In just eight days’ time, the Socceroos will take to the pitch against China. It will be the first match in what will hopefully be the final stage of qualifying for Graham Arnold’s men.
Pairs of matches against the Chinese, Vietnam, Oman, Japan and Saudi Arabia will determine whether the Socceroos manage to finish in the top two positions in their group and head off to a fifth consecutive FIFA World Cup.
Anything less than that will condemn us all to another emotionally exhausting play-off that threatens to either rip hearts from chests or see the nation punching the air in triumph.
Frankly, I’m not sure I can go through another.
Football Australia’s most influential financial partner Viacom CBS and newest best friends Network Ten and the Paramount+ app, will be involved in the entire process for the first time, as the current holders of the rights to the most significant Australian football content.
Like hundreds of thousands of football fans around the country (hopefully), I have downloaded the Paramount+ app, paid some hard earned towards a subscription and now wait in anticipation for some content to appear over the coming weeks.
Upon registering, the first search I did was something of a simplistic one, as I typed the word ‘football’ into the bar.
I was somewhat miffed when a screen as vacant as a Pauline Hanson brain scan appeared before me and I realised that any expectation of an immediate and explosive new start for the game on Paramount+ was perhaps a little misguided.
Despite employing my best journo sniffing tactics, all I currently know is that Robbie Slater will not be a part of the new broadcasting team, the potential employment of Simon Hill remains a constant topic of discussion and that when the bright and sparkly new app first appeared on my device, there was and remains to be, absolutely no football in sight.
More positively we have received the news that as the Socceroos enter a crucial phase of qualification, Network Ten will indeed be broadcasting the upcoming September matches live.
Who calls the action remains a mystery, whether some sort of studio panel will preview, intro and review the game is uncertain and questions around the availability of a stream on the Paramount+ application appear to have been emphatically addressed.
A tweet from the official Paramount+ twitter account on August 23rd stated quite categorically that, “We’ll be streaming all the action of the Socceroos here on Paramount+”.
Wahoo I hear you exclaim – and rightly so.
However, one could have expected the platform to have drip fed some information in regards to its currently non-existent sports coverage in the weeks leading into the matches, especially considering the financial investment they have made in the Australian game.
We all have the app. We are sitting here waiting to use it. Desperate to use it in fact and knowing full well that as commercial television continues to wane in a sea of streaming services that threaten to increase the financial entertainment outlay for families to a point of no return, it is indeed the way of the present and future.
Football Australia has done well to secure a pro-active partner – one aware of the value and necessity of streaming services and the reality that it will be the way most Australians watch sport, news and entertainment in the future.
While it is easy to repeat such a notion and call on the newspaper buying, commercial television watching and talkback radio listening crowd to catch up, move on and join the modern world, Paramount+ still needs to produce something of quality.
Naively thinking that the new way in which football will be viewed in Australia is a fait accompli in terms of success will do neither the fans nor broadcaster any favours and sadly, a lack of promotion as we loom ever closer to the Socceroos’ opening fixture against the Chinese reeks very much of the frustrations of the past.
We are all hoping that the new broadcaster will rise to the challenge and knock both Australian football and the fans socks off with its fresh product. However, there is little evidence to suggest that is the case at this point in time.
Come September 2nd when the Socceroos take on China, we may well have our answer. Let’s hope we are all grinning ear to ear watching the Paramount+ app and/or Network Ten.
Heaven knows, Australian football needs it.