The Socceroos face Kuwait on Wednesday morning as they take their first steps towards the 2022 World Cup, but we won’t see the game on free-to-air TV.
It’s tempting to wonder who exactly is in charge of football at the moment.
Football Federation Australia should of course be looking after our various national teams.
However, losing control of the A-League will put a significant dent in their budget, which is probably why they’re keen to get involved in the creation of a second division.
It makes qualifying for the World Cup in Qatar all the more vital for a sport that has had to fight hard to cobble together a decent cash flow in recent years.
Yet reaching the finals of four World Cups in a row has had a disappointing but predictable effect on fans who dip in and out on following the fortunes of the national team.
They’ve stopped caring.
If joining the Asian Football Confederation was supposed to turn the Socceroos into a more battle-hardened unit, it’s largely been a success.
But it’s also exposed the Socceroos to plenty of nations many Australians would struggle to point out on a map.
And there’s long been a sense that some Aussies really don’t appreciate watching the Socceroos lose in far-flung destinations.
Which perhaps goes some way towards explaining why there’s been little discussion of the fact that the only way you’ll see the Socceroos kick off their World Cup campaign is if you have a subscription of some sort.
Is that a problem?
It’s not for people like me, one of the dwindling few with an on-going Fox Sports subscription.
And having seen the English Premier League spirited away exclusively to Optus Sport this season, there’s no reason to think fans can’t equally find their way to Foxtel’s own streaming service, Kayo.
But it’s a bit of a worry when the national team prepares to kick off another World Cup campaign with no free-to-air broadcast deal in place and very few fans seem to notice.
And it’s hard to see how the next generation can be inspired to take up the game if they can’t even watch it on TV.
Of course, one reason the Socceroos have inspired indifference over the past couple of years is that this squad is nowhere near as good as the one that made it all the way to the Round of 16 in Australia’s first finals appearance for decades.
Where the 2006 team was jam-packed with world-class international stars, Graham Arnold’s side is decidedly more workmen-like.
And it’s hard to escape the feeling that for much of mainstream Australia, watching the Socceroos match it with the world’s best in Germany was enough.
We haven’t won a game at either of the past two World Cup finals and had to take an interim coach in Bert van Marwijk to Russia.
Add in the game’s domestic struggles of late and it’s clear more than a few fans have hopped off the bandwagon.
Yet even the act of suggesting as much feels like a disservice to the current squad.
If Graham Arnold can only send out the best talent that’s available to him, then surely the least fans can do is support them?
But the lack of free-to-air coverage makes it that much harder.
And with so many other entertainment options available, we can hardly be too surprised if not everyone goes out of their way to tune into the Socceroos.
It’s somewhat of a moot point on Wednesday given that the game kicks off in the early hours of the morning, but the clash with Nepal in Canberra on October 10 is a different story.
And the question football needs to ask itself is one we’ve all heard before: does locking the Socceroos behind a paywall hurt the game, or simply help finance it?