Soccer-Australia FA signs bumper new $165m TV deal
SYDNEY Nov 19 (Reuters) - Australian soccer chiefs have sealed a new four-year deal for the broadcast of national team, A-League and Asian Cup matches worth A$160 million ($164.92 million), Football Federation Australia (FFA) said on Monday.
The deal, which starts next year and doubles the revenue from the existing exclusive five-year deal with pay-TV broadcaster Foxtel, ensures one A-League match a week will be broadcast free-to-air on public service channel SBS.
Foxtel, a joint venture between former state telephone company Telstra and News Limited, remains the major partner in the deal, however, and has exclusive rights to the live broadcast of the Socceroos matches.
The broadcaster will also have exclusive Australian rights to broadcast all 32 matches in the Asian Cup, which the country is hosting for the first time in 2015.
"The new broadcast arrangements will give FFA an unprecedented opportunity to implement its strategic plans for Australian football," FFA Chairman Frank Lowy said in a news release.
"There's never been any doubt that the game has a bright future in this nation, but today the football family can take comfort from the huge vote of confidence from our broadcast partners."
The arrival of former Italy and Juventus forward Alessandro del Piero at Sydney FC, and to a lesser extent former England striker Emile Heskey at Newcastle Jets, have boosted the profile of the league internationally this season.
Most, if not all, of the A-League clubs lost money last year and one folded so the new deal will be a big boost to their finances.
Lowy said the first thing the FFA would do with the cash would be to cover the salary cap "to the tune of $2.5 million, $2.6 million" but players should not expect big improvements in their salaries.
"What we have to do first is make the clubs sustainable. Without the clubs, there is no football," Lowy added in an interview on the FFA's website.
"(The players) have to do their own jobs, and they are doing very well now.
"Of course we need to put more bums on seats, we have a good television contract, which we have now.
"So they have to do the job, and not to try to gouge more from here and there, because there is no gouging around. There's not enough money for that."
Despite the arrival of marquee names like Del Piero, soccer is still a poor relation to the dominant football codes in Australia.
The Australian Rules league (AFL) just finished the first season of a five-year A$1.25 billion television deal, while the National Rugby League (NRL) agreed a A$1.025 billion contract, again over five years, with broadcasters in August.
The arrival of David Beckham as a guest player would, of course, further heighten soccer's profile - however unlikely that seems.
Australian newspapers were full of reports on Monday of A-League clubs lining up to try to lure Beckham to Australia, despite the former England captain making it clear he had no interest in a move Down Under.
"It would be great if one of our clubs could secure him, no doubt about it," said Lowy. "Whether they do is up to them. If some assistance is required from us, not so much financially because it's got to stand on its own feet." ($1 = 0.9702 Australian dollars) (Reporting by Nick Mulvenney, editing by Peter Rutherford)