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Opinion: Unity, not money, the key positive in FFA's new broadcast deal

The $160m agreement is double the value of the existing deal, but Bren O'Brien believes the money plays second fiddle to a far more important factor

GOAL.com Indonesia   OPINION
By
BREN O'BRIEN


The most significant aspect of Monday's announcement of the new broadcast rights deal is not the amount of cash that will flow to Football Federation Australia's bottom line, but the strategic move by the governing body to engage with both old and new football communities.

While Fox Sports is the major contributor and beneficiary of the rights agreement - having basically preserved the rights they have held since 2005, with the addition of the 2015 Asian Cup - the most important aspect of the deal, at least symbolically, is the opening of the door to SBS, who have been football's prodigal son in the past seven years.

The decision to opt with a pay TV broadcaster in the original deal in 2005 was not just about the amount of cash the A-League needed, but to draw a line between 'old soccer' and 'new football'.

SBS, with its charter for cultural diversity, may have been the home of the world game in Australia for the better part of 25 years, but with its audience it brought some of the legacy of divisiveness which morally and financially bankrupted the sport in the early part of this century.

FFA made a strategic decision to shut the door on the public broadcaster and move into a new age.

What it created without intention was a disenfranchised 'rival', which still held much political power within the sport in terms of its access to the old football powerbase, but held no responsibility to hold the party line.

A schism developed within the media between voices from the old soccer world - still with significant access to the public mind, especially through the fact it retained its rights to the World Cup - and the new, brash football world which put great emphasis on the giant strides made since 2005.

Once the initial lustre of the start of the new A-League and the Socceroos storied qualification for and appearance at the 2006 World Cup had worn off, it became clear that the two most influential voices were not necessarily competing in the interests of the game.

Frank Lowy is one of Australia's most successful and savvy businessmen and he came to understand that the bridge needed to be built. 

The appointment of Kyle Patterson, a former SBS journalist, as the FFA's head of corporate affairs and communications 18 months ago was a significant move in the reconciliation.

The 'We Are Football' marketing campaign overseen by Patterson is undoubtedly a nod to football's roots and a move by FFA to re-engage with 'old soccer'.   It is the most significant sign to date that, while FFA are committed to growing the code, it will not be at the expense of established fan base.

That Sydney FC signed Alessandro Del Piero after the campaign was planned built on the notion that this is now a joint strategy of engagement with the old and embracing the new.

To give FFA credit, it is the right strategy to ensure the success of the game.

The announcement that SBS will have a live A-League game every Friday night and all Socceroos games and A-League finals on a one hour delay furthers that aim.

To borrow one of the most successful slogans in football history, 'Football's Coming Home', and in the process gives thousands of Australian kids who do not have Foxtel access to the current and next generation of football stars.

Unlike the billion-dollar babies delivered by the AFL and NRL broadcast rights team, this deal is not about the cash.

It is about uniting the code and, if it proves successful, it could be Lowy's greatest legacy to the game.

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