The biggest, best single sport event in the world is happening in Russia. As readers of Football Today will know, it's the FIFA World Cup and it happens every four years. It draws a global television audience in the billions. 

Fans of the world game in Australia, however, have been left fuming by Optus as they have been made to pay to stream live games (yes, you read that right – not all games are on free to air television in Australia, unlike the rest of the world). Instead, SBS sold the rights to some World Cup games to a telecommunications company (yes, you read that right too – a telecommunications company) leaving thousands of fans scathing as they see ‘playback error’ over and over again on their screen instead of world class, entertaining football. 

Allen Lew, Optus CEO took to twitter to apologise. 

Lew later told the Sydney Morning Herald that Optus had planned for a larger viewership than the English Premier League, but the “unprecedented demand” was larger than it had anticipated.

'Unprecedented demand?' Really?? Speak to anyone in the world that understands football, or look at viewership numbers from 2014 and before, and I’m quite sure you’d see that the demand is not unprecedented, but expected when the biggest, single sport event is on. Your apology Allen, is quite frankly too little, too late. 

It’s such a big issue, that the Australian Prime Minister, Malcom Turnbull took to Twitter to re-assure the country too! 

I sent a friend in England this tweet and they replied …. “Only in Strayyyya….mate”. Yep, well done Australia – everyone is laughing at us again.  

Some fans are rightly talking about the damage it is causing to the beautiful game too. 

What’s more, the A-League has just experienced one of its most turbulent seasons with poor attendance, poor marketing, poor television viewership figures and bureaucracy galore, with the clubs calling for independence from FFA dominating the headlines. 

Oh, and there’s also that topic of expansion. Australian fans and media want more teams to join the A-League. FFA called for expression of submission interests at the end of May and were “surprised” at the amount and quality of the 15 bids.  How about we stop being amazed and start realising that football is the world game; it’s the only truly universal language in the world. It embraces culture, belief, passion and diversity and has the ability to captivate nations.  

The World Cup presented a huge opportunity to create positive news stories and re-connect fans to the world game. Yet, here we are in the midst of the greatest single sport event in the world and instead of the media being full of positive good news stories, we are reading about cringeworthy topics such as Cahilltex, fansies, #flingswithfootball and now Floptus. 

It is beyond disgraceful that fans have been made to pay for a product, yet the service they have spent their hard-earned cash on has failed to deliver. Furthermore, the product is world class and in any other business, this would result in a company going bust. 

Karl Stefanovic joined the chorus of outrage, slamming Optus on The Today Show:

“Optus is hopeless. If you can’t deliver the product you’re selling, you go out of business. The only problem is no one else can sell it, they don’t have the rights, Optus has the rights. Get it right. This is too big a deal to stuff up.”

The scale of this stuff up is enormous. Yesterday evening, I received two texts from friends saying they no longer want to call Australia home thanks to Floptus & Droptus.

Text 1, from a Brazilian friend that has lived in Australia for 11 years:

“Optus are a f&^$ing joke. In Brazil, they are painting the streets and giving kids time off school to watch the game. In Australia, I have to PAY to watch a playback error message. Confirmed: it's time to go home.” 

Text 2, from an English friend that's been living in Australia for 12 months:

“World Cup fever is here and I turn on the TV to sport headlines about AFL, Cricket and Rugby. Thanks Australia for confirming you will no longer be my home.”

Optus has been forced to return some of their matches back to SBS, from whom they bought the rights, in an attempt to rescue the shambles. SBS is adding four additional matches over the 48 hours until Wednesday morning. 

My guess is that Optus may yet have to hand back more of its rights by way of matches to SBS. 'Floptus' or 'Droptus' have had near on two years to get this right, so I can’t see them fixing it in two days! 

Whatever the outcome, with faith in the telecommunications company now at an all-time low, the host broadcaster and worse still, Australia as a country, now has a long way to go to win back football fans, thanks to the Optus debacle. 

Categories: Opinion | Football Business | World Cup

2018 world cup, optus, sbs, #sportsbiz, tv rights

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