Almanac Satire – Please explain: Desmond interviews an AFL Executive

Tonight, interviewer Des Troyer is again joined by our anonymous up-and-coming AFL Executive.




Desmond: Mr Schooltie, thanks for joining us.


AFL Executive: Good evening.


Desmond: Mr Schooltie what is your understanding of the word ‘fairness’?


AFL Executive: [looking over his right shoulder, then his left] …sorry Desmond. What did you say?


Desmond: ‘Fairness,’ Mr Schooltie. Equity. Equality.


AFL Executive: Ah, yes. [taps phone screen. Reads:] Concepts, Desmond. Fine concepts. Equity and equality are two strategies we can use in an effort to produce fairness. Equity is giving everyone what they need to be successful. Equality is treating everyone the same. Equality aims to promote fairness, but it can only work if everyone starts from the same place and has the same needs.


Desmond: Do men and women footballers have the same needs?


AFL Executive: Ah, I see where you’re going, Desmond; very good. Well no they don’t have the same needs. And they certainly are not starting from the same place.


Desmond: So you acknowledge that shortening an already brief womens’ season is a poor decision – a decision of inequality?


AFL Executive: Sorry, poor how? Poor because it’s not equitable?


Desmond: Yes.


AFL Executive: Well, Desmond, you assume that promoting equality is a key plank of our business.


Desmond: Your league?


AFL Executive: Our business, yes. Look, it’s nice. It’s very nice to have equality and equity and fairness. But life isn’t fair, Desmond.


Desmond: So you acknowledge that your league administers unfair competitions?


AFL Executive: Sorry, Desmond. This is all very quaint.


Desmond: Mr Schooltie, I put it to you that you run what purports to be a sports league. I put it to you that sports leagues have only a few universal core functions. They include: (i) scheduling a season of matches in a fair fixture that provides every team with equal opportunity of winning; (ii) providing umpires for each game who are well-equipped to make decisions; (iii) overseeing the awarding of points for games won, (iv) ensuring that player and team behaviours meet certain agreed standards, and (v) protecting and maintaining the integrity of the competition. That’s about all.


AFL Executive: Oooh, that’s good. Can you write that down?


Desmond: By any measure, Mr Schooltie, the AFL is a very poor imitation of a sports league.


AFL Executive: Well, let me think… [starts counting out the five functions] (i) yes, that 18 teams play 22 games bothers me a bit. So does the trouble with the women’s competition. We’re researching that presently. As for (ii), the umpires do a good job; but that video review technology seriously stinks. Not sure how we can be rid of that albatross. With (iii) we haven’t had much trouble awarding points for matches won, so that’s a tick. Ahh, (iv), reports and suspensions remain a grey area in the AFL. Why two similar incidents are often treated differently is an ongoing mystery. Hmm. That’s fair. And finally, (v) it doesn’t help when the Chief Executive Officer of the league suggests a trial of proposed rule changes take place within the season. You’re right, Desmond. Integrity of the league is dead. Good grief.


Desmond: So given all of that, how can the AFL be classified as a sporting league?


AFL Executive: Well that’s a bit strong, Des. Look, we’re enormously successful. The AFL has never employed so many staff. Profits are up. The AFL has its own media arm. And don’t forget AFLX. Don’t forget India and China.


Desmond: That’s irrelevant.


AFL Executive: [scoffs] Oh, Desmond.


Desmond: It’s irrelevant to the proper functioning of a sporting competition.


AFL Executive: Desmond, look, you’re making one serious flaw in your thinking.


Desmond: What’s that?


AFL Executive: You think of us as a sporting administration. That’s your problem.


Desmond: But you are a sporting administration.


AFL Executive: In a way. But our focus is not on sport. Hasn’t been for years. We’re all about the shareholders, now.


Desmond: So what is the AFL?


AFL Executive: Good question Des. Now we’re getting somewhere. You should think of the AFL as a reality TV series.


Desmond: A what…?!?!


AFL Executive: Desmond, fairness and equity and equality are all wonderful. But we’re chasing ratings here, sir. Ratings and revenue. Not daisy chains.


Desmond: You’re a reality TV series?


AFL Executive: Yes. Think about it. We established those clubs on the Gold Coast and in western Sydney. Why? Two reasons: Firstly to attract discretionary income of local Gold Coast and western Sydney people. And secondly to flesh out the AFL to 18 teams for fixturing purposes. It really helps to have two teams from NSW and two from Queensland, let me tell you.


Desmond: Right. Establishing two new franchise teams is not the act of a sporting league. It is the act of a TV series looking to expand its audience share.


AFL Executive: Exactly. Now, those rustic calls for a team that represents Tasmania to play in the AFL; they are built on solid logic. Solid sports logic. Solid community logic. We get it.


Desmond: But it won’t happen, will it?


AFL Executive: Of course not. The AFL is not a sport. It is not even a sporting league. It is a TV series. And most footy viewers in Tasmania are watching already.


Desmond: If you are a TV series, then your biggest aim is to engage viewers, engage the public. To stay relevant.


