FFA, Fox Sports split looms as $11.5 million instalment goes unpaid

FFA are set to fire off an $11.5 million letter of demand to Fox Sports after the beleaguered A-League broadcaster failed to make its quarterly rights holder payment yesterday.

Fox Sports officials dramatically called off a planned meeting with FFA chiefs, on the same day the cheque was due, according to a source close to the ruling body.

With no clarification over when - or even if - Fox Sports will return to the table, FFA is expected to vigorously pursue the missing money through legal channels if need be.

To that end, chief executive James Johnson has enlisted the advice of high ranking barrister Bret Walker, who was part of the successful George Pell appeal and might be unleashed should litigation ensue.

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Despite the financial travails of Foxtel, Fox Sports’ parent company, A-League club chiefs were confident they were legally bound to deliver the instalment, $9.5 million of which was nominally earmarked to be distributed among the clubs.

However, a well placed FFA source didn’t share that confidence and there is a belief at head office Fox Sports will dig their heels in and continue to withhold payment in the light of their being no product to screen due to the coronavirus shutdown.

FFA is contractually bound to complete the season by July 1 to fulfil its obligations, with a behind-closed-doors race to the finish line still theoretically possible should COVID-19 lockdown measures be relaxed by federal and state authorities.

Should that not happen, Fox Sports would be well placed to cite breach of contract and step away from the final three years of their $57.6 million annual deal.

Foxtel, which shed over 200 jobs last week, has been hemorrhaging subscribers and its Fox Sports surrogate has been looking to axe “non-core” content for some time, with the coronavirus seemingly hastening the nadir of its 15-year collaboration with FFA.

The ruling body has had its bottom line further undermined by the non-payment of final instalments from departing sponsors, most notably car giant Hyundai, whose $6 million annual commitment expires in June after 15-years as the A-League’s primary backer.

FFA, meanwhile, is working behind the scenes on several possible start-up scenarios for the final five rounds of the regular season, with a preliminary announcement due on April 22 on the immediate destiny of the league.

Safety considerations - ahead of contractural obligations - remain the primary focus, with a June resumption looking like a realist option at this point. FFA were contacted for comment on the broadcast negotiations.


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3 min read
Published 17 April 2020 at 7:39am
By Dave Lewis
Source: SBS The World Game