Ch7 broadcast football: Prepare your fallout shelter

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The end is surely nigh. Ready the tin food and recycled water machine. Channel Seven have again secured the rights to broadcast football. This time the marquee matches of Manchester United vs A-League All Stars and Melbourne Victory vs Liverpool coming up in July. But will the station executives try to stifle the code a second time around? Probably not.

Seven have paid an estimated $2 million for the rights to the two matches, so it’s doubtful their intentions are anything negative. Opinion on social media is well and truly divided over the announcement however, and fans have reason to be weary of this particular free-to-air network covering their sport.

See the second frame to this comic. From Agaki Bautista’s Sack Attack, the A-League webcomic

Back in 2002 Seven owned the rights to the National Soccer League (as well as for the Socceroos). For supporters it meant a time of frustration, as the league was stifled by lack of coverage. It was then reported in 2005 that Steven Wise, former executive at Channel Seven’s defunct pay television channel C7, admitted in an email to sabotaging football’s media coverage:

“We have secured the soccer rights and suffocated the sport, much to the chagrin of its supporters (by giving AFL games preference)”.

The last time a marquee club football match was broadcast on free-to-air was when LA Galaxy played Sydney FC at ANZ Stadium. Channel Ten were the beneficiaries in this instance and they appealed to the masses by largely focusing on David Beckham throughout the match in what was surely a precurser for Fox Sports ‘Hero Cam’.

There is need for Channel Seven to provide a more balanced broadcast of the game, and the amount of stars appearing in the All Stars match will at least force that issue. Commentary-wise though the Seven team is made up almost entirely of AFL focused reporters, and listening to Bruce McAvaney or Dennis Cometti call football is a strange prospect to say the least.

For the conspiracy theorists, notice in the press release the complete lack of mention of the word ‘football’ from CEO of the Seven Network, Tim Worner:

“Manchester United and Liverpool are two of the biggest brands in world sport and we are really pleased to be delivering their matches live to Australians everywhere and on every device. These are going to be huge events. They sold out straight away and we expect a big audience to be engaged before, during and after the games.

“Big, live sport – now available across not just our broadcast television platform but online and other tablet apps as well – underpins a lot of Seven’s strategy and these games certainly fit that bill. And, on a personal note, I am very happy to be working with Dave Gallop whose work I have previously admired from too far away.”

Overall however the immediate cash injection into the code combined with live coverage on the most popular free-to-air channel is largely positive. Remove the historical relationship between the network and the football governing body and what we are presented with today is another small step forward for the code.

Football in Australia is slowly, ever so slowly, becoming mainstream, and Channel Seven have awoken to the fact.

Coverage details:
Manchester United v Foxtel A League All Stars, Saturday 20 July, ANZ Stadium, Sydney (7.30pm kick off)
Sydney             1830-2200 (7)
Melbourne         1830-2200 (7Mate)
Brisbane           1830-2200 (7)
Adelaide           1800-2130 (7Mate)
Perth                1830-2200 (7)
Liverpool v Melbourne Victory, Wednesday 24 July, MCG, Melbourne (8pm kick off)
Sydney             1900-2230 (7Mate)
Melbourne         1900-2230 (7Mate)
Brisbane           1900-2230 (7Mate)
Adelaide           1830-2200 (7Mate)
Perth                1700-2030 (7Mate)

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Matt Greenlaw
Editor of The Football Sack for three years, Matthew now spends his time sipping merlot whilst watching the reruns of Thursday FC.

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