The AFL has announced the new broadcast deal at AFL House, receiving the sum of $2.508 billion from 2017 until the end of 2022.
Despite pushing to have the impending AFL national women’s league included in the media rights deal, AFL boss Gillon McLachlan did not mention the women’s game at the press conference.
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Although the AFL women’s exhibition match telecasted on the Seven Network on Sunday reached an average audience of 244,000 across Australia, three times more than the average for Network Seven’s VFL matches, women’s footy has not been included in the new deal.
There was also no further news regarding the date of the new competition, despite McLachlan avoiding announcing a date on Sunday night and creating speculation about an announcement during the broadcast rights press conference.
AFL chairman Mike Fitzpatrick, who mentioned that women’s footy was “surprisingly tough” on Sunday afternoon, lightly mentioned female participation in Australian Rules.
“(There are) 200,000 women participating in the game. These are the figures we need to protect and we need to grow,” Fitzpatrick said.
If the future of women’s footy was not already up in the air, this press conference has further muddied the waters.
It was previously believed that the national women’s competition would be introduced in 2017 as part of the new media rights deal, with matches to be telecasted on the Seven Network and Foxtel.
Although Seven has failed to retain its Saturday afternoon delayed telecast, the slot has not been filled by women’s footy.
Moving into the second half of August, there is still no confirmation regarding a 2017 competition despite nearly 12 months of teasing the idea of a women’s competition being brought forward from 2020.
What women’s footy not being included in the new deal means is the AFL will have to seek an independent deal, potentially with other networks, in order for women’s footy to be on television.
It’s yet another blow to the progression of female in Australian Rules, with some sort of media deal expected to have been made by now.
First things first, a national competition date has to be confirmed, and with the distraction of the new broadcast deal out of the way, hopefully it opens the door for Gillon McLachlan to put some serious effort and time into the fastest growing facet of Australian sport, that being women’s footy.