The fine line of sportsmanship

Were Brisbane Roar right to play on in a finely balanced Westfield W-League semi-final when an opposition player was down?

The second Westfield W-League semi-final threw up no end of controversy and robust discussion points, most focusing around the perception of Brisbane Roar-s on-field behaviour.

The “unwritten rule” of fair play in football is a difficult one. The tradition of putting the ball out when a player is down, then returning the ball to that team when play recommences is not in the Laws of the Game but is however deemed to be sportsmanlike behaviour.

So were Brisbane cheats for not complying?

With Kylie Ledbrook down at the back, it's possible that the Roar players up front were not aware of the situation or, if they were, made the assumption that perhaps with not much left on the clock, she was time wasting. Of course when Ledbrook stayed down and the ball was thrown in not once, but twice, there is an argument that by then everyone should have been aware.

Former Westfield Matilda Alicia Ferguson called the game and agreed that it was a difficult situation. "It was a confusing few minutes, there was so much happening at once. But the right thing to do would have been for Brisbane to give the ball back to Sydney after they had kicked it out for Ledbrook's injury"

Sydney did have substitute Brittany Whitfield warming up on the sideline ready to go - and that of course is another of those “unwritten rules”. Is it sportsmanlike to make substitutions in injury time to run down the clock? It's an accepted norm of the game and I guess it depends on who you are supporting - and if your team is ahead.

However, with an Arsene Wenger-style replay ruled out (the Arsenal manager offered to replay an FA Ccup tie against Sheffield United after a similar incident in England in 1999), it will be Brisbane who take on Canberra in the grand final.

I can't claim to have been an eye-witness to this one, after a season on the sideline for the W-League, I was working on the women's T20 cricket broadcast and like many others watched the W-League semi-final highlights at 6pm.

Cue the other bone of contention arising from the match - the absence of live coverage of the semi-finals.

ABC TV has been covering the W-League for every season since its inception and in the last two years, there have been programming clashes over the semi-final weekend.

Women's sport remains one of the last frontiers for guaranteed television coverage. Traditionally it doesn't attract as many eyeballs as men-s sport and so remains unwanted by the commercial networks. ABC, however, is doing its best.

In this situation, the women-s international Twenty20 cricket series was locked in and thought to be after the W-League season was completed. When a finals series was decided on for the football, a scheduling clash ensued.

The national broadcaster has a commitment to women's sport and without the ability to rake in advertising dollars, the budget for production comes entirely out of its own pocket, a season total of close to a million dollars.

Fans of women's football found themselves in a difficult position on the weekend, when the preferred programming was another female sporting team that also struggles for air-time. Kudos must go to the Southern Stars who took an unassailable 3-0 lead in their series, but even more so it's a credit to some 144,000 viewers that tuned in to watch not just our women-s cricket team, but then for a large part stuck around for the highlights of the W-League semi.

This support is what will see greater pressure for women's sport to be televised.

The good news is that the Grand Final will be live on ABC1 from McKellar park on Saturday, so if you can't make it to what will be a jam-packed stadium in Canberra, tune in at 2.50pm. With all the fireworks from the week just past, this one should be electric.