Crio’s Q(uandary): Is the footy fish rotting – head down or tail up?

Here’s my glass half empty take on the jubilation surrounding expansion clubs excelling in Round One. It has been designed to happen that way and, ultimately, it is another step towards not the growth of footy, but its collision with unbeatable forces.

A unique product – Australian Rules – has fallen in to corporate hands who believe that only bigger can be better.

Hence the desperate envelopment of sympathetic states (sorry Tassie, they know you’ll watch anyway) and, then, the push to hostile (new TV) fields.

The disconnect is underway.

With no functioning “home” ground or community, a kid in Craigieburn or Cranbourne might as well barrack for Gold Coast (or, to stretch the analogy, Golden State).

They’ll see them on TV while the sport’s governors will continue to trumpet the massive broadcast rights.

But the point of difference is being lost – as will the battle be ultimately.

The whole “pay ’em more/ be professional” mantra is flawed.

Never can we pay as much as EPL, NBA etc…and by becoming a FOX product, that is becoming the alternative.

On a Saturday night I can choose from a worldwide fixture page.

On Saturday afternoon I may not have anything to go to.

The Herald-Sun and, remarkably, fantasy leagues, keep the fires burning but, like great Empires long gone, the rot will set in from the core while the vision is on far horizons.


  1. aussie80s says

    That just about sums it up. Like the Roman empire that got too big to protect it’s borders and too bloated to keep up it’s standards, the AFL will also find itself floundering.

    The TV rights are that big that they determine when the games will be played. It is being played to maximise TV audiences, they don’t need people at the game so Sunday evening is prime TV selling (as will be Monday night). For the diehards who still like to watch their team they have decided that if these fans are so desperate then they will set exorbitant ticket prices and milk it for all it’s worth.

    The crowds are dropping as the AFL/Foxtel herd their cashcow audiences to subscribe and watch it from home.

    Social clubs at clubs have been killed off as supporters just get in the way of operating the franchises. Clubs have family days not so that the fans can meet the players but they see it as another revenue stream – and this is about the only time supporters are made welcome at a club.

    This is the foot in the door that soccer needs to close the gap and capture the disenfranchised.

    I stopped going to the AFL on a regular basis in 1992 and joined my local club in country footy. All the things that the VFL used to be is still there at local footy.

  2. Hilarious.

    Footy, or should we say, the VFL was so much better before the introduction of the teams from “hostile” territories.

    Every club was broke, and those clubs lucky enough to have wealthy benefactors, paid the best players to come in to win a premiership. Sure, the supporters grew up next to the sub-standard bog heap that approximated the home ground.

    What’s wrong with a kid from Craigieburn barracking for Gold Coast? If that kid still has a passion for the game then surely that is the end game.

    Yep, footy is on the downward spiral. Heaps better when the proper Lions from Fitzroy took on the might of the South Melbourne Swans. Too bad they had no money to pay the staff.

  3. Skip of Skipton says

    If I lived in Melbourne I’d rather go and watch a VFL match. I reckon Footscray at the Whitten oval and Richmond at Punt Road might pull some reasonable crowds.

  4. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Crio aussie80s is spot on above also you both sum it up well afl has lost touch overall with the common footy supporter I too have stopped regularly attending and with the stupidity and incompetence of not having a national reserves competition has made it worse the morons in charge do not care about ruining all the state leagues unfortunately it Is the SANFLs turn with including the crows and power reserves it is impossible to have a serious comp where the too agendas are different developing players where winning doesn’t matter v clubs trying to win a flag is a disaster . How the afl can not work out that if you destroy the feeder leagues eventually you destroy afl has got me and many others completely stuffed . It is local amateur footy which is now my main interest with night football commencing at Uni Oval on Friday April 4 exciting times await at The Worlds Greatest FC The Afl are so far out of touch with reality It I beyond a joke
    The Worlds Greatest Football Club

  5. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Bloody I Pad

  6. Well quandried Crio.

    And, as is so often the case, your post gets the predictable non-sequitur response about the broke-arse VFL of the 1970s and how wonderful life under the AFL commission is. Never mind the fact that the EPL and NFL model the AFL is driving to contains just as many clubs whose success depends on “wealthy benefactors” who “[pay] the best players to come and win a [championship]”. Ever heard of Roman Abromovich Mark? Mansoor bin Zayad Al Nahyan’s name ring a bell? Had a look at Manchester United’s balance sheet lately? Seen the cost of a ticket to an Arsenal game at Emirates Stadium?

    There’s no doubt that we’ve got it good as fans of Australian Rules, but as you say Crio – and what I took as the point of your question – is that the very differences that make the game unique and as popular as it possibly was are being taken for granted and discarded, with a sinister “it’s for the good of the game” group-think mantra explaining any change to something that wasn’t broken in the first place, but seems only to placate the broadcasters and their ratings.

  7. Steve, speaking of non sequitur, the NFL and EPL don’t have a salary cap.

    The point of the article, as is your response, is that only Victorian clubs are the “real” heartland clubs with hard core supporters who love football for the game it was.

    It’s an offensive argument to every supporter outside of the Vaterland.

  8. The NFL absolutely has a salary cap Marc. The Premier League is introducing a staggered salary cap under the title of ‘Financial Fair Play’. My understanding is that Liverpool – at the behest of John Henry – have structured their player payments for the last two seasons on what the cap limits will be once FFP is fully functioning.

    So no one from Freo misses the Easts V South Freo derbys? No one at Alberton misses the Magpies beating up on the Bays?

