|By JOHN GRECO
Live Australian football will return to free-to-air television for the first time in eight years next season, as part of the new $160m broadcast rights deal Football Federation Australia chief David Gallop described as the most important in the code's history.
On another significant day for the code, Gallop and FFA chairman Frank Lowy announced Fox Sports and SBS would share the TV deal, which will officially commence on July 1 next year.
The huge deal, which is double the previous agreement, is made up of $140m in cash, with the rest in marketing support and advertising.
Fox Sports will continue as chief broadcaster of all A-League matches but SBS will now provide one live game on free-to-air every Friday night.
Some other key aspects of the deal include:
- Fox Sports will also provide exclusively live coverage of all Socceroos matches;
- SBS will show all finals matches on a one-hour delay and will have a weekly highlights show; and
- Fox will be the Australian rights holder of the AFC Asian Cup in Australia in 2015.
"It's an exciting and significant day for football in Australia," Gallop said at a packed media conference on Monday morning.
"The former sleeping giant of Australian sport is awake. He's out of bed, he's in the street and now has some cash in his pockets."
Lowy described the deal as a "bloody great day" for football.
"I'm happy, let's put it that way," Lowy said.
"We are happy with the amount and we will be able to run the game appropriately.
"Of course whenever you can get more you would like to have more, but I know we are very happy with the current arrangement."
While delighted with the strides the game has made in recent years, Lowy stressed the work is not yet done despite the huge spike in popularity, interest and money into the sport.
"FFA has been building the foundations for sustained growth,'' he said.
"Today the new broadcast arrangements will give FFA an unprecedented opportunity to implements is strategic plans for Australian football.
"We must recognise what big steps the FFA and A-League have made in the last few years.
"I said it would take a number of years for football to reach its full capacity and it will take another three or four years then we'll be where we want to be."