TV network support boosts Tasmania's A-League bid

Tasmania’s lavishly funded A-League bid has received a boost with pay-television rights holders Fox Sports expressing its support for a team in the Apple Isle, in response to Football Federation Australia revealing that broadcasters would be consulted over their preferred choices for an expanded competition.

A-League tasmania

Launceston's Aurora Stadium hosted Tasmania's last A-League clash in 2013 when Melbourne Victory played the Central Coast Mariners Source: Getty Images

TV networks will be influential in deciding which two of up to 12 potential bidders get the nod against the back drop of tenders from free-to-air, pay-tv and online outlets being submitted last Thursday ahead of what FFA hopes will be the signing of a new $80 million rights deal.

While FFA CEO David Gallop favours expansion being centered in the more populous markets of Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne, the governing body could be forced into a rethink as the groundswell of support for a team from Tasmania – backed by multi-millionaire former Melbourne Victory directors Harry Stamoulis and Robert Belteky – mushrooms.

The latest boon for a bid, which already has state and federal government backing, and a number of sponsors on board, was revealed by Belteky after recent discussions with Fox Sports' heavy-hitters.

While Gallop may not view a team in a state of 600,000 as part of his master plan, Fox Sports chiefs view the Apple Isle as an appetising morsel ripe for infiltration into a deep reservoir of potential subscriptions.

Belteky made his fortune from car parks while Stamoulis is a property magnate worth in excess of $620 million – and both are possibly the only individuals ever to turn a profit from the A-League, having sold their Victory shares at an opportune time.

They now want to reinvest and feed their passion for the sport, with Belteky revealing the support from Fox Sports when he told The World Game: "We had a chat the other day and they indicated they were supportive of us, and they are talking about filming one of their Sunday afternoon Shootout shows down in Hobart."

It’s understood the support for a team in Tasmania runs to the higher echelons of the network, with Belteky insisting that Gallop – famous for declaring FFA need to 'fish were the fish are' – in terms of A-League expansion - should also "fish were the fish are biting".

"It’s very encouraging that Fox Sports are behind us because one of the things that FFA and David Gallop will be looking at is what a new club brings to the broadcast deal," Belteky said.

"It’s fair to say that we ignited the expansion debate, and we are not a below par bid out of Tassie. We are a compelling bid."

Belteky and Stamoulis, in conjunction with Football Federation Tasmania, is banking on the A-League moving to 12 teams next season, believing that the traction they have gained should not be allowed to falter.

“The only issue for us is that we are ready to start next year and the momentum we have now could dissipate in the sense that we are clearly far more prepared for the other bidders," Belteky said.

"I don’t know why FFA would want to wait another season if you could have two clubs that are financially viable, who add to value to the league and are ready to go, which we are.

"You don’t want to lose excitement and expectation which has been generated by the expansion talks.

Belteky reiterated that neither he nor Stamoulis are hunting a football return in pursuit of a pay-packet.

"You don't step in to the game to make money, nor necessarily lose it, but it something you do for non-commercial gain," he said.

"Why Tassie? It wasn’t that something that happened over night. We’ve been looking at options for a year - initially Geelong, and then south-east of Melbourne, and also western Melbourne.

"But, other than Geelong, there are no stadiums out there. And Geelong is not as simple as people think: the stadium deal is not as good as you’d want and you have an AFL club which won’t welcome co-tenancy. It’s a possibility but not a great one.

"With Tassie, what has been missed is that it’s easy to say 'fish where the fish are' and go to the big cities but it’s not really working out. Melbourne City are struggling to get 10,000, even with Timmy Cahill. And you expect Sydney FC to have a full house every game and that’s not happening.

"Tassie has innate parochialism and a fervent loyalty to their state. They are used to being alienated from the mainland and that galvanises them to support anything they can call their own.

"We used to get 7,000 for Victory friendlies there and there are 15-20,000 for cameo appearances by Hawthorn and the Kangaroos.

“Put that together and you fish were the fish are biting."

Belteky also contends that the stadium deals at Hobart’s Blundstone Arena and Launceston’s Aurora Stadium, until North Hobart Oval is redeveloped with the aid of state and federal government funds, as well as himself and  Stamoulis, are advantageous.

"The other thing people don’t realise is that if you want a derby there are plenty of Tasmanians in Melbourne who would flock to a derby against Victory or City.

"We are financially viable … and can prove that we can finance a club for a long period of time. You can’t have another two or three teams coming in who will add to the eight who are already losing money."

Belteky insists that he is not in the businesses of creating a "run of the mill" A-League team and moves will be made to snare a marquee player the "population can embrace".

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5 min read
Published 10 December 2016 at 9:50am
By Dave Lewis