Both Football Federation Australia and the A-League clubs have distanced themselves from Fox Sports' new season launch in Sydney yesterday after a backlash from fans.
Fox staged the event in Darling Harbour but images on Twitter seemed to show players squeezed up against stacks of chairs in what appeared to be a cramped converted kitchen with a hastily erected pull up banner.
A-League and W-League season launch. Itâ€™s actually happening. pic.twitter.com/qVoGJFCvPJ— Vince Rugari (@VinceRugari) December 14, 2020
The launch later moved outside where players took potshots at former Socceroos keeper turned Fox Sports pundit Mark Bosnich on a pontoon in Darling Harbour.
Fox Sports had invited some journalists from Fairfax and AAP as well as their own Fox and News Corp journalists to the event, but did not invite other A-League reporters from US broadcast partner ESPN, The Guardian, Newcastle Herald, FTBL or The Women's Game among others.
Launching around Xmas is hard enough, not inviting all the media that covers the league is an unforgivable blunder— RR (@Ryans_Rovers) December 14, 2020
Not even all clubs were invited to the event, with no coaches present nor any representatives from Newcastle Jets, Perth Glory, Brisbane Roar or Canberra United.
Are all the teams even there??— Martin Rayner (@MarinerMarty) December 14, 2020
Embarrassing.— Daniel Hanney âš½ âœˆ (@DanHanney) December 14, 2020
Apparently Newcastle United, Canberra United, Brisbane Roar & Perth Glory don't exist... https://t.co/OO8fAHzOyf
It's understood the original event plans didn't initially include the competition's new boys Macarthur FC right up until last Friday, while W-League representation was even more minimal than the four players who were invited today.
Even Fox Sports' own Twitter account Fox Football ignored the event until it published one story sourced from the event much later in the day.
No expense spent— RunThemMemes👉🏾🤛🏾🚽âš½ (@RunThemMemes) December 14, 2020
Hosted by Fox Sports I think? Budget cuts are extremely obvious now.— Dale Stevens (@Sui1977) December 14, 2020
The launch was ridiculed on social media with some comparing it to Donald Trump lawyer Rudi Guiliani's Four Season Total Landscaping press conference, while others highlighted the lack of budget for the event.
Our version of Four Season Total Landscaping— Western Divided FC (@wdfcofficial) December 14, 2020
Sources within both the A-League clubs and the FFA insisted they had nothing to do with the launch, which they said was organised entirely by Fox Sports.
The FFA stressed the A-League clubs were now running the competition's marketing and promotion for themselves ahead of the imminent unbundling from the governing body.
But the clubs insisted this was just a Fox Sports event and they had just supplied players - with the choice of clubs represented all down to the broadcaster and the Fox budget.
They also flagged a major change in direction for future official A-League season launches.
One added: "We don't think a formal season launch with a bunch of players in front of a pull-up screen is the way forward any more."
The A-League clubs in future see more mileage in local launches and an end to the traditional big event in a single location, with this season's plans to be revealed in the coming days.
A-League clubs are privately stressing today's event was a Fox Sports launch, not the official one. The clubs are planning a series of local-based events to kick off the season, and ultimately want to get away from the traditional season launch format.— Kevin Airs (@KevinAirs) December 14, 2020