WA commentary great Dennis Cometti has joined the chorus of voices advocating for free-to-air coverage of AFL games to continue as league boss Gillon McLachlan gave the best indication yet it will not opt for a complete paywall.
Cometti’s push comes after Federal Communications Minister Michelle Rowland called on the league to resist temptation to partner only with a pay TV or a streaming service in its next broadcast deal, which begins next season.
Outgoing chief executive McLachlan brushed aside the Government’s concerns as “irrelevant” and assured fans free coverage would remain a “critical part of our broadcast”.
Cometti, who called games largely for current free-to-air rights-holder Channel 7, said he hoped for the current agreement, where rights are shared between 7 and Foxtel, maintained.
“It may mean the AFL has to forgo a bit of money by that (free-to-air) is their heartland,” he told The Age.
“I thought we had a pretty good blend last time around. The current agreement should be maintained as is.”
Cometti said more games behind the paywall “may be the best decision for them, but not for the people that follow the footy.”
But McLachlan breathed life into the future of free-to-air coverage, insisting it will stay in the next package.
“Whatever happens going forward free-to-air will be a critical part of our broadcast,” he said.
“Free-to-air coverage is a cornerstone of the way we talk to our supporters.
“We actually want free-to-air coverage. We are lucky to have an incredible partner in Seven, we’re lucky to have free-to-air partners who want to broadcast our game, so it’s irrelevant to us (Federal Government intervention), frankly, because we value free-to-air coverage. It’s a cornerstone of our broadcast.”
Nine Entertainment Group and Paramount (Channel 10), who held the rights jointly in the early part of the century, are both likely to bid to regain football coverage.