Who will decide on the A-League’s Friday night football?

West Roar Pro

By West, West is a Roar Pro

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    Melbourne Victory FC fans celebrate their team scoring a goal against Perth Glory FC during their A-League match at Etihad Stadium in Melbourne, Sunday, Nov. 20, 2011.The game ended in a 2-2 draw. (AAP Image/Martin Philbey)

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    As a Wanderers fan, it’s been for me the best season of the A-League to date or perhaps any other sporting season. My anticipation for the next A-League season, still 16 weeks out from the pre-season, is palpable.

    The omens are all good for A-League season nine. The major signings from last season are all confirmed as staying on with the promise of more big names to come.

    From July 1, Football Federation Australia’s new four-year, $160 million broadcast rights deal comes into effect giving more money to the FFA and the A-League clubs.

    And on top of other changes for the better, the A-League will appear nationally on free-to-air television for the first time to broaden its mainstream appeal across the land.

    Part of the new broadcast deal is that SBS will be allowed to telecast one A-League game per week live in prime time on Friday nights, as well as an A-League highlights package and a delayed telecast of the all the A-League finals series matches on SBS.

    All great news for Australian football fans and the continued growth of the A-League, but the question arises as to which A-League games are going to be played on a Friday night.

    The A-League competition fixture list for this season becomes very important, especially if you don’t have Foxtel.

    A computerised system is used to determine the English Premier League fixtures.

    Once a draft schedule is produced by the computer, given a certain set of constraints, dates to avoid and other FIFA and major competition parameters, the EPL schedulers then consult with the Fixtures Working Party, which is made up of representatives from clubs across the Leagues and from supporters’ organisations.

    The final EPL fixture list concludes with a consultation meeting with the Association of Chief Police Officers and the British Transport Police.

    I’m not sure if the FFA is going to go through the same rigorous process, particularly in setting the agenda for the Friday night live games on SBS.

    My concern is that Foxtel will have a major say in determining the Friday night games.

    Given they are the major contributor to the FFA’s broadcast deal revenues, they will ask that blockbuster games like the big derbies in Melbourne and Sydney and other major fixtures be not scheduled on a Friday night.

    Will the FFA continue with its policy to play games on the day of the week and at times that best suits the clubs and their fans attendance habits?

    How much influence Foxtel has on the A-League fixtures list is yet to be seen.

    With the NRL and AFL, the FTA stations contribute the most revenue to the broadcast deals and they usually get the highest TV rating teams shown as their live games.

    Channel Nine has had many complaints over the years that their Friday night live games usually feature high television rating teams like the Broncos, Rabbitohs, Bulldogs or Dragons.

    The fans of the other teams like Canberra and Penrith are complaining that their teams are never shown on Friday nights.

    It’s not uncommon to see the Broncos games shown live on Channel Nine three or four Friday nights in a row.

    For the A-League the situation is reversed. Foxtel, not SBS, contribute the vast majority of money to the FFA for broadcasting matches and they will surely get the most influence in setting the Friday night fixtures.

    If so, is this a bad thing in terms of A-League attendances and club revenues. If the blockbuster games are not on free-to-air, then more fans are likely to go to the games and add to the colour and atmosphere.

    More sell outs and greater demand for match day tickets if they are not on free-to-air.

    If we had Friday night live games, according to the season eight fixture list, we would have opened the past season with the Melbourne derby live, then Adelaide vs Wanderers live, Victory vs Adelaide, Victory vs Jets, Wanderers vs Heart, Heart vs Roar, Roar vs Sydney and so on.

    Some good games there to watch on a Friday night.

    But if the lower placed teams and let’s say, the least entertaining games are only allowed to be shown on SBS on a Friday night, how will that impact the free-to-air viewing audiences and the appeal and prestige of the A-League, especially when the best games are not shown live to the biggest potential audiences?

    Will it lower attendances at the bottom end of the league and how will it affect the smaller clubs and lower placed teams’ financial viability?

    I don’t believe the clubs will be paid any extra by the FFA if their games are shown live.

    I hope the FFA takes a balanced view of the fixture list and can allow as many blockbuster games as possible to be shown on a Friday night live on SBS.

    The big games should be popular enough to attract big crowds anyway and the occasional more exciting games on SBS will broaden the A-League’s appeal and continue to enhance the FFA’s, SBS’s and the A-League’s reputations.

