ABC defends axing rugby despite receiving financial help for broadcast costs

Screen Shot 2014-11-28 at 12.04.13 PMThe ABC has defended its decision to axe coverage of club rugby in New South Wales despite receiving financial help from the state’s rugby union body to cover the broadcast costs.

The New South Wales Rugby Union (NSWRU) handed the public broadcaster $120,000 to assist with the costs last season in a move to ensure coverage of the Shute Shield tournament remained on TV.

But the competition was one of the sporting events to be culled by the ABC this week as it grappled with budget cuts. Coverage of women’s football and women’s basketball will also be withdrawn.

ABcThe broadcaster cited the decision to “rationalise our outside broadcast vans” as one of the reasons behind the decision, arguing there was a “strong business case” to stop coverage of the Shute Shield despite the financial assistance from the NSWRU which is thought to have been around 10 per cent of the total broadcast costs.

“The budget cuts imposed by the Federal Government has led the ABC to make decisions on how best to use its funding to meet the expectations of its audience,” a spokesman said.

“The ABC believes there is a strong business case to cease state-based local sports coverage. With the ABC facing declining audience interest in local sport competitions and some codes chasing commercial opportunities, ABC Television is revising its sports strategy to ensure the most cost-efficient use of resources and optimal audience impact.

“Linked to this is the decision to rationalise our television outside broadcast vans.”

NSWRU executive director Bruce Worboys had earlier expressed his “disappointment” at the end of the only free to air live rugby on television.

“New South Wales Rugby Union and Sydney Rugby Union met with high ranking government officials with Clubs also making representation to local politicians all to no avail – it came down to dollars in the end”,” he said.

He said “a lot of people” will be denied live rugby, despite claims the audience was “minimal”.

“Whilst our preferred broadcaster was the ABC we have had preliminary discussions with other networks and are now calling for expressions of interest from all parties who support Club Rugby on television” Worboys said.

Meanwhile, Football Federation Australia has confirmed it has been in talks with “a number of networks regarding the broadcast rights for the Westfield W-League beyond the current season”.

“We are confident season 2015/16 will be broadcast nationally,” an FFA spokesman said. “Broadcast figures for W-League matches this season have been as high as 102,000 and illustrates the growing popularity of women’s football in Australia.”

The FFA added that it was “not concerned at this stage” about the prospect of sponsors walking away from the sport.

SBS, as the “home of football”, has been tipped to take over the rights despite its own budget cuts.

A spokesperson said: “SBS’s content plans are locked for 2015. However, SBS continuously assesses its content and services, considering opportunities on a case by case basis, and makes decisions according to how SBS can best serve Australian audiences and meet its Charter with the limited resources it has available.”

Steve Jones


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