5 Things Actually Wrong With The AFL
MORE access to clubs? 17-game home and away season? Better home game theatrics? Here’s five things that can help improve the viewing standard of AFL, writes Reegan Mastrangelo.
There’s no doubt that our game is in a strong position.
Fan numbers are solid, it dominates the national stage and the competition is as equal as ever.
But when Friday night footy hits the halfway mark of the first term, why do I find myself eyeing off the remote and scrolling through Netflix?
These are the top five things actually wrong with the AFL.
1. Lack of access to clubs
Without doubt, this is the biggest issue the AFL must address.
Outside of going to a game or flicking on the TV, fans have no knowledge of the way their side plays, what makes players tick at their club, or the inner workings of their club.
Heavily controlled and curated media teams now employed by all clubs present as being ‘access all areas’, but heavily manicured media is as surface level as it comes.
Until some independent documentary makers or media outlets are given full access to clubs, fans will continue to feel at arm’s length from their side.
2. Lack of fan knowledge of game style
This follows on from point one, and is by no means meant to be slanderous towards the fans.
As a viewing public, we want to see fast-paced, high-scoring footy like that of the beloved 80s and 90s.
This is natural, as the brand of footy spectators saw in that era was the brand of footy clubs were tying to produce.
There was no secret that clubs wanted to move the ball quick, win high-flying contests and feed their big forwards, culminating in high-scoring affairs.
Today, due to the lack of insight mentioned in point one, we, as fans, have no idea what our teams are actually trying to produce.
It’s very hard to sit back and appreciate a dour 56-48 victory if you don’t know what kind of system your team was implementing, or what the success criteria was, all the while wondering where the 100+ score lines of yesteryear have gone.
3. Weak administration from the AFL
The AFL is in a powerful position.
It has large coffers stuffed with money garnered from broadcast deals (which may not last much longer) and the strongest national foothold of any sport in the country.
Yet, for some reason, the AFL bows to fan and club pressure at the drop of the hat, making decisions a matter of popularity, rather than necessity. The AFL needs to start ruling with an iron fist in order to freshen up the tired traditions that still plague the competition.
Want a mid-season draft? Lock it in. Twilight grand final? Done.
It’s time for the AFL to do what they’re paid to do and govern, while fans and clubs need to fall into line.
4. The season is too long
The AFL needs to make it an absolute priority to reduce the season to 17 matches, maybe 18 at a stretch if we double up on rivalry round.
The current 22-game fixture sees some clubs with a huge advantage, and a favourable draw has regularly seen those fortunate sides sneak into the eight, only to be swiftly discarded in an indication of their true ability.
A 17-game fixture would also stake a solid claim to remove the bye, and with it the momentum killing six-match rounds fans endure for three weeks
5. Game day experience
Apart from a half-time race against a digital plane or a six-beer deep accountant trying to catch fly balls in the forward 50, the AFL offers very little to occupy the attention of the punters in the outer.
The American game day experience is largely dependent on the motivation to create an environment that is extremely hostile for travelling sides, and the AFL must do away with classic pre-game traditions and allow home clubs to make this a focus.
The club song of the away side need no longer be played; same with their banner.
A journey away from home should be a baptism of fire, with victory being an absolute rarity, valuable as ever in a 17-game season.
This list is by no means exhaustive, and may even be deemed unpopular by some, but if the AFL doesn’t act fast we may soon be finding the toss up between Friday night footy and ‘Friday Night Lights’ a worryingly easy decision.