover all youth FIFA tournaments. Now, SBS does hold the rights to these tournaments in Australia, but Eurosport's agreement means that any games not shown live on SBS can be shown on Eurosport. So we may one day see very good coverage from tournaments like the Under 20 World Cup through Eurosport.

Incidently, other sports that are covered include Motorsport, Cycling and Rugby - I, for one, would like to see it on Foxtel one day.

- The Internet

Okay, it's not pay-tv. However I did want to briefly mention the internet, which is a fast growing source for football viewing. I'm not going to talk about illegal streams of football games (although personally I find nothing wrong with illegally streaming football matches on the internet when they aren't even being shown on pay-tv - for example some Olyroos games), but there is an increasing trend towards live and legal streaming of football.

Fox Sports and Setanta both offer streaming of some content through their websites, Fox has live coverage of the English Premier League while the majority of Setanta's coverage is also avaliable on Setanta's website through a service named "Setanta Broadband". Obviously you have to pay for access to this content. Other places you could try for football content are UEFA (who stream the Champions League), (where you can find streams for several Asian leagues, AFC Champions league and Asian World cup qualifiers - however some content is restricted on a geographical basis).

If you are after free content, well there is one site that I have found very good - Sign up for a free account and you can watch Serie A, J-league as well as international football without paying a cent.

I'm sure that over the next couple of years, legal streaming on the internet is going to quickly become more and more common.

Final Summary:

So overall, how is Australia's coverage of football looking? Well I think that it's finally starting to look okay. Before Setanta coverage was very limited, but thanks to Setanta and their wide range of content, I am certainly fairly satisfied with the amount of football on Australian pay TV.

Where should things be improved? Well there's one big 'blank spot' I see when looking at the content we get - Asian football. We are now part of the Asian Football Confederation and it's a shame that we see very little coverage of the Asian leagues, or international Asian football. Particuarly as Asian football would fit in very well to the Australian timezone.

Fox Sports will need to play a big part in improving this situation, and hopefully within the next couple of years they will start to invest a little bit more in content from Asia, but I don't think they can do it alone. Ideally, we need to see content from the various Asian networks making it's way to Australia - maybe some of the channels that broadcast across Asia could also one day set up a channel in Australia.

Another thing I think our broadcasters could improve upon is taking coverage from overseas channels, and forming closer parnterships with them. This has been another thing that Setanta has been good at since starting in Australia. They tend to take coverage straight from overseas broadcasters (usually in the UK), including full analysis and commentary. Not only does this result in better coverage, but it's cheaper. I know channels like to have their own hosts and analysts for their coverage, but sometimes I think it would be better for everyone if they would just use the resources of larger overseas channels.

I still have one more blog to go on this topic (hopefully shorter), that will discuss more about the future and how I think football broadcasting in this country needs to progress. I will also use that blog to discuss various rumors that continue to surface surrounding broadcasting.

Bye for now,