It may be a consistent award winner and considered by many at Foxtel to be the jewel in the crown but the Fox Footy channel is also an environment riddled with infighting and mistrust that stems from management all the way down.
Over the past few months this website has spoken with a number of sources directly connected with Fox Footy and its parent company Fox Sports Australia and has learned of numerous battles raging between management, producers and on-air talent.
A prime example of the infighting that has swept through Fox Footy is the situation surrounding Jason Dunstall. Dunstall is one of the organisations longest serving personalities and at one time was considered one of Fox Footy's biggest star. He was once the networks first choice to host award nights such AFLPA.
However with the arrival of big name personalities such as Eddie McGuire, Dermott Brereton and Sandy Roberts at Fox Footy in the last three years. Dunstall has slowly been pushed aside, and he’s not happy about it. At the start of the 2014 season it was announced AFL Insider a program hosted by Dunstall would not be returning, while his primetime Sunday show After The Bounce was renamed and moved to the far less important Wednesday timeslot.
After The Bounce had been a ratings success for Foxtel, often one of the Pay TV giants most watched shows. However in 2014 management decided it would be replaced by Big Week In Footy hosted by Eddie McGuire and Dermott Brereton. At the time of the season launch no one at Fox Footy had any idea what this new program would consist of, McGuire boasted on radio that he put little planning into the new show. The After The Bounce team were furious at their demotion. Dunstall together with co-host Danny Frawley using their Triple M radio roles to regularly encourage on-air partners to criticise the decision on their behalf.
When Eddie McGuire was first hired in 2012 Fox Footy was keen to avoid the ‘Channel Ed’ title, one that had clouded McGuire’s later years hosting The Footy Show. Promos were aired stating McGuire would not be involved in Collingwood broadcasts and would be kept inline by his on-air partners. Overtime this has been eroded with many at Fox Footy now feeling McGuire has too much influence.
To make up for the loss of his other show’s Jason Dunstall was announced as the replacement for Paul Roo’s On The Couch with Gerard Healy and Mike Sheahan. Sources have confirmed to this website that the tension between Dunstall and Sheahan was immediately apparent. Dunstall still holding a grudge for articles written by Sheahan in the past while, while Mike Sheahan made it clear he was unhappy with Dunstall’s abrupt personality and aggressive style.
Many of the issues at Fox Footy appear to stem from a lack of confidence in management. In March interview program Open Mike won the Best Sports Program award at the 2014 ASTRA’s, a week later the executive producer Joel Starvevich quit for a role at ch7. This website understand’s Starvevich was uncomfortable with the level of interference from Fox Footy station boss Rod Law. Another key Fox Footy EP is reportedly very close to walking out on the station.
Law well known as a backer of James Hird was previously well regarded by staff in Melbourne. However this website has learned last month a significant group of on-air and off-air staff joined forces to alert the Fox Sports Sydney head office they had lost confidence in Law.
With the loss of Big Bash Cricket and lower ratings for AFL broadcasts everyone is feeling the pressure at Fox Sports. A-League Football has failed to bring big audiences for Fox Sports over summer, and it remains unclear if the significant investment in V8 Supercars will provide a much-needed boost.
With so many jobs disappearing from media, those that survive are being told they should feel lucky. Journalists at Fox Sports are increasingly being expected to produce content for News Corps various online platforms in much faster timeframes. It’s a situation being replicated in many newsrooms across the country.
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