Home / World News / Premier Mark McGowan dubs free-to-air AFL ‘your right as an Australian’ as South Australia joins outcry

Premier Mark McGowan dubs free-to-air AFL ‘your right as an Australian’ as South Australia joins outcry

WA Premier Mark McGowan has urged the AFL to “pull back” on a potential change in broadcast rights that would put matches involving Perth and Adelaide’s local teams behind a paywall, while South Australia’s Acting Premier has joined the outcry.

Seven currently holds the free-to-air rights while the pay TV rights are held by Foxtel, which is 65 per cent owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp and the remainder held by Telstra.

But the AFL has been holding talks with other parties ahead of the deals expiring in 2024.

Pictures of people looking at the Tricia the elephant memorial walk at Perth Zoo, in South Perth.
Pictures of WA Premier Mark McGowan at Perth Zoo.
Camera IconMark McGowan has ‘strongly’ urged the AFL to stick with free-to-air TV. Credit: Ross Swanborough/The West Australian

These include ViacomCBS-owned Network Ten and its Paramount+ streaming service, which according to News Corp’s The Australian, is considering blowing Seven and Foxtel out of the water with an offer for both sets of TV rights.

Another option on the table is for Foxtel to broadcast more live games of Perth and Adelaide’s local teams — both AFL mad cities — meaning supporters of the West Coast Eagles, Fremantle Dockers, Adelaide Crows and Port Adelaide Power would no longer be able to view their matches for free on Seven.

Mr McGowan on Monday “strongly” urged the AFL “to stick with free-to-air viewing of football” and again used unequivocal wording on Tuesday.

“I reckon all footy fans are at risk of being short-changed. I think it’s sad,” he told reporters.

I just urge the AFL to pull back.

“I grew up watching football on telly like everyone. You watch football on telly. It’s almost sort of … I think it’s your right as an Australian to be able to just watch the footy.

“And the idea that it becomes pay-per-view will just mean that, in particular, people with less income — pensioners, unemployed people, people on ordinary incomes — have less opportunity to enjoy watching a great Australian spectacle.

“I just urge the AFL to pull back.

Luke Shuey and Nat Fyfe
Camera IconWA players Luke Shuey and Nat Fyfe. Credit: TheWest

“You know, the most important people in football are the fans. And the AFL needs to be on the side of the fans.

“Letting people watch the footy from their lounge room and yell and scream at the TV is just part of being an Australian, and I’d urge them to continue that tradition.”

Susan Close, South Australia’s Acting Premier, said not being able to watch Port Adelaide or Crows matches without paying was “beyond unthinkable”.

“Of course footy should be on free-to-air,” the Member for Port Adelaide told reporters on Tuesday.

AFL boss Gillon McLachlan annoucing that Perth will host the AFL Grand Final at Optus Stadium.
Picture 7NEWS
Camera IconAFL boss Gillon McLachlan. Credit: 7NEWS/7NEWS

“I urge the AFL to come to their senses and make sure that we continue to have free access to Australia’s greatest game.”

Wearing a light-blue shirt, she was asked if it was a silent protest, given the hue looked similar to Port Adelaide’s official colour.

“Are you suggesting this is teal?” Dr Close smiled.

The Australian reported on Monday that Seven and Foxtel would have to increase their bids to as close to $600 million each, annually, to scupper the Ten proposal and remain rights holders until 2029, compared to a combined $946m for the 2023 and 2024 seasons.

To put those figures into context, AFL’s 2021 annual report showed a $63.3m jump in total revenue to $738m due to “increased broadcast revenue and improved commercial returns”.

The document also didn’t rule out a change in rights, saying “the AFL looks forward to continuing to work with our valued partners for at least the next three years”.

AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan has been trying to score more lucrative deals before leaving his role at the end of this season, holding meetings with Paramount+, Amazon Prime and YouTube in Los Angeles earlier this year.

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