Expensive | Sanitised | Confusing | AFL isn’t what it used to be
THE AFL is losing me.
In 2011, if not for the newly-established Gold Coast Suns and an eight-point win at the soon to be redeveloped Adelaide Oval over fellow dismal performers Melbourne, Port Adelaide would have won our inaugural wooden spoon at AFL level.
We’d lost to Collingwood by 138 points and Hawthorn the following week by 165 points just three weeks earlier, yet walking out of Adelaide Oval on Father’s Day 2011 I couldn’t wait for the 2012 season to start.
Ultimately, we’d sack our coach Matt Primus mid-year after a loss to the newly-created GWS Giants, but football was still worth watching.
Despite the dire situation my club was in, I was soaking up as much footy as I could every weekend.
I did every week, up until about six weeks ago.
Somehow though I’m even more disenchanted with the AFL than I was in those desperate times and several weeks ago I found myself still enthralled in Port Adelaide matches.
They’re the club I love after all, but games that they aren’t involved in? Meh, take it or leave it.
Friday night football? Only if I haven’t got something on.
A couple of good sides on a quiet winter’s Saturday night at home? I’ll probably fall asleep or turn it over to some bollocks on another station.
Rainy Sunday afternoon on the couch? I’ll hunt around for a fishing show or put some tunes in the air.
The AFL is losing me.
The umpiring is at an all-time confusing low.
Holding the ball interpretations, below the knees rulings, ruck infringements, free kicks to forwards for hands in the back, 50m penalties turning into 100m free goals, kick ins, 6-6-6, goal review mistake after mistake, the list of infuriating on-field decisions goes on and on.
Off-field the list is even longer.
Head office is making political statements, the AFL logo going “rainbow” for the same sex marriage debate.
I voted yes, by the way, but I was left wondering: is the AFL the governing body of a sporting competition or a political chess piece?
The big wigs come out every week and defend the indefensible with the most blatant of umpiring errors signed off as correct by manipulating interpretations to suit their defence.
Come Monday afternoon the MRO puppet Michael Christian rolls his fine/suspension dice before asking Steve Hocking, the man charged with the “look” of the game if he likes the fine/suspensions and if not how would he like them too look. Constant rule changes, interpretations, umpire numbers, the list goes on and on.
The AFL is losing me.
The constant media cycle of being the “news breaker” is beyond a circus.
Ambulance chasers are running around in cheap suits and trench coats alluding to “breaking news” on their twitter feeds, linking to stories behind paywalls written by Neville Nobody or some prehistoric dinosaur who played in a premiership in 19-dickety-two because he’s a “great” of the club.
Players shield themselves from social media platforms, take time away from the game to maintain or regain their mental health or walk away from million-dollar contracts such is the constant scrutiny they are under from fans and media “experts” alike.
The AFL is losing me.
The people who fund the game, the ones who put their bums on the seats are getting asked for more and more, financially, every year.
Most clubs reserved seats are around $40-50 per seat per game.
If you’re lucky enough to go to a final with your team in it you’re up for $60-70 in the first week and up to $300 in the Grand Final if you can secure one.
If you’re lucky enough to host a home final you don’t get to sit in the seat you’ve sat in all year round with your football family.
Why? Well, the AFL take over ticketing of the finals. Of course they do.
Concession stands and bars are constantly upping prices making a pie and a beer a luxury that robs your pocket of $20 with little to no change.
Beers are the best part of $10 each.
It’s the footy, not a nightclub (my two platinum tickets for Port home games are around $1000 for 11 home games. I like a beer or three and that’s my choice, granted. Throw in a final at home, if we’re lucky enough and a home season with a few beers and a final at home could be $2000, or more, from the family budget for the year).
Now, the AFL is cracking down on spectator behaviour.
I’m all for stamping out crude language with families around, I’m dead set against racially vilifying players, but when you are getting kicked out for calling a bald-headed flog a ‘bald-headed flog’ the AFL is entering dangerous territory.
With the umpiring at an all-time confusing low, spectators are getting more and more frustrated, yet are being asked to make less and less fuss.
Supporters can’t support too hard and don’t dare think about barracking outside of the barracking guidelines.
Sit there, behave.
I can see it now: Brownlow Medal weekend, 2030.
The two-day extravaganza acknowledges every player and umpire that has contributed to the game in 2030 with a “Participation Award” for a free Happy Meal at McDonald’s.
Of course, the AFL has ensured there are gluten free and vegan options available.
The AFL may have lost me before then.