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    The Crowd Says (54)

    • Roar Pro

      May 2nd 2013 @ 11:24am
      Alexander Grant said | May 2nd 2013 @ 11:24am | ! Report

      “If so, is this a bad thing in terms of A-League attendances and club revenues. If the blockbuster games are not on free-to-air, then more fans are likely to go to the games and add to the colour and atmosphere.”

      Highly doubt that. That’s some very optimistic thinking. As someone who lives 3 hours west of Sydney I was quick to take to the Wanderers from an early date. Once I had been to one match, I wanted more. Even if a match was shown on FTA TV, I would still be at the ground because you can’t get that feeling of live football from home. Being in that Grand Final crowd was a very special feeling. Fans like myself will not sit at home to watch a game when they still have the opportunity to go to the ground. Conversely, fans who haven’t yet been to a match are very unlikely to go to the game simply because it was on the pay TV station instead. What really matters is that we have a match on FTA.

      Would it be nice to get a mix of teams? For sure. I get the feeling Foxtel will treat SBS better than Channel 9 treats Foxtel, though that could be wishful thinking on my part as well!

      And really, what’s wrong with more ratings as opposed to a bigger crowd? Each have their own great payoffs as long as more people are watching or becoming a part of the A-League then that’s fine by me.

      • Roar Pro

        May 2nd 2013 @ 10:11pm
        West said | May 2nd 2013 @ 10:11pm | ! Report

        Thanks Alexander
        and for your support of the Wanderers.

        Your situation is a little different and I assume that with the live Friday night game on FTA there will be a whole new audience that the A-League will try and target.

        If the games aren’t good quality or without that great atmosphere then they won’t attract as much following. So I think the choice of Friday night games is now very important.

        But agree that the best way to see a blockbuster game is at the ground, if you can get tickets.

      • Roar Pro

        May 2nd 2013 @ 10:15pm
        West said | May 2nd 2013 @ 10:15pm | ! Report

        If the game gets higher TV ratings the clubs and FFA don’t get any more money, Fox and SBS does from its advertisers, because advertising rates are based on the ratings.

        Whereas if the attendances are higher, the A-League clubs and FFA get more money and not Fox or SBS, assuming ratings have not gone up.

        Therefore Fox wants higher ratings, while clubs want higher attendances.

    • Roar Guru

      May 2nd 2013 @ 11:31am
      Fussball ist unser leben said | May 2nd 2013 @ 11:31am | ! Report

      The CEO of SBS, Michael Ebeid has said this on several occasions that the SBS contract with FFA stipulates:

      1. the “biggest match” each round will be scheduled on Friday night.
      From a TV broadcaster’s point of view, I assume “biggest” refers to highest ratings

      2. the SBS broadcast matches will only be at venues on the East Coast of Australia (i.e. BNR, SFC, NUJ, CCM, WSW, MBH, MBV)

      3. All teams (not sure if this includes NIX) will get exposure on FTA TV

      • May 2nd 2013 @ 11:39am
        Dave said | May 2nd 2013 @ 11:39am | ! Report

        Ahh beat me to it Fussball, that answers some of the questions I raised below…

      • Roar Pro

        May 2nd 2013 @ 11:41am
        Alexander Grant said | May 2nd 2013 @ 11:41am | ! Report

        In regards to point number 1 Fuss, is that on SBS or Foxtel? Just saying that it’s on that night doesn’t say what channel it will be on.

        And on that point, that’s actually really bad news. Consider people who are constantly busy on a Friday night – they would have to suffer through missing every big clash because of this rule. It’s a trend I’ve seen in Rugby League as well, though the AFL tends to avoid this a little bit better. Mixing up the ‘big-clash’ days would be a healthier move for the game. But I guess if Friday night is th best time to pull in more viewers then so be it.

        Point 3 is pretty hilarious because that’s their insurance to say “Wellington Pheonix will be shown once on FTA this season, probably in a match against Victory/Wanderers/Sydney.”

        • Roar Guru

          May 2nd 2013 @ 11:48am
          Fussball ist unser leben said | May 2nd 2013 @ 11:48am | ! Report

          Friday Night matches will all be broadcast;
          a) LIVE on SBS2 (HD) & SBS online; and
          b) FoxSports

          This is MASSIVE good news for AUS football & A-League.

          I cannot believe fans are whinging … can only assume the whingers haven’t been following ALeague for 8 years.

          • Roar Pro

            May 2nd 2013 @ 11:55am
            Alexander Grant said | May 2nd 2013 @ 11:55am | ! Report

            Ah the way it was worded made me assume there two consecutive games slotted with one put on each station 😉

            Well that is indeed phenomenal news! I don’t see at all how people can whinge about it, I wasn’t if that’s what you were getting at. I was just dissecting it. I do stand by my view a bit, would be good to see key games shared between Friday and Saturday but in the end it’s a great result – don’t get me wrong!

