Inside the A-League's Small Screen Battle

by Michael Edgley on Oct 10, 2014

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This week football’s digital sphere has been overflowing with A-League club previews, predictions, new/old players and rivalries. It has added a sharp focus on the Round 1 A-League action and has been a welcome tonic for the fan of the global game’s local content.

The football family, buoyed and pumped up with the anticipation of a new A-League campaign and all that it offers fans will this season benefit from the most competitive local football television contest in the history of our game.

Rival networks SBS and Foxtel (FOX Sports) are poised to roll out their 2014 coverage of the A-League and like it or not they will be competing for the football family viewing honours.

SBS, often referred to as the “Soccer Broadcasting Network”, an acknowledgement to the FIFA World Cup rights it enjoys and historical role played by Les Murray and the late Johnny Warren who kept the football candle alight during the NSL days.

However, SBS cannot claim ownership of the A-League. This title belongs to FOX Football who has energised the A-League since its inception leveraging interest in the local league off the powerful Premer League content it owns.

Last season SBS drew much criticism for its failed ThursdayFC program (ahem, it was ugly) and then fobbing the live Friday night A-League coverage off to SBS TWO. The public responded returning underwhelming ratings for this programming and it is not surprising that SBS needed to re-think its approach.

This season SBS has committed its live Friday night telecast on SBS ONE, a decision welcomed with open arms by the FFA and fans. The competing networks who cooperate to share the load on Friday night’s live A-League coverage do not always “get on”. Each of the respective teams will be striving to be top dog.

Here are the network line-ups and who is leading them into battle.

Brains Trust

SBS: Stuart Randall @SJR1978: Stuart is a football fan (Tottenham). He understands the game and has experienced working at the big show (FIFA World Cup) on more than one occasion. Stuart will want the A-League on SBS ONE to be a huge hit for SBS.

FOX Football: Murray Shaw @MurrayShaw1: Murray has been in the driver’s seat at FOX Football since the get-go and has shaped the FOX Football coverage. Murray will want to retain the A-League top dog title.

Friday Night Pre & Post Game Programs

SBS (from 19:30 on SBS ONE):
- David Zdrilic @Zdrila (37K followers): The former Socceroo is now an SBS mainstay. He will host the Live Friday telecast. He prides himself on his knowledge of the local game (and this I enjoy). Have the ThursdayFC wounds healed?

- Craig Foster @Craig_Foster (52K followers): The SBS Chief Football Analyst is often unfairly compared to the late Johnny Warren (as he follows in Johnny’s SBS footsteps) but the experienced commentator and ex Socceroo is passionate. He will tell you what he thinks and takes no prisoners. Just ask Pim and Ange.

- Jason Culina @CulinaJason (4K followers): the ex-Socceroo will be in the studio offering his insight. Will he be as good as his father was in the role of providing analysis? Branko was good.
- Lucy Zelic @LucyZelic (35K followers): the sister of Ned, she is having a crack at making a go of it. Lucy will be pitch side for SBS.

FOX Football (from 19:00 on Fox Sports):
- Adam Peacock @adampeacock3 (46K followers): Adam will host FOX Football’s “Kick Off”. He can be funny and will direct proceedings herding the analysis of Rudan, Harper & Kosmina.
- Andy Harper (no twitter – old school): Andy has a way with words and when combined with football analysis it is cool and sometimes a little out there.
- John Kosmina (no twitter – extremely old school): I have to declare an interest as I have worked with Kossie in close quarters at the 2010 and 2014 FIFA World Cups. He is genuine, calls it as he sees it and entertaining. Like Foster at SBS Kosmina is passionate! Just ask Kevin.
- Mark Rudan @MarkRudan (42K followers): the brother of Mariana. Mark is a fan favourite, particularly in Sydney where he enjoyed a sparkling NSL and A-League career and recently steered his NPL outfit Sydney United 58 on an impressive FFA Cup run.

Sunday Night Review Programs

SBS “A-League Extra Time” (from 22:00 on SBS TWO):
Hosted by Lucy Zelic and joined by David Zdrilic, Craig Foster and its new signing Marcos Flores @MarcosFlores85 (6K followers). Marcos always has something to say. He is articulate and most of the time interesting. His commentary will be necessary viewing. The program will likely have guests from Fairfax, clubs and the FFA. The 10pm timeslot on SBS TWO is interesting and I think can work.

FOX Football “Sunday Shootout” (from 19:00 on Fox Sports):
Hosted by Tara Rushton @TaraRushton (32K followers). Tara had impressive shoes to fill in 2013-2014 taking over the hosting mantle from Mel McLaughlin. Fans quickly took a liking to Tara and with that in mind Tara will be joined by three superstars of Australian football.
- Mark Bosnich @TheRealBozza (340K followers – yes he wins). Bozza will back up from FOX Football’s “Matchday Saturday” program to give us his analysis from the weekend’s matches. He has a cult following and how can you not love that laugh.
- John Aloisi (no twitter – was it too many trolls from his Melbourne Heart coaching days?): looks like he could settle in as an elite media talent after a glittering on field career. I’m looking forward to his analysis. One to watch.
- Ned Zelic @NedZelic (11K followers): is the FOX Football off-season poach. However, SBS’ loss is sure to be FOX Football’s gain. Anyone who follows Ned on twitter will be aware he can be hilarious with a serious twist. He knows his stuff.

The battlelines are now drawn. Only time will tell who will win the A-League title for best coverage on an apples for apples comparison. For me SBS have the free to air reach and FOX the talent advantage. However, whichever way you look at it the A-League and the fans are the winners.