Dear Gillon

Passionate Magpie and traditional footy supporter Sue Currie mailed the following letter to AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan:

[email protected]

31/7/14

Dear Gillon McLachlan,

Last Sunday afternoon at 4.40pm, once again I dragged myself, reluctantly, to the MCG.  I didn’t go at that disgusting hour because I was looking forward to the footy.  I went to support the boys of the club I have loved since my first game with my Dad at the age of 5 in 1945.

In those days of 12 Victorian clubs we had a draw, not a fixture, and every team knew they had an equal chance of being in the final four.  Not so these days when one team, such as Sydney Swans in 2012, can start the season with 5 easy-beats in the first 6 rounds (including massive defeats of GWS and Gold Coast in succession to kick-start their season); Geelong and the other interstate teams with their massive home ground advantages can pencil in 6 wins before the first ball is bounced, yet my boys start with their nemesis, Hawthorn, and the block-buster  fixture from hell.

Four Collingwood block-busters later the AFL’s coffers are bulging and Collingwood and Sydney are separated by a couple of hundred percentage points – a gap that will never be bridged.  All in the name of TV rights and big bucks for the AFL.  Nothing to do with equity or fairness.

Like many others I am critical of numerous aspects of the modern game, its adjudication and its administration.  Over the past year or two I am finding that I can’t make myself care as much about my footy as I used to.  I don’t look forward to our games like I once did.  I am fed up with the rolling mauls; bitter about the unfair fixturing;  sick and tired of seeing free kicks and fifty metre penalties given for reasons that are apparent neither to me, the TV or radio commentators and blatant infringements called ‘play-on’ before umpires have taken the time to look at them.  But most of all, I am angry about the voiceless people who live around me and who would once have gone to every match but have now been priced out of going or even watching their beloved boys on TV.

When I moved back to Melbourne from the bush (from which I used to drive 4 hours each way to see our games) in 2005 I chose to live in Northcote – Magpie territory, walking distance from Victoria Park.  When I do my shopping at Northcote Plaza I see them – all the poor old blokes sitting around in their faded, battered, 30-year-old Magpies caps – pensioners who can no longer afford a season’s ticket or the Foxtel they must increasingly pay for to see their team on TV.  I guess they just sit at home now, huddled over their wirelesses as we all did before TV arrived in 1956.

I, too, struggle to make ends meet, surviving as I do as a full aged pensioner, but I am lucky because I own my house.  I make big sacrifices every year, month in, month out, paying by direct debit for my Legends membership.  But suddenly, I am over it.  My team’s fixture, with all its late afternoon/twilight games has pushed me beyond my limit.  On Sunday, in my superbly located seat at N51 I was sitting alone in my row, freezing in the cold wind.  I, like many other people, have family obligations that are incompatible with the endlessly moving feast of unsociable match times that has become AFL fixturing.  I need to administer insulin to a loved one on a strictly 12-hourly basis.  Last Sunday this forced me to leave at three quarter time.  As I walked away from the stadium, listening to the crowd roaring for Travis’s goal I thought, “This is it.  It’s over for me.  I’m not going to do this again.”

I won’t be there this Sunday against Port at 4.40pm.  There are still 5 weeks to go on my Legends ticket but I’ll only be definitely using it one more time – on August 16 against Brisbane.  And perhaps to Round 23 depending on the scheduling.  Then I’ll be terminating my membership.  No more of my scarce income to be spent on a membership that endlessly invites me to unaffordable functions that I never attend because they would cost half of my weekly income.  I can’t afford both Collingwood Club membership and Foxtel so since so much about footy has become a drag it’s Foxtel for me in 2015 – at least I will be able to see all our games on TV for half the price.  Which is just what the AFL wants, isn’t it?

Good-bye my beloved Pies.  I’ve loved you from wherever I’ve lived all over Australia; flown to interstate games; driven for hours to support you; sat out in the rain, mud and freezing winds at local grounds as a kid to watch you; collected autographs from Neil Mann, Bobby Rose and my idol, Bill Twomey; even changed jobs to leave FNQ when I could not get footy reception on my HF radio; but the AFL has destroyed football for me in its greedy pursuit of the mighty dollar.

FOOTNOTE: Much to his credit, Gillon personally rang Sue 3 days later and promised he will fix it all for next year and pleaded with her to give it one more year.  Sue says she said OK without much enthusiasm and will see how it goes.

Sue’s memoir “A Mouthful of Flies” about her time as an indigenous health nurse in isolated communities was reviewed by Martin Flanagan in the Sunday Age at http://www.theage.com.au/comment/a-nurses-shocking-tale-of-ill-behaviour-20140221-337e9.html

You can contact Sue at her email address above to purchase a copy of the book.

