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Foxtel ‘fails to make’ A$12m A-League rights payment

Social distancing bench during A-League match between Newcastle Jets Melbourne City on March 23, 2020 (Photo by Ashley Feder/Getty Images)

Australian pay-television operator Foxtel has failed to make its final rights fee instalment for this season’s A-League, the top-tier men’s football league in Australia, it has been reported.

The payment of around A$12m ($7.6m/€7m) to Football Federation Australia was due this week but was not paid, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

Foxtel is in the midst of a six-year rights agreement covering the 2017-18 to 2022-23 seasons that is worth an average of A$57.7m per year. The deal allows Fox Sports to broadcast the A-League, the women’s W-League, and Australian men’s and women’s national team matches on Foxtel’s linear television and streaming platforms.

The A-League remains suspended because of the Covid-19 pandemic and there is no date for the 2019-20 season to resume.

Both Foxtel and FFA have declined to comment on the future of their broadcast deal but it is reported that the two will meet in the coming days in an attempt to resolve the stand-off. The FFA is said to have sought legal advice from Australian barrister Bret Walker.

FFA is scheduled to provide an update to the A-League suspension on April 22.

Speaking earlier this week, FFA chief executive James Johnson made it clear that the league would not be rushed back.

He said: “We have seen other sports acting unilaterally and this is not going to be our approach. This is not just about football, it’s bigger than that. We believe that football will have an important role to play in the recovery of Australian society and we want to be a reliable partner in the government’s efforts towards this.

“We are doing all we can to ensure that both state and federal governments are also fully informed and aligned with our plans to resume both the A-League and grassroots seasons. Our priority remains ensuring the health and well-being of our community and fulfilling our civic duty as a good responsible citizen.”

Towards the end of last year, Australian public-service broadcaster ABC struck a two-year deal with FFA to provide free-to-air coverage of the A-League and W-League club competitions, as well as matches involving the men’s and women’s national teams.

Under that deal, ABC broadcasts 29 live regular-season A-League matches at 5pm on Saturdays during the 2019-20 campaign. For the A-League 2020 Finals Series, ABC is due to provide delayed broadcasts of one elimination final, one semi-final and the grand final.

Foxtel has moved to reduce “non-core” sports costs since posting significant losses during the 2018-19 period.

During Rugby Australia’s recently-issued invitation to tender, it emerged that Foxtel, the incumbent rights-holder, had not signed the governing body’s non-disclosure agreements, raising serious doubts over whether it would submit an offer. Foxtel was unable to negotiate an agreement with Rugby Australia during an exclusive negotiation period. It is reported to have lodged a bid of A$40m per year during that process.