          • Roar Pro

            May 3rd 2013 @ 12:04am
            West said | May 3rd 2013 @ 12:04am | ! Report

            I hope it doesn’t sound like whingeing Fussball because I ‘m really excited about the upcoming season and the SBS coverage.

            Just wondering how the Fri night games are going to be selected and what influence SBS or Foxtel have with FFA in the scheduling.

            I’m sure we will be very interested when the fixture list comes out and I can start planning my social calendar for 2013-14.

        • Roar Guru

          May 2nd 2013 @ 11:49am
          Cameron Kellett said | May 2nd 2013 @ 11:49am | ! Report

          Where is this trend you speak of that you’ve seen in rugby league?

          Friday nights on FTA have always attracted more viewers and most often than not starts at around 8pm anyway. Most people don’t miss out.

          • Roar Pro

            May 2nd 2013 @ 12:08pm
            Alexander Grant said | May 2nd 2013 @ 12:08pm | ! Report

            Perhaps replace ‘big clash’ with ‘big team.’

            To start the 2012 NRL season, the Brisbane Broncos played 7 straight Friday games. 7 straight! Now I don’t care that they have a huge support base and can draw in decent viewership – it’s unfair to both other teams and other fans. It gives them a consistent weekly turaround which gives them a better recovery chance for players while other teams have staggered wait times.

            Also they ended up playing 17 of the 26 regular season rounds on a Friday night. Ridiculous. Just three rounds featured neither the Storm or Broncos playing on a Friday night, and one of those was because both of them had the bye. Funny how the two clubs News Limited have the greatest interest in get the bigger slice of Friday night games.

            That is the trend I’m speaking of.

            • Roar Guru

              May 2nd 2013 @ 12:17pm
              Cameron Kellett said | May 2nd 2013 @ 12:17pm | ! Report

              Alexander read this – http://www.theroar.com.au/2012/11/12/nrl-2013-schedule-is-it-fair/

              I wrote this a while ago and it seeked to address a lot of points. My response would be similar

              • Roar Pro

                May 2nd 2013 @ 12:32pm
                Alexander Grant said | May 2nd 2013 @ 12:32pm | ! Report

                Bugger. DId a quick count. Make that the first 8 rounds. If I was writing a story on it I would’ve gone back several times.

                It’s a vicious cycle, isn’t it? Teams that pull in the fans more get the better timeslots yet the better timeslots continue to aid in increasing fan numbers anyway. Those who stay ahead keep getting chances to do so (which I have no real problem with – for the most part they’ve earned it!). We wonder why the Panthers can pull in members when they were given (again off a quick check!) 2 Friday night games last season.

                We are getting off topic, but the world of timeslots and tv deals is always interesting when we consider the relationship between them and the people attending live games.

                Edit: I see your edit and give you my own back. You were right to call me out on incorrect stats. Don’t even back down on that, because on any other day that’s the difference between getting a story right or completely wrong.

              • Roar Guru

                May 2nd 2013 @ 12:40pm
                Cameron Kellett said | May 2nd 2013 @ 12:40pm | ! Report

                Ok so back on track.

                You said “Consider people who are constantly busy on a Friday night – they would have to suffer through missing every big clash because of this rule. It’s a trend I’ve seen in Rugby League…”

                Statistically from an attendance/tv perspective, what you’ve said above is not true, not to mention if I provide the statistics from this years seven rounds so far you’ll find this trend of yours does not stand true.

                Therefore, with that said I can see the A-league matches will not be affected negatively in a significant manner.

              • Roar Pro

                May 2nd 2013 @ 10:27pm
                West said | May 2nd 2013 @ 10:27pm | ! Report

                The NRL example is important, because it shows what influence the broadcaster has with the scheduling of the sport.

                They paid the money, so they get to choose what they want to show and that’s why you get 18 nights of Broncos on a Friday night on Channel nine in one season.

                Will this happen with Fox and the A-League and what can the clubs and FFA do about it?

      • May 2nd 2013 @ 11:54am
        oly said | May 2nd 2013 @ 11:54am | ! Report

        Good to see SBS are going to show the biggest game every Friday night. While it may make it a little bit harder for fans to get to games, it means the A-League is seen on FTA for matches with full or close to full stadiums and the best quality games.

