AFL, it’s more than Money

Football seems to be more about the money than the game itself.

As a South Australian I am used to the very occasional Friday Night game in Adelaide, inconvenient scheduling when compared to Collingwood, Essendon, Geelong and Hawthorn; I can’t remember the last time we had a holiday Monday game in Adelaide. It does seem that if you are not from Melbourne you don’t matter as after all that is where the money is.

The latest example is the seemingly grudging appreciation by the AFL’s CEO of the efforts of Freemantle and more particularly Port Adelaide

who disrupted the AFL’s financial returns by upsetting their more fancied Victorian rivals. Apparently it was also unfortunate that Carlton knocked Richmond out; quite bewildering as Carlton has a massive supporter base of its own and is from Melbourne.

The AFL was concerned that with Collingwood and Richmond bundled out of the finals in the first week it would be bad for crowds. Heaven forbid that a sporting result should get in the way of a commercial outcome. Imagine what would have been said if Port Adelaide had won last Friday night and denied the AFL it’s prize Hawthorn Geelong blockbuster this weekend!

Obviously it is important to get a strong financial outcome, but surely not at the expense of the game itself. We should welcome the upset knowing that in the longer term it is the very uncertainty of the sporting contest that enhances the game, and I would argue ensures its future. I am not sure that the AFL sees it this way.

Sport should be about fair competition, an even playing field and not just the best financial returns. Failure to take note of this may see AFL may see the game being likened to professional wrestling where the focus is entertainment and the results don’t matter so long as the so called big teams play each other at prime times.

Sports greatest moments are often not the win by the favourite but the unexpected result. The unfashionable beating the fashionable, Manchester City losing to Cardiff, an early round upset in a Tennis Grand Slam or a longshot winning a major horse race. Sure the winner isn’t necessarily the major draw card but the upset increases interest and often provides the sporting folklore which enhances the game.

The AFL needs to rebalance, its not just about the big Melbourne Clubs but the whole country. It should no longer an expanded VFL but a truly national competition.

For the good of the game, we should celebrate the upsets and understand that not all blockbusters happen at the MCG between two Victorian teams. To do otherwise will see people look elsewhere for their sporting entertainment and with it diminished financial returns.

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