Archive for 11/04/2019

Liverpool warmed by the love and largesse on Asian tour

A crowd of up to 95,000 is expected to flock to the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Wednesday to see the likes of Steven Gerrard and Luis Suarez take on local club Melbourne Victory in the Merseyside team’s first visit Down Under.


The MCG blockbuster continues a lucrative three-stop tour for Liverpool, who played an Indonesian XI for 83,000 fans in Jakarta on Saturday and will sign off on Sunday in front of another big crowd in Bangkok against Thailand.

The Melbourne match also comes four days after Manchester United attracted a crowd of 83,000 to Sydney’s Olympic Stadium for their 5-1 victory over an ‘All-Star’ team from the local top-flight A-League.

Liverpool may not win a single match against United in the coming season, but the club’s managing director Ian Ayre could allow himself a smile at the idea of trumping their Premier League rivals with the MCG crowd.

“I don’t think we were surprised. We’ve always known that with some of the activity we’ve seen, in the online retailing business, Australia’s the second-largest market for us after the UK home domestic market, which is staggering really given the size of the population,” Ayre told Reuters in Melbourne.

“The number of people that come to our website online and our social media platforms is huge. Obviously the speed of the sale of the tickets, we knew there would be a huge buy-in from our foundation in this part of the world.”

Once a fixture of Europe’s club showpiece, Liverpool has been out of the Champions League since 2010 and struggled with huge debts and an ownership crisis in recent years.

The five-times European champions reported a loss of 40.5 million pounds for their August 2011 – May 2012 accounts earlier this year, with debts increasing by 21.8 million pounds to 87.2 million pounds as they look to rebuild their squad.

While Asia contributes a miniscule share of global football revenues, dwarfed by Europe and still well behind emerging American markets, the football-mad region has become a lucrative destination for touring club heavyweights to shore up their finances while connecting with local fans.

Local media estimated Manchester United and Liverpool would earn A$10 million (6 million pounds) between the clubs for their visit Down Under, with the hosting state governments kicking in multi-million dollar fees to secure the matches.

The flow-on effects for the local game, which is dominated by rival football codes Australian Rules and the National Rugby League, have encouraged football administrators.

“It’s exceeded our expectations,” Melbourne Victory managing director Richard Wilson told Reuters.


Victory, one of the few clubs in Australia’s fledgling A-League competition to turn a profit, stands to make about A$500,000 from Liverpool’s visit, which includes a fixed fee, sponsorship, hospitality and a small share of ticket sales.

“There’s no doubt the MCC were surprised about getting 93,000 seats sold, I think everyone thought maybe 70,000,” Wilson added, referring to the MCG’s custodians.

Politicians have also crowed about the economic impacts of the matches, with New South Wales state claiming a A$16 million windfall for hosting United, and Victoria A$10 million for welcoming Liverpool.

Liverpool’s visit would not have happened without a government subsidy, however, said Wilson, whose club has hosted Serie A giants Juventus and Major League Soccer’s LA Galaxy.

“(Liverpool’s) actually been a significantly wise investment into the coffers of the Melbourne economy. Everyone’s won here,” he added.

“They’ve not always been profitable, I might add. You learn the lessons as you go along.

“Other than the straight dollars, these games’ (value), at the pointy end, is that it’s beamed around the world and it’s live on TV on Australia.”

Like Sydney, Melbourne has seen swarms of red-clad local fans mobbing Liverpool players at marketing and community events and thousands will pay A$15 each to see the team train at the MCG later on Tuesday, with proceeds going to charities.

Hundreds waved red scarves and sang the club anthem “You’ll Never Walk Alone” at Fed Square in Melbourne’s central business district as Liverpool players signed merchandise.

“I just love everything they stand for… family, that song,” said Paul McMaster, an office worker who bought an A$185 ticket for himself for Wednesday’s game and another three for friends. He was sanguine about the club’s lean period.

“It’s a club you support through thick and thin,” he said. “There’s promising signs ahead.”

