Free-to-air viewers of the A-League will be reacquainting themselves with the remote after Football Federation Australia boss David Gallop confirmed it would be moving back to SBS2.
The broadcast demotion is a blow for the league after months of negotiations with the Nine Network and Channel Seven have so far failed to bear fruit.
A-League bosses had hoped to move the free-to-air (FTA) broadcast at the mid-way point of a four-year deal, shared with subscription Fox Sports.
The recently concluded billion-dollar AFL and NRL rights deals have complicated matters, with the two dominant codes occupying executive attention at major networks.
With the A-League less than a month away, there is growing certainty that the 2015/16 A-League season will stay with the multiculturally-focussed national broadcaster.
“It’s been reasonably well documented that FFA and SBS have explored alternatives,” Gallop said in Melbourne on Wednesday.
“The game of (AFL and NRL rights) musical chairs has stopped with the season so close.
“We’re expecting to be on SBS2 and we’ll work hard with SBS to make it work.”
Gallop said despite the move to the poorly-watched channel, he was “optimistic about our ability to have an improved year for TV ratings” overall in 2015/16.
The most recent campaign was interrupted in January for the Asian Cup, and competed against the Cricket World Cup, also hosted in Australia.
Gallop said his expectations of another closely-fought title race would also help lift interest in the A-League’s 11th season.
“We didn’t quite hit the numbers that we’d like to have hit (last season),” Gallop said.
“But if you look across the rosters of the ten teams we think we’re going to have a highly competitive season.
“All that augurs well for setting us up for the next TV deal and talks around that have already commenced.”
It’s no secret FFA has been disappointed with the ratings and coverage of the league since winning a share of the latest broadcasting rights two seasons ago.
After one lacklustre season on SBS2, FTA coverage of Friday night football was moved to SBS One for the 2014/15 campaign.
One year ago, Gallop applauded the move to SBS One.
“This is a pivotal move for Australian football and reflects the games vibrant role in the mainstream of our society,” he said in August 2014.
“The move of A-League broadcasts to SBS One is sign of SBS’s commitment to the game and underlines the booming popularity of the A-League … I commend SBS for this initiative.”
SBS2 competes for the title of Australia’s least watched television channels.
OzTam ratings reports show the digital channel has below a one per cent share of audience.