A Festival of Football
Some time back I wrote a clash-of-the-codes type essay (rumour suggests it will finally see the light of public day in Long Bombs to Snake 2 – consider this cross promotion in advance!). In it, among other things, I briefly raised the idea of a Festival of Football (FOF), which I will explore a little more here, and occasionally borrow from that essay.
This concept had emerged out of some concern regarding Australia’s desire to stage a Soccer World Cup amid FIFA dodgy dealings and corruption scandals. Why not, I suggested, be more original and self-determining and stage our own footy carnival, a festival of football; an event where all codes can put on a show and compete for prizes, awards and cups?
Further supporting the FOF concept was reference to an article by Roy Hay about possible cooperation between Australia’s major football leagues to encourage fan crossovers etc.
While cooperation is usually preferable to conflict, my feeling was that the individual league administrations are too preoccupied with what they could lose, at least as it currently stands. The past year or so has seen relative calm between them in the public sphere, but whether that’s a result of better co-existence or due to the lack of significant events to stir the pot remains to be seen. Overall, I suggested, they’re too competitive for meaningful cooperation, and that there was probably more potential for negotiation at club level.
However, a Festival of Football could also be a way to start balls rolling, and tumbling, to a more shared future. Is it feasible and how might it work in practice? That Australia, relative to its population, manages to support four major football leagues suggests potential interest. In that environment it could be a unique spectacle for a unique country in unique circumstances, held with or without involvement of the major league administrations.
Apart from fostering footy co-existence, it might even have benefit from an Australian multicultural perspective by bringing together people that, for whatever reason, feel isolated along with their choice of football code.
In the proposal, all codes would be known as ‘football’ under the umbrella of their individual titles. A footy ‘fair go’ would be at the heart of its charter.
To be a serious alternative to hosting a world cup would it require substantial backing and high profile competition involving well know teams and players representing all codes? Does there need to be something at stake?
It mightn’t need to be that way initially – start small – be a celebration more than a serious competition. Perhaps it could be to the football codes what the Big Bash/Twenty Twenty is to cricket – entertainment – and also offer opportunity to fringe players.
Keeping it at community level initially would also make it easier to organise – let it evolve and grow, or die, from there. It could be a non-profit event with any gains going to the staging of the next FOF.
Perhaps people that have previously backed the world cup could be encouraged to support this Australian initiative. Frank Lowy, for example?
The festival could also incorporate an expo with displays and exhibitions representing the various codes encouraging the exchange of knowledge as well as participation, and help expose the uninitiated to the nuances, rules, tactics and history of each code.
As part of a FOF expo, for example, there could also be footy card swaps, and exchanges of memorabilia, along with tests of skill. It might also include talks and seminars by players, coaches, historians and media commentators.
A FOF could shirt-front the usual concept of a ‘ceremony’ and be kick-started – or ended – by a footy fancy dress ball (open to everyone, of course). From a design/marketing point of view could the ‘O’ in FOF be in the shape of a football?
A Festival of Football might be a fanciful and unrealistic concept and require cooperation impossible to achieve, but these, at present, are mostly surmising thoughts having an idealistic moment. There would be logistical hurdles and many questions to be answered.
The essay, by the way, was originally inspired by what I perceived as threats to Aussie Rules in a globalised world (though, the football landscape is changing so rapidly a clash-of-the-codes piece can risk being soon outdated). While I want our indigenous code to prosper I don’t think that’s inconsistent with a FOF.
In the essay, I also mentioned that Tom Wills was influenced by various ball sports when schooling in England, and that he incorporated aspects of them while codifying our game. There were also different versions of football played in the colonies providing him with reference. In that way Aussie Rules is like the child of the other football codes – or perhaps ‘sibling’ is a more accurate description. The codes have a shared past. In that context, a Festival of Football is like a family reunion.
If it eventuated, perhaps, in the spirit of Tom Wills and Co, a meeting will be held at an East Melbourne pub to devise terms and conditions.
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