(Editing by John O’Brien)

Islamists gain ground as pressure builds on Mali junta

Mali’s junta is facing increasing pressure to give up power on Wednesday, with world powers tightening the diplomatic screws and Islamists consolidating their grip on the north.


UN Security Council members were hammering out a joint statement on the Mali crisis, with a vote expected later Wednesday.

France called the emergency meeting of the 15-nation council to negotiate a statement condemning a coup against President Amadou Toumani Toure and the advance of Tuareg rebels and Islamist militants into towns in the north of the country.

The United States took action ahead of the UN, joining the African Union in imposing travel bans on coup leaders as international efforts were redoubled to restore democratic rule in a country descending into chaos.

The US State Department said it would restrict travel to the United States of those “who block Mali’s return to civilian rule and a democratically elected government, including those who actively support Captain Amadou Sanogo,” the coup leader.

Feeling the bite of the mounting sanctions and pressure from all sides, the soldiers who seized power on March 22 proposed a national meeting on Thursday and dispatched a team to Nigeria for talks on an exit from the growing crisis.

Sanogo told journalists that Thursday’s meeting would determine “what will be best for the country in a consensual, democratic fashion.”

Since the coup, ostensibly over the government’s failure to stamp out a northern rebellion, the junta has lost more than half the country’s territory — an area the size of France — in a matter of days to the rebel juggernaut.

Islamists seized control of the ancient trading hub Timbuktu over the weekend alongside Tuareg rebels and have since chased out their allies and declared to residents and religious leaders that they were imposing sharia law.

This sparked alarm abroad ahead of the emergency UN Security Council meeting, with former colonial power France expressing concern over the Islamist threat in a country considered a democratic success until the coup.

The Tuareg rebels want an independent state while Ansar Dine, under notorious commander Iyad Ag Ghaly, wants to impose Islamic law and has linked up with Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).

Three of the four leaders of Al-Qaeda’s north Africa branch, Abou Zeid, Mokhtar Belmokhtar and Yahya Abou Al-Hammam, were in Timbuktu on Tuesday, security and religious sources in the city said.

Residents reported women in the normally secular city that hosted a major music festival in January were on Tuesday wearing headscarves.

A day after being slapped with sanctions by its neighbours, Mali’s embattled military rulers came under travel bans and an asset freeze from the African Union for failing to restore constitutional order, before the US imposed its own travel ban, which will also apply to immediate family members of the coup leaders.

The 15-nation Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) already cut off the landlocked country which depends heavily on imported fuel, also freezing access to its bank account in Dakar.

In Bamako, long lines formed at petrol stations as panic set in over the impact of the sanctions.

“We hear there is an embargo, we are afraid of shortages so we are taking precautions,” said a youth who wanted to fill half a dozen empty bottles.

The junta on Tuesday sent a delegation to Nigeria, where ECOWAS officials could offer an amnesty in exchange for relinquishing power, a foreign ministry source in Abuja said. However, it appeared a deal was not reached.

Coup leader Sanogo said in Bamako the junta wanted to prosecute ousted President Toure for “high treason and financial wrongdoing.”

As the junta struggled with the intensifying crisis, armed Islamists in the north handed out food and supplies that they seized from humanitarian organisations to residents of Timbuktu, sources said.

Officials from the regional food security office linked to the agriculture ministry and local Red Cross confirmed that the goods being distributed were forcibly taken from their stocks.

The fighting in northern Mali began in mid-January by the Azawad National Liberation Movement (MNLA), which wants independence for its homeland in the northern triangle of the bow-tie shaped nation.

A powerful player in northern Mali, Ag Ghaly and his fighters have placed their black jihadist flag around Timbuktu, which was a leading trading and intellectual capital up until the 16th century.

The UN cultural agency UNESCO called on the Malian authorities and the warring factions to respect the desert country’s heritage and the “outstanding architectural wonders” in Timbuktu.

More than 200,000 people have been forced from their homes by the fighting and aid groups have warned that the combination of civil war and drought could lead to one of the continent’s worst humanitarian emergencies.