About Sue Currie

A devoted Magpie since my father took me to my first game at Victoria Park when I was five years old. That was nearly 70 years ago. Even when I was a nurse on a remote Aboriginal desert community I managed to see most Pies' games on Imparja TV. When I went to work up Cape York and found that the only way to find out what was happening to my Pies was to sit in my FWD and listen to HF radio I quit my job and came back to where they play civilised footy, ie., Aussie Rules.

Comments

  1. Cat from the Country says

    Dear Sue. Although a Cats member for a number of years, I stand with you in your anger, frustration and sadness where footy is going.
    I recently went to a country footy match and was really delighted to see some players staying at their own end when the ball went up the other. This is really smart play as the forward is there ready and waiting for the ball to arrive. He did not wear himself out racing all over the ground.
    There was no rolling maul, no TV review only a few 50’s and lots of goals.
    I really enjoyed myself and was home for an early dinner!
    That is what footy should be. Games at 2.00 on Saturday arvo and home or out for dinner.
    I would love to see that!
    And while I am supporting you in the demise of footy I must add my abhorrence of the white away guernsy.
    One can’t blame Carlton for playing so badly tonight in that revolting apology of a proud club jumper!????

  2. Malcolm Ashwood says

    We’ll done Sue personally give me local amateur footy over afl crap in general .
    I agree with most of what you have said especially re pricing the game out of the common person it should be a 17 round season play every one once home one year away the next . Re the rolling maul talking to a ass coach his idea was not zones but less players on the field which I think has merit
    ( with less teams in vic if it was a fair dinkum afl not expanded vfl competition
    Well done , Gillon for at least ringing , Sue

  3. Let me get this clear: Collingwood play 17 or 18 matches in Melbourne each season and you’re unhappy? Sorry to be brutal but…

  4. Neil Anderson says

    I felt really deflated reading your letter just before I turned the computer off tonight.
    Someone just a bit older than me following the biggest Club in the land and still disillusioned about the way the game is going. You can imagine how I feel following one of the smallest,, poorest Clubs with all the problems of ‘fixturing’ coupled with the home-ground advantages of Geelong and the interstaters. You’re right, some Clubs start the season with a six-game disadvantage.
    I haven’t quite given up on my Club but in recent years I have opted for Foxtel rather than the 250k trip to attend the matches. The VFL side Footscray Bulldogs has given me an alternative to follow and watch occasionally and seems less corrupted and definitely more grass- roots as a competition. The AFL side seems like a case of ‘banging your head against a brick wall’ all the time, desperately looking for light at the end of the tunnel, and seldom seeing it.
    I’m glad you got through to Gillon and articulated how you as a long-time supporter have been so let down. A good reminder to the rest of us to get our heads out of the sand as well.

  5. Skip of Skipton says

    Would you be whining like this if Collingwood were in the top 4, Sue?

    I used to like going to Kardinia Park, standing on the wing, drinking $2 cans of Vic, smoking and participating in the ‘outer’. That’s how it was. Then it wasn’t. Times change.

  6. Is travelling interstate only five times a season, not an advantage in itself?

    Should be pencilling in seventeen wins at the start of every year if that’s the case.

    This competition will never be equal. No competition is. We actually now have a national competition. Has been for a long time. Each club is pushing it’s own agenda and we all need to get over it.

  7. Sorry; I’m with Mickey on this one. 17 games in Victoria, only one trip to Perth and none to Brisbane, NT or Tasmania.

    The Grand Final is also played at home.

    I thought only Eddie McGuire could craft an argument about the unfairness of Collingwood’s draw . . .

  8. Diddums to the Collingwood crew, and their 6/17 (more?) game sin Melbourne. Yes, the draw his a farce, the weighting of games and their scheduling is also a farce, but hey lady, at least your club isn’t constantly pecked at by the AFL as part of a broader plan to focus $s and attention towards a few big clubs. If you REALLY want to know what it’s like to be ****ed off by the whole AFL saga, try following the SANFL – now THERE’S something to get upset about. And Skip of Skipton – classic!

  9. G’day Sue,
    Well done on voicing your concerns and doing something constructive about them.
    This is a wonderful and positive example of how to act in the face of worry or disillusionment.
    A few non-Colliingwood followers have chimed in above, but I would say that you have missed the point that satisfaction is relative. The Adelaide/ Footscray/ North/ Collingwood/ West Coast/All Other AFL club experience is perhaps not as enjoyable as it was a decade ago. It’s not about the club, but about the competition and the running of that competition.
    Good on you Sue. You stepped up and you acted.
    adios, e.r.

