As someone who has historically watched each and every A-League Men’s match in full across the course of most seasons, I must admit to being confused and frustrated by the broadcast approach being taken this season.
When Network 10 was announced as the new and much hoped for free-to-air partner of the A-Leagues and Australian football more broadly, the reasons for optimism were obvious.
In fact, little has occurred to wipe away that optimism, as fans continue to learn about and adapt to the new way that football is consumed via the Paramount+ application and the network’s 10 Play streaming facility.
I’ve experienced the odd audio issue, noticed imperfections in the pictures being beamed in from time to time and have heard many stories suggesting that certain brands of televisions do not support the new football specific application.
However, despite the expected early teething problems and fans having to decide whether a Fetch Box, Apple TV or Chromecast method of watching the game would suit them best, most appear to be pleased with the product provided and the subsequent ability to watch the A-Leagues via a broadcaster that is committed to the product far more convincingly that the previous.
As part of the new frontier in football broadcasting in Australia, came the announcement that most match weeks would feature three Saturday night games, with two played in the 7.45pm prime-time slot; one broadcast live on Network 10, the other available on Paramount+.
Frankly, I didn’t really understand the thinking behind it right from the start and still don’t.
Should a person be only interested in watching their team play each weekend, I guess such an arrangement would have no impact on them whatsoever. Quite simply, those fans could choose the game they would like to watch, view it and catch the final score of the other fixture in the wash up to all the weekend action come Sunday.
However, it strikes me that many fans actually enjoy consuming far more A-League football than that and the current set up potentially restricts many from viewing one match altogether.
That was exactly the situation in which I found myself last Sunday, on what was supposed to be a busy night of football after a Christmas break where the players enjoyed some time with their families.
Sadly, the Jets vs Wanderers twilight fixture was postponed, yet two prime-time derbies looked likely to provide some serious storylines no matter the winners and losers of either. I was desperate to watch both live yet had enormous difficulty in deciding whether my focus would be on Macarthur FC vs Sydney FC or the Victory and Western United clash down at AAMI Park.
Rather foolishly, I tried to manage both and made a complete hash of the entire situation. As a tip to new players, take it from me; attempting to watch two matches of A-League Men’s football while jumping from one stream to another simply does not work.
Of the seven goals scored across the two fixtures, I managed to see just one live. I missed Patrick Wood’s 11th minute opener for the Sky Blues, caught Jason Geria’s headed effort and then missed out on Josh Brillante’s goal just a minute later, as well as Max Burgess’ 28th minute strike in Sydney.
I had the shits at halftime.
With a better contest unravelling at AAMI Park, Trent Buhagiar’s second half goal was also missed and after noting Victory appeared home with just a few minutes of normal time remaining, I jumped back to Campbelltown Stadium and managed to avoid the late Western United goal that spiced up the final few moments.
At that point I turned both off and watched a taped episode of Eight out of Ten Cats does Countdown. I had had enough of the A-Leagues for one night and the stupid decision to play two matches at the same time.
Sure, we understand that avoiding afternoon heat is important and yes, many leagues around the world are forced to have games taking place concurrently. However, A-League Men is a small competition with usually just six matches to be slated across an entire weekend.
Thursday games should feature regularly and where possible, the friendly Western Australian time difference should be used to facilitate three consecutive Saturday night fixtures that do not butt heads. Why Perth’s Round 1 home match was proceeded by two evening games and not a twilight fixture is beyond me.
Yet it appears to be the want of the collective minds that have met to decide the broadcast direction for the current season, that Saturday nights will demand dextrous fingers on remotes and some sheer dumb luck if all the important moments are to be seen live.
That just seems silly to me, with any A-League Men’s fan keen to watch multiple games seemingly destined to catch at least one less than they might have hoped.