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The World Cup is the positive story Australian football needs

The World Cup offers Australian football a chance to build momentum (Photo by Joosep Martinson - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)
Expert
11th May, 2018
96
1522 Reads

The World Cup is by any measure the biggest sporting event on the planet, so it’s incumbent upon Football Federation Australia not to let an opportunity slip.

So there’s a new digital streaming rights deal between the FFA and Telstra that will see every A-League game streamed live on Telstra mobile phones until 2023 – as well as selected W-League, Socceroos and Matildas games.

And non-Telstra customers can access the same content through a variety of reasonably priced yearly, monthly or weekly passes.

That’s good news, isn’t it?

It not only throws the gauntlet down to Optus – which recently extended its deal to broadcast the English Premier League and will offer a standalone streaming service to non-Optus customers to watch the World Cup – it also means the A-League joins the NRL and AFL in being streamed by Australia’s biggest telco.

And although Telstra has only sub-licenced the digital rights from Fox Sports – and presumably could have done so ever since the latest broadcast deal was originally signed in December 2016 – anything that gets football in front of more fans is a good thing for our game.

Which is precisely why the World Cup is such an opportunity for the FFA.

The game in this country might have its problems, but Aussies genuinely care about the performance of the national team at the world’s most popular sporting event.

And if it helps the A-League win a few new fans along the way, so much the better.

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That’s why it was no surprise to see Melbourne City wunderkind Daniel Arzani named in Australia’s provisional World Cup squad.

There were eyebrows raised when the fleet-footed teenager missed the Socceroos’ recent friendlies against Norway and Colombia – not least over legitimate fears the Iranian-born youngster could be called up by his birth nation instead.

But having declared his allegiance to the Socceroos, it doesn’t take a genius to suggest that Arzani will almost certainly be on his way to Russia as part of Australia’s 23-man squad.

That’s despite the fact that the Socceroos’ interim coach Bert van Marwijk doesn’t strike anyone as the type to necessarily follow orders.

Bert van Marwijk

The issue of whether van Marwijk will actually take Arzani to Russia is an interesting one, because it begs the question of whether a temporary hire should only focus on short-term goals, or act in the broader interests of the Australian game.

The Dutchman probably feels entitled to tell the FFA to sod off should they have suggested to select Arzani – especially after the way van Marwijk left Saudi Arabia – however it’s clearly in the Socceroos’ best interests to have Arzani wearing green and gold colours.

At any rate, having the Socceroos strut their stuff on the world stage once again is the latest sugar hit that comes around once every four years.

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The tricky thing now – and this has been the FFA’s problem from day one – is how to convert some of the viewers who watch the World Cup on TV into match-going, merch-buying, broadcast-viewing A-League fans.

Maybe that’s why Fox Sports has decided once again to chip in $3 million of its own funds towards a marquee player ‘war chest’.

It’s a pity it won’t land outgoing Barcelona legend Andres Iniesta – the close links between Barca’s major sponsor Rakuten and the Rakuten-owned Vissel Kobe suggest he’s off to the J.League – but some genuine star names are desperately needed in the A-League, no matter how much the purists deny that simple fact.

A-League clubs could do worse than trying to land out-of-contract Japanese star Keisuke Honda – although we all know how averse our clubs are to signing Asian talent.

But something needs to give if the A-League is to avoid a repeat of one of the most difficult campaigns in memory.

And it can start with the Socceroos. They may not win the World Cup in Russia, but they can at least remind the sceptics that Aussies know how to play football.