  10. Sue
    Good on you for alerting Gillon to the concerns about the fixture, the timing of matches and the cost of going to the footy. These are top of every footy fan’s list of gripes. To the commentators suggesting that Collingwood supporters have no right to voice these concerns, you’ve completely missed Sue’s point. She is speaking for all of us.

    What I will question though is whether things are as parlous as you make out. This is not to say that you shouldn’t be telling the bosses about what could be improved, but the fact is top level sport doesn’t come for free and it is generally beholden to the TV networks. AFL is no different. That said, by world standards, AFL footy remains cheap and accessible, and, for all the foibles of the fixture, provides a competition with plenty of interest and unpredictability. As with many aspects of life in Australia, I think we often don’t realise how good we have it. EPL anybody?

  11. Keiran Croker says

    Sue,
    I totally agree with you in regard to the timing of games. More games at traditional times of 1pm or 2pm on Sat and Sunday would be much more family friendly and perhaps address the declining crowds in Melbourne.
    Re the fixturing I can’t agree that the Pies get a raw deal with so many games at the G and against the blockbuster teams like Essendon. Eddie gets what he wants!
    As Swans supporter I’d point out that while we may have had a soft start in 2012, we drew the top 4 sides over the last month. Everyone got the chance for percentage boosting wins over GWS and the Suns!

  12. Dave Brown says

    Yep, this is a tough one. Hard not to respect a heartfelt lament from someone who has been actively supporting their club for so long. This is all about the almighty dollar: scheduling to maximise TV revenue; strategic expansion of the competition to non-AFL areas in an attempt to broaden the base. When was the last time the AFL made a decision that wasn’t to do with maximising long term revenue? When they do make a decision in response to public reaction it always seems like it is because it is politic rather than because it is right. This also means that AFL will only respond to the loudest whining (another big club hometown advantage?).

    On the other hand others have raised legitimate concerns that do not just relate to this coming from a Collingwood perspective, so shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand. Those of us “interstaters” were screwed over by the VFL/AFL long ago in the name of money. A supporter just reaching that point now is doing so from a position of comparative privilege.

    I’m not being as eloquent about this as I would like to be. There are real issues here about fan experience and access to games for as broad a range of people as possible. The AFL continues to erode its base in its pursuit of the dollar. But there are some real through the looking glass moments in suggesting Collingwood the club (rather than its fans) suffer the slightest disadvantage in this competition.

  13. John Saint says

    Sue’s letter was a nice personal letter on how she felt about not being able to go to the footy at a suitable time due to her circumstances. End of story.

    If Sue felt the times were suitable, she would not have written the letter? No. Therefore she can’t be speaking for all of us.

    Gone are the days where football was a sport and for some a ‘religion’. It is now a business.

    But Sue can rest assure she will always have a team to support.

  14. I read this with keen interest as i was recently made aware the almanac is looking for some NFL commentary. (Grid iron) and it touched on my feelings about contributing a piece. Note, i have never been to an NFL match, and have never gone the distance with the superbowl, except for the year my old Cat Benny Graham punted for the Arizona. More on that in a moment I am an Australian citizen whose work and family has led me to reside in the US for a good chunk of my adult life. It has saddened me to see the mad rush by the AFL to ape big shot American sports culture. The NFL plays all it’s games on a Sunday, telecast throughout the day and the 4 time zones, with a Monday night match. I live in San Diego, the Chargers is the local Billionaires play thing, masquerading as a sports team. (They call them franchises.) Wholly owned and operated by private owners. With the exception of The Green Bay packers. It all runs off TV. This weekend the Chargers will be blacked out on TV Cause the game isn’t 100% sold out. A game that has long become unaffordable for families. Sadly, in the rush to emulate the worst of this corporate behemoth I fear the AFL is well on the slippery slope to going down the road to perdition. While i agree with much of Sue’s correspondence the bit about the mMagpies being hard done by, … Ha, ha, ha. The year my club beat them for the flag. They played 14 on the trot in Melbourne, traveled 4 times and played at the G for a full slate of home games + the away games hosted there. All the while raking in the moolah to bank. Which is gonna come in real handy when the NFL model has been fully assimilated and players blow through the league like confetti. From memory the year Benny Graham played in the superbowl he played at three “franchises” the NY Jets, Chicago Bears and finally lobbed up at Arizona.. As a staunch Catter, i will be rising at 3 AM to catch the stream, as it follows the rolling maul, and my heart will hurt a little more for the great game. Hopefully with Gillon it wont be just lip service an aging “customer” and i will never hear a smart arse on KROCK footy refer to the ball being “Thrown back into play from the MEATLOAF POCKET at the MCG” ever again. In closing Sue started going to the footy in 45, me in 63. Whats gonna be left for a five year old fifty years down the track?

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