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‘Now is our best chance to break football’s glass ceiling’

'Now is our best chance to break football's glass ceiling'

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After taking something of a professional punt and shifting continents 18 years ago, Simon Hill has now become part of the furniture.

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In 2006 he took the adventurous step of agreeing to commentate a relatively new football league and soon became the voice with which we all became so familiar, in what was at the time, a bold and ground-breaking exercise.

The A-League had to look and sound fresh and the typically English and often suave tones of Hill certainly played a role in achieving that aim right from the start.

Hill’s 14-year run as lead commentator on the league came to an end in July 2020 and with a recent change in A-League broadcasting rights, his name would no doubt have appeared at the very top of Network 10’s list when it came to assembling a new team.

Such is Hill respected and revered, a groundswell of support called for his inclusion and last week that decision was finally confirmed.

“My identity is very much wrapped up in football and while Australia has become a second home, it was work that brought me here and but for this exciting new opportunity at Network 10, may well have led me to leave,” Hill told The Roar.

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Not only does Hill possess tremendous skill in calling football matches, his extended time in Australia helps tick another crucial box when it comes to the value he offers the network. Having studied, called and analysed the domestic game, Hill cares deeply for it and always advocates for its unique positives.

“When Australian media and the general discourse move beyond pejorative references such as ‘your game’ or ‘their game’ and a broader view of football advances to a place of equality rather than minority participation, only then can the true potential of it be realised. That would break a glass ceiling that, when smashed, could result in massive participation rates being parlayed into something quite special.”

Sydney FC fans

Sydney FC fans at the SCG (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

He added, “In conjunction, a better attempt to curate the game’s unique Australian history needs to be made, one not reliant on some of the false perceptions and narratives that have become accepted wisdom over time.”

Within him exists a stoic belief in the potential long term prosperity of the Australian game, our players and the brilliant fans who follow it.

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Always quick to call out structural flaws and issues that continue to hold football back, Hill refuses to engage in bitterness or disinterest, instead choosing to celebrate and applaud football at the domestic level.

The new role at Network 10/Paramount+ has him invigorated and presents an opportunity to continue to do so for some time to come.

“Whilst still new to the role, I’ve been incredibly appreciative of the friendly support offered by the people I’ve met at Network 10. They truly want to make this new challenge a success, as they have done with other sports and competitions in the past.”

It is a common sentiment emanating from within the network. Most heartening was a simple statement made by a Network 10 executive I spoke to on Saturday who succinctly said, “We believe in football.”

Hill’s journey from the United Kingdom and the pegging of his tent in Australia conveys the metaphor of home and belonging quite well.

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Similarly, both his arrival at Network 10 and the game having now ventured into fresh and more commercial broadcast waters, also feel like potentially long term new homes.

I asked Hill whether there was any sense that this next chapter in the game, one with strong commercial television commitment aligned with a Paramount+ app to deliver it to fans, was perhaps the way things were meant to be.

“The Paramount+ app could well be a game changer,” said Hill. “With much of the scepticism around streaming now having eroded, the technology vastly improved and people’s consumption habits aligning perfectly with 10’s broadcast structure, the Australian game has never been at a more exciting point. All we need to do now is to tap people into it and make that an easy process for them.”

Should A and W-League fans sign up in vast numbers (and early signs are good), Network 10 will see an immediate reaction to their bold investment in the game. That will instill them with confidence and provide a greater sense of financial security for the game than has ever been felt before.

Hill and the new broadcast team begin their journey on Friday morning when the Socceroos face China in a World Cup qualifier in Doha.

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While their inaugural broadcast will be remote, it will not be long until Hill and co are back pitchside and it’s a future that excites him.

“History is littered with examples of Australian football being held back, sometimes even by those within the game, now is the best chance to move forward,” said Hill.



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