Canberra and Australia win — but women’s sport and health fans lose

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It was a win for Canberra United in the W-League, but a loss for televised women's sport and while Australia wrapped up the men's cricket test series against India in Brisbane, the alcohol and fast food industry kept its grip over the cricket market, reports Lachlan Barker.

IT WAS A GREAT GRAND FINAL between Canberra United and Perth Glory, with all the elements that make a game great. There was drama, there was action, the underdogs ended up and all of it great viewing, but of course overarching it all was the sad demise of women’s soccer as a televised sport in Australia — at least for the foreseeable future.

The Abbott Government’s ideological attacks on the ABC mean that the national broadcaster no longer has the wherewithal to cover this sport, which I find irremediably sad. So it’s sayonara to the women’s soccer on TV and  I am sorry to see it go.

The match itself was tight to begin with, like all grand finals, with expansive play rare as the players involved got over their pre-match butterflies. The NSW side opened the scoring in the 20th minute through American import Stephanie Ochs (pronounced ‘Oaks’). Ochs weaved her way through and threaded a curling shot into the bottom right hand corner of the Perth Glory net.

This goal seemed to unsettle the Western Australians and they found it hard to find a rhythm from then on, showing more scratch than bite. However that all changed in the 63rd minute when Perth’s Collette McCallum placed a precision free kick into the far corner of the Canberra goal, with Canberra keeper Chantel Jones wafting at the air of the ball’s passage.

Scores were now 1-1 and it was game on.

This did give the Perth team heart and they returned to the contest with a vengeance. They even had the chance to take the lead in the 74th minute. Perth striker Marianna Tabain was shoved in the box, and the referee pointed to the spot. W-League 2014 Golden Boot, Kate Gill stepped up, but placed, rather than slammed a gently travelling ball into the arms of Jones, and the Canberra team and their green-liveried fans breathed a hearty sigh of relief.

This sigh of relief turned to cheers of joy just seconds later when the Green machine took the lead. Jones cleared the ball through to defender Lori Lindsey, Lindsey placed an extraordinarily precise chip into the path of striker Ashleigh Sykes and Sykes then battled the defence all the way to box, won herself a decisive amount of space, slotting the ball with precision past the advancing Perth keeper.

This was really the goal that won it for Canberra and, at 2-1, they were never headed. Sykes then added a third for Canberra just three minutes later and it was all over.

Perth tried hard but couldn’t find the sweet spot, and with an increasing number of players going forward, they began to open up at the back. This led to giving away a penalty in the dying seconds of extra time. This was missed by Canberra, but it didn’t matter, Canberra had won the 2014 Major Premiership 3-1.

I did contact the major sponsor of the Canberra women’s team, the University of Canberra, and asked of their reaction to the loss of coverage of women’s soccer in the new year. They responded as so: ‘The University of Canberra is committed to supporting women's sport and we are proud to partner with W-League team Canberra United.

We have a long relationship with Canberra United and recently increased our support for the elite sporting team from back of shorts sponsor to front of shirt sponsor for the next two seasons.

The University of Canberra also counts Canberra United players and staff among our current students and alumni. 

We commiserate with the ABC about the government funding cuts which gave rise to the need to cancel coverage of the W-League in 2015. Education, the ABC and SBS had all been led to believe there would be no such cuts, and this will be a setback to women's sport.

Roger that U of C. It is a genuine shame, and one can only hope that reason returns to the throne – and women’s soccer to our screens - as soon as possible.

One sport that doesn’t have to ever, ever worry about not being on our screens is the cricket. Here are the ratings figures for the last day, Saturday, of the recent Brisbane test, won by Australia:

  1. SECOND TEST - AUS V INDIA S3 [Session 3] 1,193,000
  2. SECOND TEST - AUS V INDIA S2 [Session 2] 1,144,000
  3. NINE NEWS 977,000
  4. CAROLS IN THE DOMAIN 2014 951,000
  5. SECOND TEST - AUS V INDIA S1 [Session 1] 872,000

As you can see the cricket filled the three of the top five spots that day. Thus we in our homes were as usual deluged with ads for an unholy alliance of unhealthy products — mainly takeaway food, gambling and alcohol. I was, as usual, somewhat cocooned with my radio tuned to the ABC radio commentary and so was spared the audio of the ads. The visual was again, however, offensive.

So I continued my pestering of the powers that be about this issue.

I contacted the Federal Minister for Communications, Malcolm Turnbull, asking:

Are we any closer to removing the loophole that allows alcohol advertising during children's viewing times, if part of a live sport broadcast?

Also, with the ongoing problems with obesity in Australia, this Background Briefing shows how bad things have gotten: The Childhood Obesity Time Bomb,  is there any move to ban KFC, and other fatty foods from advertising during the cricket?

The response from the minister’s department shows that we may finally be moving on this issue. The response says:

The placement and amount of alcohol and junk food advertising on television are governed by complex co-regulatory arrangements.

Specific rules governing advertising on commercial television are set out in the Commercial Television Industry Code of Practice, which is due to be reviewed in 2015.

Clauses 6.7 and 6.23 relates to commercials which advertise alcohol drinks or are directed to children respectively.

The review will be undertaken by the commercial television broadcast sector, in close consultation with the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) and include a public consultation process.

Now this may seem like the typical ministerial ‘don’t hold your breath’ response but, to be fair to Malcolm Turnbull, this is the most positive response I have ever had on the topic. Channel Nine, the broadcaster of the cricket, for instance, have never responded beyond saying ‘no comment at this time’. (Or any subsequent time, now that I think about it).

So at least Malcolm Turnbull is aware of the problem, and we will wait upon the review with interest.

I have no doubt that the food, alcohol and gambling lobbies will fight tooth and nail to keep the loopholes that allow this destructive advertising to continue, but we can only hope that reason returns to her throne, and ads for gambling, alcohol and fatty foods are removed from our screens during children’s viewing times.

Or, even better than that, at any other time as well.

Lachlan Barker blogs at You can follow him on Twitter @cyclonecharlie8.

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