A-League Eyes “Bumper” Rights Deals With The Free-To-Airs As Audiences Skyrocket

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 15:  Tim Cahill of Melbourne City celebrates with Bruno Fornaroli after scoring a goal during the round two A-League match between Melbourne Victory and Melbourne City FC at Etihad Stadium on October 15, 2016 in Melbourne, Australia.  (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

The domestic football (soccer!) season, the A-League, maybe only two rounds old but the stadiums are packed, TV audiences are at record highs, and now the boss of the league is reportedly eyeing a mega TV deal with one of the free to air broadcasters.

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At a media conference yesterday, Football Federation Australia (FFA) boss David Gallop said the game now had the eyeballs that warranted it being on one of the commercial networks. Currently, A-League games are shown on Foxtel or SBS2.

Gallop revealed that 200,000 spectators had attended an A-League match in the opening two rounds (up 33 per cent on the previous year) including 62,000 for the round one clash between Sydney arch-rivals Sydney FC and the Western Sydney Wanderers. He also claimed TV audiences were up 44 per cent on the same time last year, while club memberships had risen six per cent.

The football boss also highlighted the number of goals in matches (there’d been no 0-0 draws) which increasingly made it a better TV spectacle.

No doubt the FFA are aware of the big dollars that live sport attracts from broadcasters and the huge interest the English Premier League attracts in Australia.

The return of Socceroo legend, Tim Cahill, to this year’s domestic competition has also proven marketing gold for the game. Re-live Cahill’s absolute screamer from the weekend below.

The A-League’s current advertising campaign that plays on kids and families is designed to address fears of hooliganism at matches and attract the youngsters away from Big Bash cricket that has proven a smash with that demographic.

Although a rights deal with a commercial network is yet to be nutted out, it’s understood the FFA are currently negotiating with Seven, Nine and Ten and are hoping to land “a bumper deal”. Yesterday, Gallop said any deal for the 2017/18 season was still months away.

Clearly, the FFA wants to ensure the A-League becomes one of summer’s top sports and takes on the entrenched cricket fans. The game also has a revitalised basketball league (the NBL) to contend with, too.

But which of the free-to-airs would want the A-League? Nine’s got cricket, cricket and more cricket over summer. Ten has the Big Bash and Seven’s sold its summer sporting soul to the tennis. So how the League, that features some 10 teams from around the nation, would fit into their scheduling remains to be seen.

The other question is whether a network would be willing to spring big bucks for a rights deal during summer which is traditionally the non-ratings period and viewer numbers and ad dollars are significantly down.

“The timing is good for us, we’re showcasing the game and the future of the game,” Gallop said. “The future of the game is that it’s going to get bigger and bigger.

“We know that it’s got a massive participation base but we’ve got to grow that into fans of our clubs and demonstrate to media companies that that investment will not only pay dividends now but it will pay dividends into the future as this sport, the world game, gets bigger and bigger in Australia,” he said.