Football Federation Australia (FFA) has unveiled a plan, agreed with game stakeholders, to restart the A-League’s 2019/20 season by mid-July, subject to agreement with broadcast rights-holder Fox Sports.
Suspended since 23rd March, the plan envisages that players will return to training by mid-June, with the season to be wrapped up in August.
Announcing the resumption plan yesterday, FFA Chief Executive James Johnson confirmed an agreement with A-League clubs and the Professional Footballers Australia (PFA) players’ union that would see matches played at a yet-to-be identified hub as of mid-July.
Johnson advised “we are committed to delivering the completion of the Hyundai A-League 2019-20 season and have agreed a comprehensive plan with the Hyundai A-League clubs and the PFA.
“All parties have worked together extremely hard behind the scenes to ensure the professional game is ready to resume.
“We are now looking forward to the agreement of our broadcast partner, Fox Sports, to our fixture proposal and timings. That’s the final piece of the jigsaw and once we have it in place we can move forward quickly.”
The plan is based on a hub approach which FFA said will allow for innovative commercial and broadcast opportunities. It incorporates best practice health protocols for players and officials and provides a schedule that will bring a constant stream of games over a 35-day program.
Johnson added ‘ideally mid-June will see players return to training, allowing them to reach the required elite level of fitness for competitive matches to commence by mid-July, and for the Hyundai A-League Finals Series to be completed by mid-August.”
While details of the hub were not released, it is believed most games will be played in Sydney, with a format Head of A-League Greg O'Rourke flagged as delivering "football content seven days a week".
The exception will be games between the Melbourne clubs of Western United, Melbourne Victory and Melbourne City.
O’Rourke, advised “the hub strategy means that we have a unique opportunity to showcase the Hyundai A-League through a different lens and we will be including new and innovative elements to the matchday broadcast experience.
“Our focus is also on optimising the broadcast flow and therefore providing football content seven days a week. We believe that there are great opportunities for our broadcast partner and therefore the fans.”
However, with major broadcast partner Fox Sports facing a range of financial challenges, the restart of the competition needs final agreement from the pay-television operator.
The Sydney Morning Herald reports that the broadcaster is seeking a reduction of between 50 and 70% in its $57.6 million per year rights deal for the remaining three years of the contract.
Agreed in December 2016, Fox holds a six-year rights agreement covering the 2017/18 to 2022/23 seasons. The deal allows Fox Sports to broadcast the A-League, the women’s W-League, and Australian men’s and women’s national team matches on Foxtel’s cable and satellite channel and streaming platforms.
Fox is said to believe the contract is now overpriced in the current economic climate, also pointing to the poor ratings and attendances the A-League has generated in recent seasons.
Image: Sydney's Bankwest Stadium is among venues ready to host a restarted A-League competition (top) and FFA Chief Executive James Johnson (below).
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