Footy on the television

ADS7 Outside Broadcast at Alberton Oval circa 1983.

By Neil J Smith

Through the 70s and 80s, the rights to telecast SANFL football were hotly contested by the Adelaide television stations.  The usual schedule was to show the SANFL Reserves match live and then to record the Match of the Day for replay in the early evening.  The video of the games also provided rich content for Nine’s “KG’s Footy Show”, Seven’s “World of Sport” and then for the annual “prime time” telecast of the Magarey Medal.  The ABC also had its share of involvement, often covering a second game that it would then share with the commercial broadcaster.

An article in the South Australian Football Budget for May 11, 1963 has some interesting insight into the early negotiations for the rights to telecast footy in Adelaide. Remember, at this stage the commercial television industry here was only a few years old:

Since television commenced in South Australia, negotiations have taken place between the TV stations and the League to telecast football. The league first was approached to allow a contemporaneous telecast of the SECOND HALF of three league matches each Saturday for a total payment by the TV stations of £60 each week. This offer was rejected, as the League would not agree under any circumstances to allow the second half of matches to be telecast.

The next offer by the stations was for a contemporaneous telecast pf the last quarter of three league matches each Saturday for a total payment of £3,000 for the season. The league also rejected this offer, as the amount offered was not considered adequate as much had been learned from the Victorian Football League regarding direct telecasts, in the deleterious effect it was having on attendances, junior, country football and other sporting bodies.

The league were ready to negotiate with the TV stations for one or more of the channels to videotape the last quarter of league matches, for subsequent showing. The League was told that the costs involved in videotaping, when a contemporaneous telecast was not being done, was prohibitive.

And so the debate continued.  The television stations offered a fee of £200 for the rights to record the 1963 Grand Final “for subsequent showing”.

The league would not agree to the amount offered. The TV stations were advised that the league would require a combined payment of £600 for the whole game, or £225 for the last quarter, to be videotaped for showing not earlier than 10 o’clock on the Saturday night. (my emphasis!)

The league’s offer was turned down.

Clearly this was all eventually resolved and coverage of local footy became a key element in the commercial stations’ schedules.  They assigned substantial resources to the productions, as is evident from a collection of photos that was recently donated to the SANFL History Centre, depicting Channel 7 outside broadcasts from the early 80’s.


A young Bruce McAvaney at Football Park.

With the changes in technology and a general downsizing of the industry in Adelaide, the three commercial stations and the ABC have donated their substantial archives of South Australian football to the care of the SANFL History Centre.  Over the past five years, these hundreds of videotapes (and 16mm films) have been transferred to digital formats, thanks to the enormous efforts of George Usher and his “historic” collection of equipment.


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