Victoria uber alles

With the revenue from the most recent media deal the AFL distributes an equal amount of money to each of the clubs and then beyond that there is a special fund to be distributed over 2012-14 and be invested into ‘specific initiatives’ (read handouts) for a selected number of clubs.

Western Bulldogs $7m and North Melbourne $7m are the biggest beneficiaries, Melbourne (5.8m), St Kilda (5.7m), Richmond (4.7m) and Port Adelaide (3.9m) are the next on the list.

So that is $30.2 million to the basket case no hopers in Melbourne in the order above, before you get to the $3.9 million leaving AFL House for Port Adelaide.

Obviously there is another pile of money going to the two expansion clubs but not at the expense of the administrative-nightmares in Melbourne. And it is completely beyond a joke when Melbourne who have almost no supporters under 50 start giving away tickets – I believe around 7000 to their recent game against Gold Coast, providing a total of 9000 paying fans for a ‘16,000’ attendance figure.

So while the gnomes who call themselves journalists in Melbourne chose to ignore that, in that same week they climbed into Port Adelaide for having only 17,000 paying customers at a game. Port average about 24,000 at a game, which is much much more than any of North, Footscray or Melbourne get to their side of the equation on any home and away week of the year anywhere.

And now Port Adelaide have sacked a non performing coach – how hopeless is that. Cant imagine that happening in Melbourne can we.

So what has really happened – a favourite son – like James Hird or Brett Ratten, has been appointed without any real due process – mates – a boys club. That plan might work, it might not. It was a triumph at Sydney with Roos, they were geniuses, it has been teetering on failure at Carlton, has been a disaster so far at Brisbane, Essendon – well ??, and Collingwood – so far so good. Point being all of them have followed the same process (or lack thereof).

Boards do what they think is right and live or die by the result. Once the verdict on the coach was in at Port the President, who is ultimately responsible for approving the appointment put his hand up and accepted the blame – resigned – my fault he says. Again hopeless – apparently being accountable is also something to criticise. Heaven forbid we would see that level of responsibility from the self indulgent time servers in the executive or at board level at Footscray or Melbourne.

People feel free to trot out the most uniformed, lame nonsense about Port Adelaide who in their time in the AFL has been outperformed on field by just three clubs, Adelaide with 2, and Geelong and Brisbane 3 premierships each – I guess Collingwood have played in a couple more Grand Finals than Port so arguably them too – thats 4 out of 18 who have been better. So I just dont understand it. Sneering wannabe intellectuals and rotund suburban experts alike seem to hate Port Adelaide for just being.

I have been to Presidents lunches at most Melbourne clubs, generally they teeter on tedious – busy people getting through the formalities of the day – often pointless, sometimes great fun. I have had one such interaction with Port, I was invited to a Presidents lunch at Alberton Oval and then travelled by club bus to West Lakes for the game. I was with the party from the visiting club – the enemy. A more genuine sports club experience I haven’t had before or since in the AFL. They went out of their way to be hospitable, they were good humored, relaxed, they asked me about myself, to cut a long story shot they cared about other people. That is their culture.

I found the tour I got at Alberton humbling, and if you want to know what happened to the Ansett Cup, I walked past that in a case at there too. So if you happen to be visiting Adelaide I heartily recommend getting out there to have a look at the place and get a tour inside the club if you can. If the first ball you put your hand on when you were a baby was oval and if your childhood memories are punctuated by footy grounds, walking into Alberton will feel like you have come home.

If you cant do that, read this before you leap in


  1. John Harms says

    I had a similar experience at Port in the week of the 2007 GF. People-cetred for sure. Strong culture.

    Sadly the spies are saying that garden variety sports admin assumptions which advocate re-branding are getting a toe-hold at Alberton.

  2. Best opinion piece I have read for ages.
    Spot on Neil.
    A 16 team comp with 2 less Melbourne teams would be vastly superior for playing standards; finances and national balance.
    So you barracked for Demons/Roos since childhood. So did Royboys and Lakesiders. Move on. Get over it. Life is dynamic and changing.
    The West Torrens club of my childhood no longer exists, and the SANFL is better for it.

  3. Mark Doyle says

    A good article Neil! The history of the Port Adelaide Football Club is also worth reading. The reason for Port Adelaide’s current predicament is poor management, which has been poor since the retirements of Greg Boulton and Brian Cunningham. Hopefully, things will improve under the management of Keith Thomas and the probable new president Keith Foley.
    The real issue for AFL football is the financiall inviability of four or five garbage Melbourne clubs. These clubs are Melbourne, Western Bulldogs, North Melbourne, Richmond and St. Kilda and will never become financially viable as professional AFL clubs based in Melbourne. I believe that the extra AFL dividends to these clubs is bad financial management; it is nothing more than a waste of money.
    Most of the Melbourne football public are ignorant of the financial inviability of these garbage clubs because of the pathetic and incompetent sports journalists who work for The Age and the Herald Sun and who are incapable of conducting an informed and rational investigation into the real state of these clubs. Most of these sports journalists indulge themselves with illinformed, meaningless and parochial opinions.

