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Falcons Dispute ‘Unique’

Community News, August 13, 2015

By Mark Donaldson

A GLOBAL sponsorship expert has weighed in on the WAFL dispute between West Perth sponsor Channel 9 and TV rights holder Channel 7.

Chicago-based IEG is one of the world’s leading sponsorship advisory companies.

The Times contacted senior vice-president Jim Andrews for his opinion on Channel 7’s refusal to broadcast West Perth games because of the Falcons’ jumpers featuring the Nine News logo.

Mr Andrews explained sports teams would normally avoid sponsorship from a rival broadcaster because TV rights deals were typically a competition’s major source of revenue. But given Channel 7’s WAFL TV rights deal did not follow this model, he said it “changes everything” in terms of the expectations it should place on a team’s choice of sponsor.

He said if Channel 9’s sponsorship of West Perth pre-dated the Channel 7 agreement, then “negotiations to resolve the issue should have happened at that point, not after the sale (of the TV rights) was finalised”.

West Perth is adamant Nine sponsored the club before the WA Football Commission (WAFC) began negotiations with Channel 7.

But the WAFC claims it warned the Falcons of a possible Channel 7 broadcast deal, which they chose to ignore when signing with Nine.

It was a perplexing situation for Mr Andrews, who said it was “difficult to find a comparable deal”.

“The situation involving the West Perth Falcons and the two broadcasters is, as far as I know, truly unique,” he said.

“This is an unusual situation because the Channel 9-Falcons deal is atypical. Broadcast entities rarely purchase high visibility partnerships, such as jersey sponsorship.”

While Mr Andrews was unaware of any comparable dilemma in world sport, the Times found an example from American soccer in 2007.

In a Fox Soccer Channel-featured league known as USL-1, which at the time was second tier to the professional Major Soccer League, Miami FC was broadcast wearing GolTV sponsorship on its strips.

GolTV is a US pay-TV channel that competes with Fox Sports for the broadcast rights to worldwide soccer leagues.

American soccer analyst Kartik Krishnaiyer recalls Fox permitted the shirt sponsorship in exchange for highlights footage from the Copa America, to which GolTV had the rights.

“I believe Fox simply wanted GolTV to provide bumper coverage (highlights) of the Copa,” he said.

“They got that for the nightly show they used to run called Fox Soccer Report.

“It all worked out.”

With West Perth looking likely to feature strongly in the finals, the WAFC is hoping it will all work out for the WAFL too.

In response to Channel 9’s recent offer to televise all finals games live, WAFC chief executive Gary Walton reminded WAFL followers the TV deal was exclusive to Seven from 2015-17.

“The WAFC remains optimistic that those WAFL clubs playing in the finals series will have the potential to be televised on the Seven Network,” he said.