Network 10 is flailing in its first year of A-Leagues coverage

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With this season’s latest controversy surrounding forced drinks breaks in A-League Men’s matches, it is understandable that fans continue to be disappointed by the state of professional football in Australia and its coverage by Network 10.

The revelation by referees in February that they had been given instructions from producers at Network 10 to instigate drinks breaks was undoubtedly shocking.

Two match officials revealed their frustration at how games are being stopped to allow commercial breaks during the live broadcast of Saturday night A-League Men’s games on 10’s free-to-air channels.

This is no doubt a play to grab more advertiser dollars from prime time, Saturday night programming.

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It also massively undermines the integrity of the league as a whole, however, with strings being pulled by external forces.

Drink breaks are normally reserved for games played in extreme heat and are permitted under Football Australia’s heat policy during matches when temperatures exceed 26 degrees.

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There have been clear examples through the season where the conditions did not require drink breaks but the referees would call them nonetheless after being instructed by a producer.

The most evident example of this came in Sydney FC’s 1-1 draw with Western United on February 12 which was a match played at night, in cool temperatures and amongst heavy rainfall but still featured two separate drinks breaks (one in each half).

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With football fans in Australia already battling to put up with the product put in front of them, having a game deliberately paused for ads makes it hurt more.

Another failure for the A-Leagues, linked to their broadcasting, is the abysmal package presented by Paramount Plus.

Currently, Paramount+ offers exclusive live matches and extremely delayed replays, highlights and mini-matches.

While it can be slightly overlooked because of the streaming platform’s relative adolescence in the live sports arena, the lack of an ability to watch a match from the start, if a viewer tunes in halfway through, or a feature that can rewind the broadcast the standard 15 seconds, gives paying audiences a disappointing experience.

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Delayed replays worsen this issue for fans who want to watch every game, every weekend having to wait nearly 18 hours to see a match replay.

With television ratings at a mid to poor level and the major NRL and AFL season coverage coming right around the corner, 10’s first season as Australia’s football broadcaster has been less than stellar.

Though the A-Leagues signed on with Network 10 to find that long-awaited mainstream audience and greater capital returns, in doing so they continue to alienate the core audience which already exists.

Feature image credit: Jordan Trombetta

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Bill Hedley
Journalism under graduate at the University of Queensland. I have been a die-hard football player and fan for the past 16 years and am now a passionate multimedia Journalist, covering Brisbane Roar for the 2021/22 A-League season.

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