The AFL rarely give an inch, so the banishing of the NAB Cup from Free To Air television will come as a major surprise to fans and cricket officials envious of the coverage the code receives in the Eastern states during the summer months.
Though the $1.253 billion television rights deal was signed late in April last year, the reality is that most football fans will only realise that the NAB Cup is not being shown on Channel 7 when they flick through the television guide at some stage this week.
Channel 7 will show the NAB Grand Final to be played a week out from the official AFL opening Round match between the Sydney Swans and Greater Western Sydney Giants, however by then 18 full and 18 half games will have been played.
Having Fox won’t guarantee coverage of many NAB Cup games as the pay television network is only covering matches played at major AFL venues.
Clubs like to play down NAB Cup results and we’ve become accustomed to under strength sides taking the field for what are glorified practice matches, but the lack of coverage leading into the AFL season will raise eyebrows, particularly in Victoria where AFL is in the news cycle 12 months of the year.
Given the advent of multiple digital stations, it’s surprising that the AFL didn’t negotiate for some NAB Cup coverage on Seven Two. For once it seems the AFL is guilty of selling its product short.