||Issue No. 146||26 July 2002|
Crean-ite Is Not A Dirty Word
Interview: Trans Tasman
Cole-Watch: The Full Story
Unions: The Right To A Life
Bad Boss: Phoenix Rising
Politics: The Virtuous State
International: The Champions
History: Mandatory Mums
Corporate: Network Governance
Review: Navigating The Doublespeak
Satire: Hector The Galah Found Hiding
Poetry: Eight Days a Week
The Locker Room
Week in Review
Kangaroo Court Horrifies Reader
Site Reunites Redundant Workers
Carr Off Course
The Banners of Greed
Join The Party
Shocks and Stares
The Locker Room
Lounge Named Best On Ground
The spectacle of sport being played before near empty stadia looms as the norm as an increasing number of Australians succumb to the pressure of drink drive laws and the soulless demands of pre-match of entertainment and stay at home
This is raising some obvious alarm bells amongst the clubs engaged in our premier winter sports as the lucrative revenue stream of bums on seats dwindles to a trickle.
In rugby league this has come to a head with NRL Clubs demanding compensation for lost earnings due to the number of punters that have, quite reasonably, decided that home is where the heart (in this case cable TV) is.
Is it any wonder that the AFL and the NRL administrators have chosen to throw their lot in with the cable TV operators given the sums these erstwhile benefactors have thrown at the game in recent years.
But the devil, as they say in the Bible, is in the detail.
A cursory examination of these deals makes interesting reading.
A clause exists in the NRL's contract with Fox Sports - $400million over six years - where the code benefits from the increased sales of pay TV subscriptions.
NRL club sources say that the bonus is 15 percent of a license fee of $30million a year when subscriptions reach two million. In other words, the NRL will receive an additional $4.5million per annum when another 500,000 subscribers sign up.
Affidavits in the forthcoming legal action between Seven, the NRL and Fox Sports state that the C7 offer was $70million plus $10million contra per annum for seven years if subscriptions reached one million.
NRL directors declined the offer because they were told C7 would never gain access to the publicly-funded Foxtel cable, despite three legal actions upholding Seven's right to have its programs distributed on the cable.
"The relationship between live TV and gate receipts is unequivocal," is one NRL administrator's opinion. "The logic of recompensing clubs for a downturn in match attendances directly attributable to the sales of pay TV subscriptions is inescapable."
Roosters' chief executive Bernie Gurr is on the record as saying that the Super League war was predicated on league being a critical factor in the initial take-up of pay TV.
Newcastle recently objected to a Friday night game against Parramatta being broadcast live. Live telecasts of Friday night games would allow Nine the opportunity of showing the AFL match of the round an hour earlier.
AFL chief executive Wayne Jackson recently said he hoped to make an announcement soon to appease fans in Canberra, the Riverina, the NSW South Coast and southern Queensland protesting over the late telecast of the Friday match.
However, Annesley insisted the recent Nine inquiry was motivated only by Wimbledon, and added that the 8.30pm telecast time of Friday football was enshrined in the current TV contract.
Football legend and former MP for Wills, Phil Cleary, warned last year that the AFL faced grave dangers in relying on television to prop up the game.
"The greatest change that's occurred has been between the clubs, the barrackers and the territory. That connection in many ways is very wobbly now, in some aspects it's been severed, and there's been an interception by television," he said.
"The game's been transformed more into a television entity. This is something we have to worry about. We need the exposure of television to a wide audience - but you must be careful not to undermine the tribal relationship between territories and people with the game of football, because if you do the game's tenure will be based on it's television audience.
"In a global world television audiences are volatile, if you don't have the great strength of the tribalism to protect you, to fortify you, then you can find yourself in pretty vulnerable territory."
This is now the experience of the NRL clubs.
Ironically, part of Cleary's continuing involvement with football is his television work with the ABC. The quirky, left of centre, Saturday afternoon coverage has become a cult classic in Victoria.
As Eddie McGuire is finding out, rich friends from the big end of town can prove to be a liability when the money runs out. Television owes football no allegiance, certainly nothing approaching the allegiance of loyal fans.
The clubs must reassert control over the leagues they play in before they find themselves sold down the river. This is the only way that control of the major football codes can be wrestled out of the hands of the media corporations and handed back to those who rightfully own it, the fans.
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