  4. Well said Mark. Spot on.
    I can’t believe I wrote that.
    To me, most mainstream media is about entertainment, advertising and money. You tell the people what they want to hear, and feed their parochialism and fears. Result = You sell product and make money.
    It is quite Himmlerian.
    I used to be a news junkie, but these days I mostly read the magazine sections and the longer opinion pieces. I generally throw away the front section of the Weekend Australian after a cursory glance, and read the better pieces in the Inquirer section.
    Not just picking on the Australian. Most papers and radio and particularly TV are the same.
    Its all PR and product placement – whether the product is Gillard, Abbott, casinos, boat people xenophobia, McDonalds, Facebook or AFL ‘controversies’.
    Its all the same crap in different packaging. Just like soap powder.

  5. Stephen Cooke says

    Mark, you’d fit right into the Herald Sun journalist pool using terms like “garbage teams”. And to say Richmond will never become financially viable is ignorant at best.

  6. Andrew Starkie says


    I’ve been worried for Port for some time now. People forget they were born out of a suburban club in a smallish city where most of the population don’t like them. Their licence is owned by the SANFL (I think) and we know the factions and politics tearing at Sth Austn footy. Their resources, support, finances etc are limited like clubs like my own, North,, which makes 2004 all the more commendable. I was disturbed by the appointment of Primus particularly when Chris Scott was availiable. As you said, appointing club legends as coach is fraught with danger.

    I’ve always sensed, like you, that the AFL isn’t that interested in Port – again, like North. Clubs like ours are the unwanted guests at AFL family gatherings.

    I hope and pray the future is better for Port. The game needs them going well.

  7. Peter Flynn says

    Kevin Foley.

    I don’t know who Keith Foley is.

  8. Yep, spot on, Neil. As a Melburnian resident of ‘interstater’ origins, I am often struck by the breath-taking hyprocrisy in the football media & establishment here.

    Constantly subsiding the 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th &10th Victorian teams is somehow all ok, but hand-outs to Port and the NSW/QLD teams get intense scrutiny, and Tas & NT aren’t allowed to have teams because they’re “not economically viable”; the history of those subsidised Melbourne teams is sancrosanct, but the history of clubs like East Perth and Norwood are superflous.

    I cling to quaint notions like consistency and ‘one set of rules for all’, but clearly this has no place…

  9. Let’s all just agree that the media is crap and ignore it.
    Once that “issue” is taken off the table, the bottom line appears to be whether Port deserves more money presumably at the expense of the “hopeless” Victoria clubs. Certainly think a case could be made against North, Bulldogs and Melbourne but don’t think that either Richmond or Saints are terminal basket cases as, unlike the others, they have huge supporter bases. This ultimately is the problem with Port. It wouldn’t matter if there were only 2 clubs in Melbourne, Port’s supporter base is not going to grow as a result. They were very stiff that Adelaide got the AFL licence before them by which time the Crows had pretty much tied up the city’s supporters. The AFL (via TV rights) is committed to 2 teams in Adelaide so will prop them up indefinitely I assume.

  10. Neil Belford says

    Agree about the Victorian status you have outlined Budge – certainly as far as Richmond is concerned there is no question, they are a sleeping giant, they have got a vast number of actual fans.

  11. Boy, don’t the Free Settlers come out of the woodwork as the days get longer, eh? I agree with most of what you’ve said Neil. Old enough to have seen Captain Blood play – from atop my father’s shoulders – and cheer on Mopsy Fraser from fence, I too lament what Our Great Game has become. But you have to ask, is society imitating Football? I fear that the answer is in the affirmative, and this is not just sad; it’s damn frightening.

    I’ve been, not a critic, but a commentator of the situation at Port in these pages. The reality as seen from an objective distance is not one to reassure the Alberton Oval Faithful, nor history-minded Students of The Game. There’s no need to dwell on the low attendance figures, the confusing and confused administrative decisions and the isolation of the Power brand within it’s own catchment. (And I use the words brand & catchment quite deliberately) You, and all of us who share your feeling of loss, may have to face the march of evolution. It might be time to recall those times of bonhomie of which you speak had their roots in the time of the White Australia legislation and indigenous segregation policy. I mention this not to demonstrate that the you can’t have decent social & cultural values at the same time, but that change takes place, and once the forces of Mammon get a grip on the short and curlies it’s often too late to get free.

    When you supp with the Devil, be sure to use a very long spoon – or should the homely be, careful what you wish for, you just may finish up with your wish coming true.

    But if you want to get rid of some garbage clubs I’ll give you a couple. You whistle and I’ll point. They’re both on the East Coast, and in convict founded states.

    And as for Richmond: when they were in The Cellar making bad draft choice after bad draft choice, their average match attendance was second only to Collingwood’s. Now that would suggest that either people will go to a centrally located and, relatively, well appointed ground to watch a game of elite footballers vie for The Pigskin, or The Tiger Army is not a phantom marketing construction.

    The Whole Football World will be watching for the True Port Adelaide Tradition re-blossom at Adelaide Oval. Or not. That will be the litmus test.

