Steven Gerrard of Liverpool competes for possession with Michael Zullo during the exhibition match between Sydney FC and Liverpool FC at ANZ Stadium.
Steven Gerrard of Liverpool competes for possession with Michael Zullo during the exhibition match between Sydney FC and Liverpool FC at ANZ Stadium. DAN HIMBRECHTS

WATCH: FFA disappointed with ABC2's coverage of friendly

THE ABC's disastrous coverage of the Liverpool v Sydney FC friendly on Wednesday has ruled out any prospect of the national broadcaster becoming the A-League's free to air partner for next season.

Amid a torrent of ire from supporters at the tone of the coverage, led by comedians Jules Schiller, Tegan Higginbotham and Steen Raskopoulos, Football Federation Australia management are thought to be hugely dismayed while ABC managing director Michelle Guthrie promised a Senate committee she would investigate it.

The ABC responded to the criticism on Thursday afternoon.

"The ABC was proud to broadcast the Liverpool FC versus Sydney FC last night at short notice, making it available to all Australians," an ABC spokesman said.

"While the game coverage and commentary was excellent, our decision to create a different offering for the pre-game, half-time and post-game coverage, was not supported by all football fans and we will consider this feedback for any future sporting events."

Former Socceroo and Fox Sports commentator Robbie Slater led the criticism of the ABC, tweeting that their coverage "disrespected" the sport after it continued with bizarre attempts to make jokes at the expense of the teams.

The hosts went on to mispronounce names, discuss players who weren't involved and use their phones for cringeworthy skits where they apparently phoned Sydney FC coach Graham Arnold and texted former Socceroo Harry Kewell.

The storm comes against a backdrop of FFA's attempts to find a free-to-air partner for its $356m A-League broadcast deal signed with Fox Sports.

Though ABC was not a leading contender, it's understood Wednesday night's broadcast has scuttled what chance they had of adding the A-League to their well-respected W-League coverage.

In a carefully worded statement, FFA noted its "disappointment" at the tone of Wednesday night's program, which it said had been expressed to the ABC.

"Like many fans, FFA is disappointed with some aspects of the ABC's broadcast of he Sydney FC v Liverpool match last night," FFA said via Twitter.

"Pre-game, halftime & post-game coverage wasn't to standard expected by FFA & football fans. We've made that point to ABC management."

Slater was far more forthright, tweeting: "Who thought this was a good idea FFA! This is unforgivable and I and every supporter of our game would like an answer! This is what happens when people who have none or little knowledge of football make decisions! Embarrassing.

"I love our game and to have it bagged and disrespected by this coverage is unacceptable."

The show featured a white board with cutouts of players for the line-ups and one particularly memorable cross to comedian Aaron Cheng interviewing fans in the Cove at half-time.


Cheng asked a bemused fan what his favourite "possession" was, before pulling off his Sydney FC shirt to reveal an American football jersey.

It also emerged that Chen's bizarre half-time segment was broadcast at the expense of an interview with Liverpool legend Steven Gerrard.

W-League commentator and former Matilda Sarah Walsh spoke to Gerrard as he left the pitch at half-time, but it wasn't shown on the live broadcast.

Public ire at the tone of the ABC coverage reached the Senate estimates hearing on Wednesday night, where ABC managing director Michelle Guthrie was giving evidence to a Senate committee about the broadcaster's finances.

Labour Senator Sam Dastyari tweeted that Guthrie had promised to investigate the torrent of anger over the Liverpool coverage.

"Sleep well Australia - the CEO of ABC has committed to formally providing a response as to the #livsyd coverage tonight."

Part of the issue was the speed at which the deal was done.

It's understood that no broadcaster had come forward for the game until a few days before, put off by production costs of $80,000.

Fox Sports had offered to show it but not pay those costs, and ABC agreed to pay the $80,000 at the last minute.

So far no broadcaster has been signed for the two Arsenal games against Sydney FC and Western Sydney in July, with the value of such games having fallen from almost $1m paid by Channel Seven for Liverpool against Melbourne Victory in 2013 to effectively zero.

The ABC has been approached for comment.

News Corp Australia

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