AFL Executive: Damn right. Most series are 12-weeks long. Ours is a marathon. And if we fail to capture eyeballs, we will take down many related industries with us.


Desmond: Like what?


AFL Executive: Like all media covering AFL. It is in the interests of media people who depend on the AFL, for the public to be constantly aware of the AFL conversation. Their livelihoods demand it.


Desmond: Are you suggesting that it’s a symbiotic relationship? Surely journalists could survive without the AFL. But I’m not sure the AFL could survive without journalists.


AFL Executive: Well, journalists probably could survive, Desmond. But not the opinion-writers, the bloggers, the podcasters of zero journalism ability. Some people think ‘parasite’ when we talk about these individuals. Whatever they are, they power relentless coverage, saturation coverage of the league; including off-field and management aspects of the league. Not just the game, mind you; every aspect of the damn thing.


Desmond: So is any publicity is good publicity?


AFL Executive: Look, if you’re a corporation looking to increase your media exposure, how might you do it? The easiest way is to imagine and broadcast a problem, then voice potential solutions to that problem.


Desmond: Yes.


AFL Executive: And if you’re a media producer of AFL content looking to fill air-time, how might you do it? The best way is to engender talking points; debate; contentious issues. Discuss problems, and offer all potential solutions up to be trialled in the court of public opinion.


Desmond: So this is all deliberate strategy?


AFL Executive: These things don’t always just happen by themselves, Desmond.


Desmond: Do you have any examples of problems you might have knowingly raised?


AFL Executive: How long have you got? Usually we pump out one per week. Depends on the coverage. How the wind is blowing. We’ve had timing of the men’s grand final; timing and content of the women’s league season; whether to provide a count-down on a shot clock; a policy for closing the Docklands roof; we’ve had when and where to hold the Grand Final motorcade; we’ve had conditions under which a third player can join a ruck contest.. I mean.. Shall I stop? We’ve had the overall state of the game…


Desmond: So the relationship between insecure AFL bosses and insecure sports media is one of co-dependence.


AFL Executive: Desmond, you’re a smart guy. And if these methods sound familiar, that’s because they are. It is the method of modern politicians everywhere; people whose principles seem to change with the wind of public opinion. Let me read this from Fintan O’Toole last month:
“He created himself in the gossip pages of the New York tabloids, where celebrity is manufactured by planting outrageous stories that you can later confirm or deny depending on how they go down. And he recreated himself in reality TV where the storylines can be adjusted according to the ratings. Put something out there, pull it back, adjust, go again.”


Desmond: Fintan O’Toole? I don’t know him. Was he writing about AFL being a TV series?


AFL Executive: No, no. He was writing about Donald Trump. But it’s the same method, see?


Desmond: I do see. I get it. I get it. I get that you need to maintain relevance in this fragmented entertainment industry.


AFL Executive: And we do that by manufacturing controversy.


Desmond: Yes, I see that. But in the end, no one watches AFL, do they? They watch their club.


AFL Executive: GWS, Desmond. Gold Coast, Desmond. AFL profits are sky high.


Desmond: Well, Mr Schooltie, what can we expect next in the AFL TV series 2018?


AFL Executive: No real changes, Desmond. Everything is going beautifully. We’re a magnificent organisation…


Desmond: …that fails to promote fairness.


AFL Executive: [at the same time] …whose ratings are a thing of wonder.


Desmond: Mr Schooltie, thanks for your time.


AFL Executive: That’s a nice watch.



About David Wilson

David Wilson is a writer, editor, flood forecaster and former school teacher. He writes under the name “E.regnans” at The Footy Almanac and has stories in several books. One of his stories was judged as a finalist in the Tasmanian Writers’ Prize 2021. He is married and has two daughters and the four of them all live together with their dog, Pip. He finds playing the guitar a little tricky, but seems to have found a kindred instrument with the ukulele. Favourite tree: Eucalyptus regnans.


  1. Earl O'Neill says

    Reality teev, heroes and villains yep.

  2. Des you are really going to catch it now. Plod will be on your doorstep at 4am, bashing down the door, carring out boxes of documents and your computer, with a tipped off media pack breathlessly reportiing on just how the AFLs ‘secrit’ 5 year plan came into your hands.

  3. Brilliant again David.

    As your piece features no exaggeration or parody, and I’m sure the intended audience (AFL) would read it and feel no shame, does it even qualify as satire?

    This, of course, is a compliment to your craft!

  4. Mr Schooltie. I love it.

  5. John Butler says

    E Reg, I think the AFL response to this would be, “hold my beer”.

  6. My standard line when I worked as a political lobbyist 20+ years ago was that “a politician is a person that steals $20 from your back pocket and gives you $10 when you are in trouble, and wonders why you’re not grateful”.
    Glad to see the concept is catching on. I commented to my golf mates the other day that “there are two things that used to dominate my time and interests – horse racing and politics. Nowadays I give no thought to either.” Must add corporate governance to the list.
    Onya ER. Maintain the faith.

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