Sport and Recreation Minister John Bowler has written to the AFL, warning it not to forget the grass roots of the game.
Mr Bowler is concerned that a push to expand the game in non-traditional markets could see Western Australians forced to take out pay TV subscriptions to watch their teams on live television.
The move follows last week’s record $780million broadcasting rights deal with the Seven-Ten network consortiums.
“It would be a tragedy for the sporting public to be denied access to games involving the West Coast Eagles and Fremantle Dockers on a free-to-air basis,” the Minister said.
“To force people to have pay TV to watch football would be a huge blow, especially to country people, who have to travel huge distances if they want to see a game at Subiaco Oval.”
In his letter, Mr Bowler pushed the case for free-to-air and live coverage of AFL games throughout the State, and sought assurances that away games and sold-out home games involving the Eagles and Dockers would be shown live on free-to-air television.
“The WA community is already helping to fund the future of the game but now faces the prospect of having to pay for the privilege of watching matches on television,” he said.
While top-level players and clubs stand to gain significantly, the State Government believes the AFL must re-invest its windfall into junior development and facilities.
“The WA football community is currently seeking funding for an upgrade of its major facilities but if football is only available to a smaller pay-for-view public, the Government would have to ask why it should contribute to the comforts of a limited number of members,” the Minister said.
“Australian Rules football is the people’s game, so the community may also ask why it needs to provide funds to support a sport that is making so much money and, at the same time, reducing the community’s opportunities to view games at the highest level.
“Given the size of this deal, the AFL cannot take the money and then continue to make the same claims on the public purse."
Minister's office: 9213 6500