Football’s helicopter parent syndrome

So Johnny can’t bring his footy cards to school any more because those mean grade sixers might con him into swapping his Jack Riewoldt for Jack Watts.  Elsewhere, kicking a ball is out-of-bounds for Jaxxyn because little Ethan might get ‘falconed’…

Good grief, despite numerous studies which report the negative consequences of helicopter parenting, here we have the education system getting in on the act.

To some degree one can empathise with parents and teachers.  Averting six-year-old tears and heartache is the easier road to maintaining sanity in the shorter term.  It’s the mentality of Australian society in general really, fostered by all our government nannies saving us from ourselves.

Now, more than ever, the body which licenses those dastardly trading cards is cosseting its own children i.e. the clubs.

There was a time when clubs, like the kids, were largely trusted to their own devices.  And yes, they would get up to all kinds of mischief, but generally speaking they reaped what they sowed.  There were imbalances in zoning and clubs’ financial wherewithal, but it was accepted this was ‘the big league’, not an Auskick grid game where the result is less important than ‘the experience’.

But after years of the big boys dudding the littlies, the League sought to embrace various socialist measures which ultimately boosted interest levels and precipitated the game moving to a fully professional entertainment industry.

Now a high risk expansion strategy combined with a lucrative yet constrictive TV rights deal has lurched the AFL towards an unwieldy, lop-sided EPL scenario, rather than its previously preferred NFL model.

Some clubs have it all – abundent talent, brains, friends, lunch money – others are bleeding, alone in the corner.  The AFL’s quadrangle is fractious and divided, the pressure is on to restore a level playing field.   Confusing over involvement with stability is said to be a key reflection of helicopter parenting.  Question is, what constitutes practical administration versus excessive control and undue manipulation?

Deliberately lop-sided fixturing and talk of granting Melbourne extra cap space and priority picks to drag them out of the mire are examples which go against what the average fan perceives a true competition to be.  Next we’ll have a final 10 finals system, the equivalent to giving every darling a ribbon.  The AFL is a professional sport, not a handicap race or pass the parcel.  Lobbying for better stadium deals, training facilities, government funding and the like is whereabouts the string pulling should end, no?

That said, once the AFL went down the path of arbitrary allowances for selected players and certain non-Victorian and expansion clubs then the slope had been well and truly watered.  That GWS is essentially run by Headquarters is surely a new benchmark in conflicted interest and unprecedented in world sport governance.

Nowadays when clubs take liberties with the rules and the reputation of the sport, the AFL is hovering about to mitigate the fallout – or at least that is the widespread perception of the League’s handling of the Essendon drug scandal.

Just as Gen Y is so criticised, clubs appear unable to solve their own problems without calling on help or having it foisted upon them.

Having denied Melbourne was capable of tanking, the failed parent sent them to the naughty corner for a few minutes whilst patting them on the shoulder.  Astonishingly, one of the ringleaders (for other reasons deployed elsewhere internally by his own hierarchy) has just been given a contract extension signed off by the latest League approved Mr Fixit.

Like dealing with a sibling whining over the other getting a Wiggles band-aid, the AFL is now compelled to dress every club’s sore boo boo.

Incredibly, a supposed powerhouse club such as Carlton has continued to receive special AFL financial assistance well beyond its critical period, only to pay out its coach well before his contract expired.  Eddie McGuire and Jeff Kennett have registered their concerns regarding the dangers of nurturing a handout mentality.  If club generated revenue is to see further redistribution to the have-nots in future one would hope clubs are held more accountable for taking costly contractual liberties and hasty, dubiously motivated decision-making.  After all, if mismanagement and poor conduct bears little consequence, where’s the incentive to run a club responsibly and well?

Things would be so much easier for the AFL had it stuck to guaranteeing the quality of the hugely successful football competition it had, rather than grandiose plans which have necessitated so much over steering.

Meanwhile, perhaps due to its Leviathan state, the PC police with media clout are constantly leveraging the League to push their social agendas.  Yes, as a conduit to shining a spotlight on racism, drugs, gay rights, gender equality and so on the AFL (and clubs) can serve a higher calling, but the downside to all these good intentions when they continually fall off their pedestal is drowning in so much non-football football talk.

Oh, and by the way, don’t sledge the Bomber fans/players, and be nice to Milney… Where does it end!

How I long for an innocent time when football was all about taking speckies at lunchtime and a fist full of dog eared Scanlens cards.

About Jeff Dowsing

Washed up former Inside Sport and Sunday Age Sport freelancer. Now just giving my stuff away to good homes. Not to worry, still have my health and day job. Published & unpublished works fester on my blog Write Line Fever.

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