Selling out your sport
Russell Degnan

It never ceases to amaze me that sporting administrators routinely choose the highest bidder when selling television rights. Money is no doubt important, as it is one of the major sources of revenue, but is not the only thing by any means.

This week, the English Premier League did a deal with Fox Sports that sees SBS lose both the game per week and the highlights package. But television is more than revenue, it is advertising, and in the case of free-to-air, it is good advertising (even on SBS). If the overall interest in the Premier League drops because of a lack of coverage - and it almost certainly will - how much will those teams lose in merchandise sales?

It does however give Soccer Australia an opportunity - when they have a competition that is. They are another organisation that sold their rights, to channel Seven, for piddling coverage, and no real commitment. The NSL lost coverage on SBS, in favour of a very late night highlights package. It continued to flounder along until its mercy killing, but hopefully the lesson has been learnt. What sports - particularly marginal ones in Australia like soccer and basketball - need is coverage first and foremost. Other advertisers would follow if you locked a major network into prime-time coverage, but as the NBL has learnt (even as netball is jumping ahead on the ABC), noone is interested in an invisible game.

But, back to the Premier League. Australian's have no special attachment to the English game. It could well be usurped by whatever SBS find as an alternative, be it the Serie A or the Primera Liga. And it will serve them right.

Culture 28th August, 2004 23:16:31   [#] [0 comments] 

Local sport and their local council
Russell Degnan

Gideon Haigh wrote an interesting article yesterday on the plans Moreland city council - God bless 'em, I'm glad I'm moving - has for Coburg Cricket Club. Or rather, what they don't have planned. Gideon is obviously biased, being a player of cricket in the same sort of localised, historic club as Coburg. I am too, so I won't bother stating what I think of it.

However, I will comment on the nature of local councils and their sporting organisations in this day and age. There was obviously a time, before councils merged, and were told to be efficient - or at least pretend to be - when a club could go from year to year, paying their ground rent, occasionally asking for a bit of club room maintenance, but otherwise ignoring the council and vice-versa. That time is finished.

Haigh has written before about this. From a cricketer's viewpoint the key line is this one:

An office bearer of one club I spoke to recently told me of a meeting where two councilors wondered openly why they had a local team at all: cricket, it was well known, was an elitist activity.

This is rubbish of course, cricket clubs tend to reflect the area they reside in, which is why mine is mostly students, young singles, professionals, and an assortment from a half dozen countries. But councilors don't necessarily know what is going on, and they have a tendency to come from a less than diverse range of places. Cricketers for instance, do not have time to run for local council.

Until two years ago my club had very little contact with the City of Melbourne who own our ground, until they put out two strategy documents. The first was on green issues; I wrote to them to comment that if water-saving was an issue on playing fields they should talk to the local clubs because they were over-watering our ground.

The second was on local sport in general. The draft said outright that individual activities were growing where clubs weren't and bordered on recommending the move and removal of sporting clubs in favour of running tracks and general parkland. My club responded to a some of the issues raised, and put to the council that they were not consulting clubs enough - if at all.

The response was two fold, and it is something that all clubs need to keep in mind. One, we meet with the council far more often, which was very useful during the recent water restrictions, but means in general that we have much greater idea what is going on. And are much less likely to be thrown off our ground in favour of the local soccer club that also uses it. Two, we have been more active in the community we are part of. This hasn't been entirely successful - it is much harder than it looks - but it is the attitude that counts.

Sporting clubs in Melbourne can no longer afford to stay independent of their local council. A lot have been shunted, or moved, often at great cost to the club itself, and in an insensitive way. They really need to step up and show why they are so important to the community - because they are - otherwise incidents of random politics will keep killing them off.

Culture 22nd August, 2004 23:22:34   [#] [0 comments]