Television coverage of Australia’s two main women’s national league competitions has been cut in half, but the sporting organisations affected are confident it will result in increased exposure.
In a move which will affect Canberra’s most successful sporting team, the Canberra Capitals, and reigning W-League champions Canberra United, the WNBL and the W-League will be broadcast in back-to-back one-hour highlights packages on ABC1, as opposed to live games or full match replays which have been shown in previous seasons.
Live games will still be available online on the ABC’s website, with the W-League also streamed on the Football Federation Australia’s website.
While admitting the chances of returning to live coverage in future years would be slim, Capital Football chief executive Heather Reid was relieved the W-League is still on free to air television, a luxury a lot of other women’s sports don’t have.
‘‘The most important thing is that we’ve got TV coverage,’’ Reid said.
‘‘It’s always disappointing if you lose something, and getting it back (a live game) will be difficult, but we haven’t lost a whole lot.
‘‘We have to take the game to a broader market and deliver something for our sponsors and for those fans that can’t get to the game.’’
Federal member for Eden-Monaro Mike Kelly vented his frustration at the decision to scrap the live broadcast of W-League games.
‘‘Outrageous. It was better than the A League!,’’ he tweeted.
Viewership numbers for the W-League have steadily declined since the competition’s introduction in 2008.
An initial average television audience of 115,000 in the debut season slumped to 70,000 last year - a drop of nearly 40 per cent.
That has been largely attributed to the explosion in additional free-to-air digital television channels.
A spokesperson for Football Federation Australia said the decision was made in conjunction with the ABC after the figures were taken into account.
‘‘We made a decision to get more viewers and more awareness to the sport in what is possibly a better timeslot,’’ the spokesperson said.
‘‘We wouldn’t have done it unless we saw value in it.
‘‘While for the football purist it may not be the ideal, because they want to see the full 90 minutes of the match, this will be a one-hour package which will be more exciting for fans of the game who are non-traditionalists.’’
An ABC spokesperson said the decision to put the W-League and the WNBL on a ‘‘slight delay’’ was no different to Channel Nine/WIN TV’s coverage of Sunday afternoon NRL.
‘‘There is no one more committed to promoting women’s sport than the ABC,’’ the spokesperson said.
‘‘The ABC is determined to ensure that as many people as possible are exposed to women’s sport on ABC 1 - particularly the target audience of young women and families.
‘‘The format of the telecast will be 60 minutes in order to remove timeouts, half times etc and all finals will be live and in full on ABC 1.’’
The draw for the upcoming W-League season hasn’t been released, but it’s understood Canberra United will open the season with a grand final rematch against the Brisbane Roar at McKellar Park on October 20.
The Canberra Capitals kickoff their WNBL campaign on October 6.