NZ Football eyes Sky TV deal as gamebreaker

SIMON PLUMB
Last updated 05:00 16/06/2013

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New Zealand Football hopes a new broadcast deal with Sky Television can help produce a self-sufficient business model this year.

The Sunday Star-Times can reveal NZ Football has agreed a package deal with Sky, guaranteeing that eight All Whites and six Football Ferns matches will be screened live to Kiwi fans between June and November.

Both the All Whites' qualification playoffs for next year's World Cup in Brazil, and key preparation matches against unconfirmed teams in August, September and October, are all covered.

Previously, NZ Football has had to pay big fees for games to be televised - and games are already the main reason NZ Football's business model consistently runs at a loss.

The problem is the lack of ticket sales compared to the cost of home games, meaning the books are being balanced by transfers from an "International Teams Activity Reserve", set up in 2010 after a $10 million windfall in 2010 World Cup prizemoney.

The initial reserve of $2.5m is down to $400,000 after $828,000 was moved onto the books in 2011 and $1.2m in the last financial year.

With the reserve running out and lucrative World Cup qualification made harder after Fifa changed the rules, chief executive Grant McKavanagh wants NZ Football to start breaking even without using the reserve.

McKavanagh wants the turnaround this year. He believes that in a post-Olympic year and after the All Whites failed to qualify for this month's Confederations Cup, 2013 expenses could be down by $1m on 2012.

He is also reviewing the organisation's entire operational structure, down to the cost of photocopying.

"It hurts, there's no question. Our goal is to minimise the deficit that is created by international teams," he said.

"I want us to be self-sufficient this year, but it's not easy.

"The key for us is getting people to the home internationals, we're only selling about 15-20 per cent of seats for games. That's what kills us.

"We're making inroads. Instead of dropping $200,000 on an All Whites home game, we're dropping about $40,000. I don't think any deficit is acceptable, though it's becoming more reasonable.

"All being well, we'll sell out the World Cup playoffs which should put money back into the reserve."

McKavanagh said the deal with Sky should help NZ Football tackle the cost of hosting internationals, creating more advertising and promotional opportunities and alleviating considerable fees.

"I can't go into details, but the new deal with Sky puts us in a position where we feel there's respect on each side in terms of payment," he said.

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"Now, it's turned around so that they pay us. Sky wants subscriptions and one-off games don't do that. We need to go to them with a package and are selling in six-month lots. Now they can advertise as the home of New Zealand football.

"If we do make it to Brazil our financial health is guaranteed for another four years, but the key is still a sustainable business model."

- Sunday Star Times

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