        I assume that means the three Melbourne derbies, three Sydney derbies, plus Victory V SFC, Victory V Adelaide games will all be on Friday nights.

      • Roar Pro

        May 2nd 2013 @ 10:20pm
        West said | May 2nd 2013 @ 10:20pm | ! Report

        Thanks Fuss,
        Despite what the CEO of SBS says, SBS don’t schedule matches, FFA and Fox do and Fox tells FFA what time to play the games to fit in with Fox’s broadcast schedule.

        I haven’t seen any definition from either party on what the “biggest match” means.

        Also my point is, who chooses the “biggest match” and what happens if Fox doesn’t agree.

        I believe SBS are going to take the Fox match feed with their own SBS commentators, to save broadcast costs.
        If there is disagreement on which game Fox broadcasts on Friday, then can’t see SBS winning any arguments over Fox.

    • May 2nd 2013 @ 11:38am
      Dave said | May 2nd 2013 @ 11:38am | ! Report

      Good article. I too have been wondering about this issue. There seems to be a general assumption around that all the blockbusters will be on free to air. I’d be very surprised if foxtel willingly let this happen.

      I think when the deal was announced I remember the FFA saying something along the lines of the FTA game being mainly concentrated on the east coast teams (i.e. the big raters). It seems likely to me though friday nights will most often feature at least one of SFC, WSW, MV, BR.

      As a SFC fan living and working on the Northern Beaches Friday night home games are horrible for me, so I hope we don’t get too many of those. Plenty away friday nighters though please! Is this fair? not really. Is it good for the overall growth of the comp? Open to debate…

      As far as the FTA impacting on crowd numbers I guess time will tell. I think football is a much better live sport than tv sport, as opposed to Rugby League for instance which is the opposite. I’d be surprised if it impacted much on the number of season ticket holders. Non season ticket holders – who knows? No matter what the really big games (I’m thinking the derbies) are gonna get a crowd.

      • Roar Pro

        May 2nd 2013 @ 10:31pm
        West said | May 2nd 2013 @ 10:31pm | ! Report

        Thanks Dave,
        I’m hopeful that it doesn’t impact attendances either and that exposure on SBS will even increase the number of fans, especially when 4 of the 5 games are still only on Fox.

        Maybe the SBS broadcasts will even increase Foxtel subscriptions if it whets their appetites and they want to see more A-League?

        Its important though that the FTA games are of good quality and entertainment value.

    • Roar Guru

      May 2nd 2013 @ 11:42am
      Cameron Kellett said | May 2nd 2013 @ 11:42am | ! Report

      A few points West –
      • Broncos play the majority of their matches on Friday nights FTA and yet they have the highest attendance rate.
      • Broncos vs Storm (Blockbuster match) drew 40,071 with a TV rating of 622k (channel 9) and 93k (Gem).
      • This has been a norm for quite some time (granted they have the fans)

      Foxtel (Foxsports) will ultimately do what’s best for them and that could coincide with blockbuster games to be shared fairly. There is a very good reason why they would allow this:
      • Something to whet the appetite of potential football fans
      • They’ll want more and watch SBS
      • They’ll want more football and the product will be on none other than Foxtel
      • Inturn we see viewing numbers increase on both formats

      There is a lot more to divulge in terms of what games are best suited when but I’ll leave these points with you for a bit.

      • Roar Pro

        May 2nd 2013 @ 11:17pm
        West said | May 2nd 2013 @ 11:17pm | ! Report

        Good points kellett and don’t get me wrong, I think its great that SBS are showing Friday night live games.

        I’m excited and at the same time curious as to what Friday night games we will get.

    • May 2nd 2013 @ 11:54am
      Franko said | May 2nd 2013 @ 11:54am | ! Report

      SBS and the FFA need to think it through very carefully to ensure the season starts with a bang

      Week 1. Victory away to Brisbane on Friday night, Wanderers at home to Newcastle on Saturday night (will sell-out but isn’t using too much of a big match)

      Week 2. Wanderers away on a Friday night to Adelaide (where their fans can’t travel) Victory at home to Central Coast

      Then you can start getting into derby matches.

      It’s probably Perth that will suffer the most from the big Friday games.

    • May 2nd 2013 @ 11:58am
      Chris said | May 2nd 2013 @ 11:58am | ! Report

      I Don’t think Foxtel will keep the big games off SBS.

      If you have Foxtel you will still watch the game on Foxtel. HD on Foxtel is a hundred times better than SD on FTA (which is often much worse looking than analogue was back in the 80s).

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