Blog: What gets the ACT candidates fired up?

Some Aussies living in other capital cities believe Canberra is boring.


Certainly, the city doesn’t have the striking physical beauty of Sydney, or the hipster chic of Melbourne.

Even its election campaigns aren’t particularly awe-inspiring. There are few slick, highly produced TV ads and billboards, fiery public debates or political punch-ups.

Most electors are concerned with ‘backyard’ issues – public transport, rubbish collection, household rates. Important issues, to be sure, but hardly ones that get the pulse racing.

The legislative assembly has just 17 seats, and covers traditional state areas of concern, as well as local government ones. The Hare-Clark, or single transferable vote system, means candidates are often well-known in their electorates.

For Katy Gallagher that level of recognition is a double-edged sword. The woman who has been Chief Minister for the last 18 months says the smiles, handshakes and outright stares she gets from members of the public are enough to make her 5-year old daughter think she’s a celebrity.

Ms Gallagher told SBS that 95 per cent of people who recognise her are friendly and polite – whether they agree with her politics or not. The other 5 per cent are “ratbags”.

The Labor leader was a long-time member of the Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) before entering politics. In 1997, her fiancé Brett Seaman was killed in a cycling accident. Ms Gallagher was pregnant with the couple’s first child at the time of his death. The union provided moral and financial support during that difficult time. That inspired her to seek Labor pre-selection in 2001 ACT election.

Ms Gallagher has told SBS that heckling and unsavoury comments like “you shouldn’t be in politics, you should be making me a casserole” are to be expected when undertaking the job of Chief Minister. She just wishes people wouldn’t do it when her kids are around.

Opposition Leader Zed Seselja agrees that having a thick skin is necessary in politics. He says the number of people who react positively to him in public far outweigh the number of creeps he encounters.

The former Department of Transport lawyer, whose full name is Zdenko, personally door-knocks homes in his electorate. He can handle it when people are unpleasant to him, but says his Croatian blood means he gets riled-up when they’re rude to his party volunteers. His background gives him “fire in the belly”, he told SBS.

Greens leader Meredith Hunter gets fired up not when people are rude to her – she told SBS that’s a part of life in politics – but when voters are apathetic. She dislikes it when people say politics has nothing to do with them. The former youth advocate says politics permeates all aspects of life, and people have no excuse not to get involved and affect change.

Watch Shalailah Medhora’s report on YouTube:

Taiwan evacuates 3,000 as typhoon looms

Taiwan has evacuated more than 3,000 people as Typhoon Tembin bore down, threatening powerful winds and torrential rains that authorities warned could trigger landslides.


About 50,000 soldiers were on standby on the island, where memories are still raw from Typhoon Morakot, which killed about 600 people in August 2009, most of them buried in huge landslides in the south.

Authorities moved swiftly to prevent a repeat, deploying about 500 troops to help in evacuations in eastern Taiwan before the storm, described as a “severe typhoon” by the Hong Kong Observatory, hits.

More than 3,000 people, nearly half of them from Hualien county, had been evacuated by noon (0400 GMT), according to the Central Emergency Operation Centre.

Young conscripts, many wearing facial masks against the sandstorms whipped up by the gusting winds, went from house to house and helped elderly residents, with people willingly obeying the order to move to safer ground.

Tembin could make landfall in Taitung in eastern Taiwan on Friday although its exact path is affected by Bolaven, another typhoon around 1,600 kilometres (1,000 miles) east of Taiwan, according to the Central Weather Bureau.

The bureau listed Tembin as a mid-level typhoon and warned that it would bring torrential rains and trigger mudslides in the east, an area badly hit earlier this month by Typhoon Saola, which killed six people.

“The impact will be felt from tonight, especially in the eastern area,” Lin Ping-yu, an official from the bureau, told AFP.

As of 12:15 pm (0415 GMT), Tembin was 230 kilometres east of Taitung. With a radius of 180 kilometres and packing winds gusting at up to 144 kilometres an hour, it was moving west at six kilometres per hour.

