The AFL Fans Association wants the AFL to use some of its newfound wealth from the TV rights deal to “buy back” Grand Final tickets for competing club members who now miss out. It is also calling on the AFL to put more money into grassroots footy and Auskick.
AFL Fans Association president Gerry Eeman says while the $2.5 billion deal will thankfully guarantee the future of all 18 teams, it could deal a blow to fans without Foxtel.
Under the new broadcast deal, 22 Saturday day games will no longer be shown on free to air television. This reduction will be partially offset by 12 Thursday night games being televised on free- to-air television.
Gerry welcomed Channel 7’s commitment to start broadcasting AFL games in high definition during the lifetime of the agreement. The deal also guarantees that all games will be shown live, but this is only if you have Pay TV. About a third of Australian households currently have it.
Gerry says the broadcast package continues a recent pattern of reducing the number of free-to-air games televised. “The way it is structured, there is a risk that we will end up with less free-to-air games per round,” Gerry says.
“Under the Channel 9 and 10 deal there were five free-to-air games. Then the AFL agreed to further reduce free-to-air games to four per round when Seven won the rights back. Now it seems we at risk of having only 3.5 games per round. This continues a disturbing trend. Where will this end? A great financial outcome maybe, but a great result for fans? No. Unless Foxtel sublicenses a game to a free-to-air channel, this will be a further blow to those who can’t afford pay TV.”
An opportunity to bring the Grand Final back to fans
Gerry says the AFL should use some of the TV rights proceeds to “buy back” tickets for members of teams competing in the Grand Final. “We hope the AFL uses this new cash wisely,” he says. “As a starting point, we call on the AFL to use some of it to buy back all Grand Final tickets allocated to non-competing clubs and drastically reduce its reliance on generating profits from corporate seat sales. These recouped tickets could be allocated to competing club members. Imagine what a travesty it would be if Richmond or the Bulldogs made the Grand Final in the next two years and many long-suffering members missed out on tickets.”
The AFLFA also noted that:
- The unpopular Sunday twilight timeslot remains and while the AFL says it controls the draw, it seems increasingly suited to TV interests.
- The AFL should use this windfall as an opportunity to scrap variable pricing, which is still forcing fans to pay more for good seats at many MCG and Etihad Stadium games. It is also leading to empty seats on level 1 at some games, while level 3-4 are crammed.
- The AFL should allocate some of the new TV rights money to grassroots and junior footy, which are particularly struggling in rural areas.
- Auskick should also receive more AFL funds so its many volunteers don’t have to fundraise on top of running their centres.
South Australia and Western Australia
The AFL website is reporting that Foxtel will have the exclusive right to broadcast live three home and away games over the course of the season for each of Fremantle, West Coast, Adelaide and Port Adelaide. See link: http://goo.gl/tWwJt9. These games will broadcast on free-to-air television at a later time. “We hope the delays are small and reasonable and not to the detriment of fans,” Gerry says.
Clubs with smaller fan bases will suffer disproportionally
Fans of clubs such as Melbourne, the Western Bulldogs, St Kilda and North Melbourne will have the most to lose under the new deal. “The supporters of clubs with smaller fan bases will particularly suffer,” Gerry says. “These clubs already have proportionally far less free-to-air coverage. This will potentially get worse under the new deal. If free-to-air content is reduced, this will also make it harder for these clubs to attract new fans and grow. They will also be less attractive to sponsors.”
AFLFA membership is free and fans are encouraged to join at www.aflfans.org.au.