>In the biggest move since the inception of the A-League, the league is on track to move the season from Summer to Winter after clinching a deal with Fox Sports to ensure coverage for not only the rest of the current season but the 2020-21 campaign as well. After agreeing to a fresh one-year contract, that both parties see as a win under the circumstances, it was finally confirmed that Fox Sports will be paying $25 million in cash and $7 million in contra to retain the football rights.
These figures are well down considerably on the previous arrangement, which committed Foxtel to $57 million per season until 2023. However due to the impacts of COVID, they have restructured the deal which will see Fox Sports continue broadcasting the remaining matches of the current A-League season when it resumes next month, along with 2020/21 A-League and W-League seasons. The deal also sees Fox Sports will also broadcast Australia’s final four FIFA World Cup Qualifiers, along with Socceroos and Matildas friendly international matches up until 31 July 2021.
>The further massive news doesn’t stop there for A-League fans, however this one comes with a very heavy heart, as the golden voice of Simon Hill recently announced he will be leaving Fox Sports. The 52-year-old Manchester born football commentator has been the main man of Fox Sports football / soccer since 2006 and is widely respected for his superb analysis and research. In what appears to be a budgetary decision Hill advised his twitter followers advising
“Just letting you know I will not be returning to your screens once the A-League season resumes next month. My contract at Fox Sports ends on Tuesday. While I will miss bringing the A-League and other football to you, it nevertheless gives me a chance to pursue other opportunities, on which I’ll hopefully have more news shortly. In the meantime, I have enormous confidence in the game and its potential in Australia. Thanks to all my colleagues and the players, coaches and officials I’ve had the pleasure to meet – but most of all, thanks to all of you for listening to me down the years and for giving me a million brilliant memories.”
His call of the Australian v Uruguay game in Sydney in 2005 which saw Australia make the World Cup for the first time in 32 years is still folklore and his loss to Australian TV is a sad day for all football fans. When A-League returns on July 16, Fox Sports will feature a commentary line-up of Adam Peacock, Robbie Slater, Tara Rushton, Archie Thompson, Brenton Speed, Mark Bosnich and Andy Harper to present and commentate all matches from a central studio. The decision to call matches from a central hub due to COVID-19 restrictions has allowed Fox Sports to reduce its commentary line-up.
>In great news for fans, the A-League will return on July 16 with a Melbourne derby (Victory v Western United) at AAMI Park to re-light the competition after a four-month hiatus. Football Federation Australia CEO, James Johnson, has confirmed when the A-League returns it will be played in New South Wales and assured that almost every player involved before the season was brought to a halt will be there when it resumes.
The FFA, clubs and PFA (Professional Footballers Australia) reached an agreement for a planned return to action, with training to resume in mid-June and games in mid-July.
The match between the Victorian rivals will kick-start an unprecedented run of Hyundai A-League match play, with the remaining 27 games of the regular season to be held over an action-packed 28-day period before the end of season Finals Series. All matches are planned for Bankwest Stadium in Parramatta, Netstrata Jubilee Stadium in Kogarah, and McDonald Jones Stadium in Newcastle.
>On the park, a staggering number of players contracts are up as at the end of this season (in excess of 60), so expect movement to be rife when this campaign is over. It has been difficult to get a grip on player movements since COVID-19 but the highest profile one is Victory having lost Ola Toivanen, who was always returning to Sweden in the month of June whilst assistant coach Grant Brebnar will undertake the role on the Victory’s head coaching role on an interim basis after previous interim coach Carlos Perez Salvachua returned to Europe. Brebnar, a dual Championship-winning player with Victory will be popular with the fans and he will be supported by Jeff Hopkins who many may recall coached Gippsland Falcons for a period of time. Since then, he has become a well acclaimed women’s coach having success with Brisbane Roar and now heading up Victory women’s team.
>Adelaide United coach Gertjan Verbeek returned to Holland and one of South Australia’s favourite sons Carl Veart has been installed on an interim basis. Robbie Fowler has also headed home to England, and won’t be returning, which is a sad loss for the A-League as he had the Roar playing well.
>New club Macarthur FC (entering the A-League next year) have been very quiet with signings, with moves afoot to decrease the initial entrance fee to the A-League due to COVID-19. Off the pitch they have secured the signature of one of Australian football’s most experienced coaches with Anthony Crea joining the club as Head of High Performance. Crea played a central role in delivering a swag of silverware during his spell with Melbourne Victory and was a key factor off field in Australia’s 2006 FIFA World Cup campaign that saw Australia reach the finals for the first time in 30 years. Ante Milicec was announced as inaugural coach quite a while ago however at this stage, Tommy Oar is the only known player to have signed, although Macarthur assure supporters, they have made several signings.
> Lastly, and most importantly, as reported earlier in the week Australia and New Zealand have won the right to host the Woman’s World Cup, with the final likely to be played in Sydney after the AFL would not release the MCG. A great achievement given the upheaval of Soccer in this country over recent years, and a wonderful opportunity (along with New Zealand) to showcase our highly successful women’s team, stadiums and way of living.