Football Federation Australia chairman Frank Lowy ruled out any A-League expansion for at least four years as he hailed the sport’s long-awaited multi-million dollar broadcast rights deal.
Lowy described it as a “bloody good day” and admitted there was a huge sense of relief as he unveiled the $160 million four-year deal on Monday.
“The former sleeping giant of Australian sport is awake. He’s out of bed, he’s in the street and now has some cash in his pockets,” new FFA chief executive David Gallop declared.
The deal will bring the A-League to free-to-air television for the first time with the rights to be shared between Foxtel, Fox Sports and SBS.
Beginning from the 2013/2014 season, SBS will show one live match every Friday in the deal that ends on July 1, 2017.
The deal delivers $148 million in cash to the game, with $12 million in advertising and marketing, and also means all Socceroos’ World Cup qualifiers will be shown on SBS.
The new funds will also allow the FFA to raise the grant it gives each club to cover the full $2.5 million cost of the salary cap, up from the current $1.9 million they receive.
Lowy however insisted A-League expansion was not on the cards anytime soon, saying keeping the current 10 clubs sustainable was the FFA’s priority.
He hailed the success of new side Western Sydney but admitted “we paid our price” after expansion clubs folded in both North Queensland and the Gold Coast.
“Unless some big present appears from somewhere we wouldn’t be increasing the teams between now and 2017.”
Lowy also foreshadowed a hard line in negotiations with the players’ union over a new collective deal, insisting that the “existing salary cap arrangements will not change.”
“As I understand, the current average salary is about $110,000. I don’t think that will increase greatly,” he said.
“They (players) have to do their own jobs … and not to try to gouge more from here and there … there’s not enough money for that.”
But with the current collective deal set to expire in April next year, the Professional Footballers Association boss Nick Holland remains “hopeful that when we embark on negotiations, there will be a good investment in supporting the players, who have contributed significantly to this outcome of this broadcast deal.”
Gallop revealed after seven rounds this season, the average crowd figures are up 32 per cent cent from last season with a 35 per cent increase in average TV audiences.
“This announcement comes at a time when the A-League is showing its true potential as the shop window of Australian football,” he said.
While big-name marquees like Italian star Alessandro Del Piero, former Liverpool striker Emile Heskey and Japanese playmaker Shinji Ono are a big part of the attraction, Fox Sports’ boss Patrick Delany insists they were not a factor in getting the deal over the line.
He did, however, say that having a team in Sydney’s west played a role.
“We were done before all that (marquees) came,” Delany said.
“It was very important to serve western Sydney so, yes, it was a factor.”
Lowy said some of the funds will be spent on arranging various international friendlies like the Socceroos’ recent game against South Korea in an effort to prepare the new crop of players coming into the national fold.