Football fans in Australia will have access to all FIFA World Cup matches until Wednesday after SBS announced an agreement had been struck with the under-fire Optus Sport.
Optus owns the full rights to sport’s biggest event, but repeated crashes to the company’s streaming service on three successive days left supporters extremely frustrated.
Television personality Karl Stefanovic led the charge on Monday, branding the telco’s coverage as “hopeless”, while Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull took the issue up with Optus CEO Allen Lew after it was raised in Parliament.
And it was announced on Monday evening (AEST) that SBS, which was initially showing 25 matches at the World Cup, would step up and screen more fixtures “amid issues with the Optus Sport streaming service”.
“The FIFA World Cup is a true multicultural celebration that unites Australia’s diverse communities and SBS is pleased to be bringing more of the tournament to Australian audiences,” SBS managing director Michael Ebeid said.
An SBS statement added that it was “giving all Australians the chance to enjoy the tournament”.
Lew said the decision was “made with the interests of football fans across Australia in mind” but that “most Optus Sport viewers have had a positive viewing experience”.
“We know Australian football fans are amongst the world’s most passionate, and vocal, and we clearly understand Australia’s passion for this major event, and the frustration that goes along with not being able to watch the event,” he said.
“I acknowledge that the experience has not been consistent for all viewers, which is unacceptable.
“I offer an unreserved apology to those customers that have been let down.
“We are confident that we have a solution in place and will be using this time to undertake robust testing of all systems.”
A Football Federation Australia spokesperson told The New Daily: “FFA welcomes the agreement that will see all 2018 FIFA World Cup matches shown on SBS for the next 48 hours and we hope that Optus can resolve all remaining issues for its customers in that timeframe.”
The announcement means a further four matches are live on SBS (it will screen every game on Monday night/Tuesday morning (AEST) and Tuesday night/Wednesday morning) and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten is hopeful the agreement may continue for longer.
Responding to news of the announcement, Mr Shorten posted on Twitter: “Good. It should have been on SBS to begin with.
“And if they can’t sort this out, it should stay there.”
Mr Shorten demanded Mr Turnbull “apologise” for “cuts to the SBS” in Parliament question time on Monday, implying that the issue could have been avoided.
But Infrastructure Minister Paul Fletcher insisted SBS made a “commercial decision” to share the World Cup rights with Optus and that Shorten’s assertion was a “complete mischaracterisation of the facts”.
Communications Minister Mitch Fifield said the new agreement was a “great outcome” and a “sensible and welcome move” from the two parties.
Day five action
Harry Kane’s extra-time header helped England to a nervy 2-1 win over Tunisia in Volgograd.
Kane, who also put England in front, was unmarked at a late corner to seal a dramatic win for Gareth Southgate’s men.
Also on day five, Romelu Lukaku struck twice as Belgium eased past Panama 3-0, and Sweden saw off South Korea 1-0 thanks to a second-half penalty.
‘Never been a fan’
Australia defender Trent Sainsbury was forthright about his views on the controversial Video Assistant Referee [VAR] system at a press conference on Monday.
VAR intervention led to France’s first goal in Kazan on Saturday in a match the gallant Socceroos lost 2-1.
“I’ve never been a fan of the VAR. I’ve made that clear from day one,” he said.
“I’m a purist when it comes to football … but you just have to roll with it.”
Socceroos teenager Daniel Arzani – the youngest player at the World Cup – also fronted the press and insisted he was “ready” to start against Denmark if required.
The creative midfielder said: “I feel like I’m ready. Especially given the intensive training camp in Antalya, where we were training two times a day on most days.
“I’ve given myself the best opportunity. I’ve tried my hardest and that’s all you can do. It’s just up to the boss now.”
Colombia and Japan begin the action at 10pm AEST on the second successive night that every match is showed on SBS.
Poland and Senegal are up next (1am) before Russia – fresh off a 5-0 win over Saudi Arabia in the tournament opener – meets Egypt (4am).