Anti-siphoning law: Kids like Mary Fowler’s biggest fan will miss out if sports broadcasts are locked up

Headshot of Remy Varga
Remy Varga
The Nightly
Mary Fowler's biggest little fan, Bobbie.
Mary Fowler's biggest little fan, Bobbie. Credit: Supplied

They’re the punters who fill stadiums. The mums and dads who drive their kids to sport practice early on winter weekend mornings. The veteran club members who’ve been waiting for decades for a finals win but still proudly wear their team’s colours on game night.

They are the loyal fans that make all Australian sport possible and they like watching it on television, whether aerial or streaming, for free.

Peter Fowler, 39, loves soccer, footy and cricket — even building a pitch in the backyard of his home in the suburb of Bankstown in Sydney’s west.

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He took his then three-year-old daughter Bobbie to watch the Matildas defeat Denmark at the World Cup at Suncorp Stadium in Queensland last year.

Now four, she’s a soccer player just like her mum and her hero, Matildas forward Mary Fowler.

“Our last name’s Fowler, so she likes Mary Fowler,” said Mr Fowler.

“We took her to the World Cup (last year). She still remembers going. Every time the stadium comes on TV she goes ‘We go there, we go there.’”

Mr Fowler reckons his other daughter Quinn is destined for rugby league instead of soccer because the one-year-old is a “bit more rough and tumble”.

He said the free broadcast of women’s AFL had helped quickly establish the sport when the league launched in 2017 and the free broadcast of the Women’s World Cup had helped the public fall in love with the Matildas.

“Even the soccer now if you want to watch a bunch of European soccer you need three or four subscriptions,” he said.

“Back in the day, the champion league and bigger games were on SBS.”

Mr Fowler said he watched sport on television all the time as a kid.

Friday night was rugby with dad. Saturday was European soccer featuring the late great broadcaster Les Murray. And on Sundays there was the World of Sport and motor racing.

Sydney Matildas fan Bobbie Fowler. Picture: Supplied
Peter Fowler and daughter Bobbie love watching sport on TV. Credit: The Nightly/The Nightly

Mr Fowler said the declining amount of free-to-air sport broadcast, replaced by cartoons and other content, has led to kids having a diminished understanding of sport.

“I take my daughter to soccer and there are kids who don’t know how to kick or throw or the premise of what sport is,” he said.

“There used to be more awareness of sport and things like that. Like I have never played basketball but if somebody threw a basketball at me I would know what it is.”

The federal government is currently considering proposed reforms to anti-siphoning laws that do not expand the current regulation to cover streaming services as an increasing number of Australians watch TV digitally.

This means for-pay streaming services such as Amazon and Disney would be able to bid for exclusive digital rights for events such as the Olympics or the World Cup.

Free TV has calculated that the average Aussies could be slugged anywhere from $84.95 to $151.95 per month to access the sport they love if the law reforms are not expanded.

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