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Nov 16, 2010

Conroy confirms: soccer punished with a return to anti-siphoning

While speculation has centred on what will be removed from the anti-siphoning list, we now know soccer will be punished by being put back on.

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The Socceroos’ World Cup qualifying matches will be moved onto the anti-siphoning list from 2014, Broadband and Communications Minister Stephen Conroy told caucus this morning.

Conroy fielded several questions about the anti-siphoning list, originally scheduled for cabinet consideration last Monday but shifted till next week, the last parliamentary sitting week of the year. According to a Labor spokesman, Conroy — a keen soccer fan — told caucus that soccer matches would be added to the anti-siphoning list after 2013. The Age reported last week that the Socceroos’ World Cup qualifiers might be added to the list.

The current anti-siphoning list, which expires on 31 December, includes only the FA Cup Final and the 2006 and 2010 World Cups for soccer. Domestic soccer was removed from the list by then-communications minister Daryl Williams in 2004 after the local National Soccer League collapsed. The Seven Network had previously held the broadcast rights but persistently refused to show matches live and, eventually, showed barely any.

Once the new A-League competition was up and running, Football Federation Australia took advantage of being liberated from the list to negotiate a lucrative $120m deal with Fox Sports, far more than the FFA would have received from the free-to-airs under the anti-siphoning list. The 2006 deal included all home internationals, including World Cup-qualifying matches, and lasts until 2013. Traditional soccer broadcaster SBS was particularly unhappy about the deal.

The FFA now faces the probability of a substantially-diminished return from the sale of its post-2014 rights given World Cup qualifiers are, along with the World Cup itself, the only time mainstream audiences tune in to soccer broadcasts. It faces the problem of having to sell its A-League competition rights without being able to package them with the internationals, given the lack of FTA interest in broadcasting domestic matches. The likely cut in revenue — inflicted with no compensation from government — will filter down to the junior and grassroots levels of the code.

A spokesperson for Senator Conroy declined to comment on what the ninister had said to caucus.

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