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A bloody good day: Lowy ecstatic with landmark deal

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Sebastian Hassett

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FFA announces $160m TV deal

Football writer Michael Lynch dissects the FFA's TV rights deal, a split between Fox Sports and SBS over the next four years.

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THERE were no surprises when Football Federation Australia announced its four-year, $160 million television deal yesterday, but that didn't stop the game's chiefs from proclaiming it a landmark moment.

Almost all the details were known well before the announcement and, in truth, the figures were agreed several months beforehand.

Only a combination of late fine-tuning and some minor haggling meant that it dragged on until now.

Winners are grinners ... FFA chairman Frank Lowy can't disguise his delight.

Winners are grinners ... FFA chairman Frank Lowy can't disguise his delight. Photo: Brendan Esposito

That wait aside, all the parties looked rapt at the announcement at FFA's Sydney headquarters. Fox Sports chief executive Patrick Delaney confidently predicted that the investment would be great value for money. SBS's managing director Michael Ebeid hailed football's return to its ''spiritual home'' after a decade-long absence.

However, the FFA chairman Frank Lowy was perhaps the most pleased, saying it was a ''bloody good day'' after some lean years at the helm.

''I'm happy, let's put it that way,'' Lowy said. ''Of course you would like to have more, but I think we are very happy with it.

''The average yearly licence fee is double the annual fee for the existing broadcasting arrangement. This is great news for Australian football.''

The FFA's newly appointed chief executive David Gallop was bullish about what the agreement meant for the game. ''The former sleeping giant of Australian sport is awake,'' he said. ''He's out of bed, he's in the street and now has some cash in his pockets.''

Delaney said negotiations were frequently quite tense before the deal was done.

''Rest assured, they've got every cent we're able to provide,'' he said. ''But we do that willingly. The FFA has been very open with us in the way the money has been spent. It's good. It's an investment in the future, and, gee, it's an entertaining investment.''

Australian football's most iconic television figure, SBS presenter Les Murray, said the arrangement ''may just be a three-way marriage made in heaven''.

''SBS also has form in living happily with a pay-TV partner. This was the case when both SBS and Fox Sports broadcast the English Premier League through three rights contracts from the mid-1990s to the mid-2000s,'' he said. ''This happy symbiosis can now resume, and is bound to bring enormous benefits to the league and the game.''

Lowy was initially reluctant to expand on what the new deal meant for A-League players, only saying ''existing salary cap arrangements will not change'', before expanding in a supplied statement.

''The players deserve whatever they can get. They are working very hard; they do a good job. But as I understand, the current average salary is about $110,000.

''I don't think that will increase greatly. What we have to do first is make the clubs sustainable. Without the clubs, there is no football. They [players] have to do their own jobs, and they are doing very well now.

''They have to do [their] 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.''

Professional Footballers Australia welcomed the deal but let it be known that they felt it was largely attributable to improving playing standards.

''There is little doubt, however, that the players, through the quality of their performances, have contributed significantly to this outcome,'' the PFA's chief executive Nick Holland said. ''Critically, we must continue to invest in the development and support of our players if we are to be competitive in a domestic, regional and international sense''.

A-League club owners welcomed the television deal with the hope that it would end some tough financial days. ''It must be remembered that most, if not all, of the A-League clubs have recorded significant losses in recent years, so these arrangements will enable the clubs to reverse that situation somewhat and hopefully generate profits, which can be reinvested back into the game, which is important for the long-term viability of the clubs and the league,'' Perth Glory's owner Tony Sage said.

Central Coast Mariners chairman Peter Turnbull said the ''expectation is that the new TV contract will cover 100 per cent of the salary cap'' and that such an deal should ''go some way to alleviating the financial losses incurred by club owners since the establishment of the A-League''.

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