Near Hualien city in eastern Taiwan the sun was shining early Thursday with gusts heralding Tembin but the weather changed gradually and the area was hit by intermittent rain, as a precursor of the typhoon still lingering in the Pacific Ocean.

A total of 103 domestic and 13 international flights were cancelled, according to the transport ministry.

Two passenger cruise ships scrapped services to Japan’s Okinawa and Ishigaki, an outlying island off Okinawa.

All shipping between Taiwan and its offshore islands was suspended, the emergency operation centre said.

Is the switch to digital killing the community radio star?

By Melanie Withnall, University of Technology, Sydney

The future of radio is digital but that future is at risk for community radio because of government funding cuts.


There are 37 community radio stations providing on-air services in digital form as part of the first phase of the switchover to digital with new projects and services starting regularly.

But all of this is at risk, due to a funding shortfall in last year’s federal budget of $1.4 million.

In the May 2012 budget the federal government provided four”‘year funding, but that was short by around 40% on the basic transmission costs. This funding is critical to meeting the government’s public policy objective for community sector inclusion in digital radio.

The digital radio legislation requires broadcasters to share a common transmission facility fed by standardised data and audio encoding equipment. Of course, this means community broadcasters must build systems and incur costs in the same manner as commercial broadcasters. In fact, the legislation specifically prevents community broadcasters establishing transmission facilities in any other way.

According to the CBAA, there are a variety of reasons for the legislation being constructed in this manner but the upshot is that linking, data and transmission costs need to be covered by direct government funding support. Not-for-profit community radio services are unable to cover these costs at this stage of the medium’s development, as well as the content, studio and staffing costs.

It is understood by the CBAA, that the Communications Minister Stephen Conroy has made several attempts during 2012 to restore the funding, which is much appreciated by the community sector. Even so, time is now running short and the number and range of current digital services will have to be reduced sometime after June 2013 if the funding shortfall is not addressed in the 2013 Federal budget.

If we have to turn off services to cope with this funding shortfall, will they ever be able to be turned on again? And what about the small stations, or regional stations? If big metropolitan stations, like 2SER, 3RRR, 4MBS, Radio Adelaide or Noongar Radio can’t stay on digital radio, how will the smaller sub metro licensed stations, who often serve a vital community need?

Communications Minister Stephen Conroy faces a struggle to help community radio stations make the switchover to digital. AAP/Lukas Coch

Just like digital television, digital radio is clearly the future, and even if there is no policy to turn off FM or AM radio, will you be able to buy an FM receiver in ten or 15 years?

Digital radio is not online broadcasting. It is not streaming or mobile apps. There are issues around social equity as radio is free to receive, once you buy the receiver. It is also the most efficient use of this valuable digital spectrum. Moving to streaming or internet platforms only, would mean drop outs, and huge costs to broadcasters, it would be almost impossible to have all current radio listeners to radio in Sydney or Melbourne, listen at an audio stream at the same time.

Media diversity will suffer if community radio cannot fully make the leap to digital. The community radio sector is made up of stations, serving diverse communities and interests that aren’t catered for by mainstream media, such as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and Ethnic broadcasters; youth; educational, fine music, and religious groups. For many people, community media is the only media that they access, and across Australia, 4.4 million Australians listen to Community Radio each week according to the 2012 McNair Ingenuity National Listener Survey.

This sector also provides local news and information through sub metro stations, or through regional areas where the community radio station is often the only medium that isn’t syndicated from somewhere else.

It would be a shame to turn off digital radio, not to mention a waste of the resources already invested. Community radio is great at innovation. It takes risks and helps drive the take up of this new medium.

It is vital that community radio be helped make the switch to the digital future.

Melanie Withnall is the Managing Director of 2ser 107.3. She is a board member of the Community Broadcasting Association of Australia and sits on the Digital Radio Consultative Committee. Melanie also works as a casual tutor at UTS and the AFTRS. 2ser is owned by UTS and Macquarie University.