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Foxtel confident over A$7.5m grant for under-represented sports coverage

Orla O'Dwyer of the Lions is tackled by Kerryn Harrington of the Blues during the AFLW Semi Final match (by Daniel Pockett/AFL Photos/Getty Images)

Australian pay-television operator Foxtel has said it is “confident” it will meet the conditions necessary to secure the latest tranche of a federal government grant designed to support the broadcast of under-represented sports.

Foxtel is required to broadcast sports such as women’s Aussie rules football, basketball and soccer as part of an A$30m (€17.8m/$19.3m) grant bestowed by the government back in 2017.

The Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications is set to examine Foxtel’s 12-month performance in July, before deciding whether to allocate the grant’s final instalment of A$7.5m.

Covid-19’s impact on the sporting calendar has called into question whether Foxtel will be able to meet the conditions necessary, but head of Fox Sports, Peter Campbell, has said it will pass the government’s final assessment as it has not only met but exceeded the 2019-20 benchmarks prior to the shutdowns caused by the pandemic.

He told the Sydney Morning Herald: “Fox Sports has worked hard over the past year to produce, televise and build audiences for women’s and under-represented sport in Australia, which have struggled to secure coverage on free-to-air television.

“The careers of many athletes in under-represented sports, particularly female athletes, have flourished as a result of the coverage.”

Campbell added: “Obviously Covid-19 is impacting all sport at present. We are confident that women’s and under-represented sport will be back and we can deliver strongly against the requirements of the grant again for 2020-21.”

This cash injection would aid Foxtel at a difficult time for the company. Foxtel and commercial broadcaster Nine are seeking reductions in their rights fees due to the National Rugby League this year of up to 28 per cent, according to reports last week.

Earlier in April, Foxtel announced it was laying off 200 staff and furloughing 140 more until the end of June.