    Some footy fans seem to conveniently forget the catastrophic mess that Geoff Edelston left the Sydney Swans in (Sydney is hardly the Vaterland) that saw 20 people and a dog turn up to matches in the late 80s/early90s. The kind of political and financial support lavished on the Swans (or Brisbane in moving them from the Gold Coast to the ‘Gabba around the same time) would have made an enormous difference to the situation Fitzroy found themselves in before being wound up. To suggest Fitzroy’s situation was entirely of it’s own making and somehow deserved is as equally offensive to some fans as your disdain for those who claim Victoria to be some kind of vanguard of football culture to the exclusion of all others.

    I certainly don’t begrudge GWS or the Giants whatever success they’ll enjoy in coming years. It’s the painting of even the most basic success as a ‘triumph of a national game’ that’s irksome.

  9. Interesting article causing quite a bit of discussion. I like the best of both worlds. The SANFL offers me a grass roots alternative where I can go and watch the Redlegs have a beer and a pie and a kick of the footy on the Oval with the Kids.

    The new Adelaide Oval will offer some high standard facilities and footy as well as envigortaing the city. Unfortunatley being dictated by TV is the way of the future. I consider it a privlege to be able to watch quality AFL footy shows every night on Fox and to watch a game on a Thursday or Monday night.. The NBA play Christmas Day for TV. This is the future so we may as well embrace it.

  10. Steve, we’ll agree to disagree which of course, is the beauty of the Almanac.

    I am a Port supporter and can say that I really don’t miss beating up on the Bays or our traditional rivals, the Redlegs for that matter. I want to see Port smashing Collingwood in finals at the MCG.

    The AFL is the pinnacle of the sport and as such, the best players play each other week in and week out. In order to have that level of competition and professionalism, one requires the filthy lucre. You cannot separate the graduation of the game from money.

    I reckon the AFL is an easy target to pot but they are selling a product that the people want: 24/7 entertainment. If people didn’t want it, the sponsors, the media and the supporters would turn off.

    The alternative, if I read the lamentations on this thread, are to somehow rekindle the suburban, tribal rivalries. I agree, those days were fun but times change. Back in those days, Fremantle was a seedy port and Fitzroy was a down at heel blighted, inner city suburb. Now, you can’t move in these suburbs for bearded hipsters running between art classes and coffee bars.

    The point is, the culture that used to pervade these areas has changed. People move on.

    TV, the internet and gambling are hand in glove with the game. It’s either move with the times or end up like the dinosaurs.

    If it is pure competition and love of the guernsey you seek, then you will struggle to find it anywhere but junior footy. Even our amateur league here in SA is dominated by clubs that pay the most. Hell, even our country leagues pay more than the SANFL pays it’s players.

    Is this a good thing? I’m not sure it is a question that can be answered on any level other than the abstract. I, as one solitary voice, am very appreciative of my team’ entry to the AFL.

    I love watching games on every night of the week rather than a 30 minutes highlights package on a Saturday evening.

    I love seeing kids in Western Sydney cheering for Giants rather than The Penrith Panthers.

    I love the game of football and it’s evolution from its roots into the professionalism of today’s players.

    I love footy.

  11. Might this be the time to mention the AFL Fans Association?

    Love this discussion, btw.

  12. Crio, got a few tongues wagging on this one.

    I’m with Raj, prefer the SANFL for my dose of good old footy.

    The big question for me is , where is everyone on a Saturday when the is either no AFL game or in Vic maybe just one? They certainly aren’t at the races and the local ( SANFL in my case) isn’t getting better attendances.
    Must be a lot on “Norms” on the lounge which doesn’t bode well for filling up stadiums in the future or getting people involved with their clubs.

  13. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Jock it is interesting overall I reckon the crowds in general have increased at local SAAFL ( so called amateur league ) on a Saturday arvo but there is not the fervent interest in tha afl games going on at the same time . 10 years ago there was virtually a blaring radio broadcast not so today
    Personally give me am league and SANFL ( before the compromised comp starting from now ) I prefer the more contested game style

  14. Just wondering out loud, did we ever get to hear what great learnings the AFL and club honchos gleaned from their NFL trip last year? You know the junket which compared apples to oranges, with surely the same information available via the new-fangled interweb or an old-fangled phone?

    Personally, these days I struggle to keep up with what games are on, when.

    My son will be lucky to attend more than one game this year for a range of reasons. I used to go almost every week at the same age. Because I cannot justify Foxtel there are now several games I don’t see at all – but worse still – it no longer bothers me that much.

    Surely making a product easily accessible, and getting consumers to be more heavily invested in the outcome, is marketing 101. As per Crio’s point, the growth obsession has transformed the game in a way that has seen it pulled away from the loyalest of customers, and seen a sporting competition necessarily morph into a manufactured show, with WWE style endorsed winners,

    Easy to become un-invested with any number of sport or other entertainment alternatives a click away.

    There is definitely an undercurrent of dissatisfaction that is growing stronger. Worth checking out From little things big things grow, and all that.

  15. Rick Kane says

    I don’t know what to think.

    Oh, Marc D, hipsters don’t run.


  16. Has the footy season started yet? I don’t have Foxtel.

  17. Is Marc D really Mark D (Doyle) returning under another guise? And I’m not falling for the Port supporter smokescreen!

  18. Malcolm Ashwood says

    No Marc D is not Marc Doyle and yes he is a Port Supporter personally wouldn’t let him live in the eastern suburbs A Disgrace ( he is actually a good bloke )

  19. Budge – nope, not a Doyle.

    Rick Kane – the hipsters may have been using a fixed wheel bike or one of those fibereglass skateboards kids used to ride in 80’s.

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