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Socceroos fans pay the price for Howard's inaction.

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Senator Stephen Conroy Deputy Opposition Leader in the Senate Shadow Minister for Communications and Information Technology

Socceroos fans pay the price for Howard's inaction

John O'Neill and the Football Federation of Australia are to be congratulated for their success in negotiating a lucrative broadcasting deal with Fox Sports. The size of the deal reflects the growing popularity of soccer following the launch of the A League and Australia's qualification for the World Cup Finals in Germany.

While the additional funds will be welcomed by the clubs and administrators, millions of soccer fans will be disappointed that Socceroos matches will be lost to free to air television until 2013.

Football fans will be forced to pay $600 a year to watch the Socceroos’ qualifying matches for the 2010 World Cup and fixtures in the 2007 and 2011 Asian Cup.

John Howard has to take some responsibility for this outcome. For five years his Government has ignored the advice of the Australian Broadcasting Authority that Socceroos matches should be included on the anti-siphoning list.

In 2001 the ABA told the Government that: "Soccer is a sport with a growing following amongst Australian audience generally. It matches Rugby Union in level of interest in television viewing…consideration should be given to listing international soccer matches involving the senior Australian representative team, in a similar way that international 'test' matches are covered for rugby union."

If Socceroos matches had been included on the list, then free to air broadcasters including SBS, would have had the opportunity to acquire the rights without having to compete against pay television licensees.

Senator Coonan has stated that the anti-siphoning list should include events of ‘national importance and cultural significance’. The Minister should now explain why the Government believes that Socceroos World Cup qualifiers don't fit this description.

In Government, Labor would amend the anti-siphoning list to include Socceroos matches.

Last year’s World Cup Qualifier against Uruguay was watched by around 2.5 million people. These matches bring Australians together to express a shared pride in our country. They should be available on free to air to television.

Labor understands that the FFA has reserved the right to sell the highlights of Socceroos matches to free to air broadcasters. For the sake of the millions of soccer fans who can’t afford pay television, I hope that free to air broadcasters will seriously consider this opportunity.

Further information: Stephen Conroy on (02) 6277 3295 or 0418 383 965 or Mark Tapley 0418 420 065 26 April 2006