  12. Dave Nadel says

    Neil, your problem is not Victorian clubs or even Victorian sports journalists (not even some of the dills from the Hun). it is at home in Adelaide. Of course Port Adelaide should be protected as a heritage club as should clubs like the Bulldogs and the Kangaroos. The problem is that Port, a real club with a huge history, shares Adelaide with the Crows, a manufactured club based (as I said in another thread) on parochial hatred of Victorians and class hatred of Port Adelaide and its supporters.

    Port Adelaide, not only had a much higher percentage of supporters than any other club in the SANFL, no club in the WAFL or the old VFL had as a higher percentage of in their competition. But, like the Victorian Magpies, everyone who didn’t love the South Australian Magpies hated them. Doesn’t matter for the Woods, we are one ten Melbourne clubs, didn’t matter for Port when they were one of ten Adelaide clubs, but it matters a lot when you are one of two Adelaide clubs and 75% of the city barracks for the other team!

    Port Adelaide is as essential a part of the AFL as the Victorian clubs the AFL is assisting. It is a lot more important than made up clubs like the GWS or the Gold Coast. I don’t oppose expansion clubs but football is built not only immediate sporting acheivement but also on cultural and historical narrative. Port Adelaide, like Melbourne, Geelong, St Kilda, Carlton, Collingwood etc. goes back to the Nineteenth Century and is part of our heritage. It should be protected,

  13. Trevor Blainey says

    Neil, I get your well made point but what’s to be done? We have a national competition that isn’t really one. The VFL moves a team to Sydney, then adds teams from WA, SA and Qld all to prop up a failing local comp. the plan from the outset was to ensure the viability of the existing Vic teams. in 1990 they then register a name change but still the plan, the motive is Vic-centric. Success from the interstaters can be tolerated as long as its infrequent and as long as Carlton, Collingwood and Essendon get a turn more often than not.

    That’s the landscape. Those teams plus Richmond play games in front of 60,000+ every time they play. And on TV (it helps if the fixture is thought of as a TV schedule and games as TV programs) the games involving those teams get huge numbers. Those games involving those teams are (not the only but the main) selling point for TV rights.

    The criticism about Port is unbalanced when compared to the relatively light touch applied to North, Footscray and Melbourne but frankly the fiercest critics of Port are in Adelaide. As others have noted here the Crows beat Port for admission because the other SANFL clubs couldn’t bear Port being the emblem for SA footy. Without the insight of being on the ground there my suspicion is that class warfare and ingrained jealousies and enmities played a big part in this.

    if the shoe was on the other foot most Victorians would howl the place down if Collingwood was added as the first Victorian club to a competition initiated in Adelaide.

    Still it feels like we’ve got a couple of clubs too many. I don’t get the expansion clubs as a concept. Why try to break into markets that will be a 20 – 30 year money pit ahead of supporting the grass roots support in places that have real history with the game. And Port certainly fits that brief. Victorian fans were always aware of the dominance of Port in the SANFL. Envied it. When our premier clubs had 12 or 13 flags Port had 23. And most in the VFL then (and still) have less than 5.

    so yes, a history worth honouring and preserving but not at the expense of the clubs of Barassi, Teasdale and Whitten. better that Scully, Ward and Ablett were still at their foundation VFL clubs than trying to convince NRL fans and sunseeking retirees to embrace red and orange jumpers.

  14. John Kingsmill says

    Talk about confusing apples with elephants.

    The heritage of the Port Adelaide Football Club is being preserved where it belongs — and that’s in the SANFL. The Port Adelaide Magpies. Remember them?

    It’s a big ask for the AFL to care that much about that past.

    The Power have been around for less than five minutes. It’s just a little kid. It doesn’t have a heritage yet.

  15. Dave Nadel says

    John, Do you really think that a club which has been coached John Cahill and Mark Williams isn’t part of the same tradition as the Port Adelaide Magpies?

  16. Dave – we could have Kim Carr take over from Andy D at the AFL, given his success with protection of the car industry. We need to be mindful of our past, but not preserve the declining parts at any cost.

  17. Dave Nadel says

    I think that Port Adelaide is more than just a declining part. Perhaps there is no alternative but to let it slip and tell its fans to follow their SANFL club, but if the AFL does that, it is hard to see how it would produce a second South Australian club. The idea of the Crows as the sole Adelaide club is too horrible to contemplate. It would become a behemoth, richer and more self centred than Collingwood, Carlton and the Eagles combined.

  18. Trevor Blainey says

    Really? the Premiers of 2004 and Grand Finalists of 2007 get let go after a few bad years. how the hell then per Neil’s original piece are the eternally terrible Melbourne, Footscray and North Melbourne retained? on what basis? history is the only rationale and if Port’s doesn’t matter then neither does their’s. And what of Richmond? the least well performed club on any measure since 1982. and yet you can see the spark there, the rabid fan base, the sleeping giant if you will. hang onto them and support them or fold the tent and go back to the 12 Victorians and whatever that brings.

    until the draw is made fairer and the effect of free agency is absorbed no reasonable assessment of the weaker clubs can be made.

  19. Mark Doyle says

    All AFL clubs have a fair and equal opportunity to be successful because of the socialist policies of the player salary cap, the draft and special financial dividends provided to disadvantaged clubs. It is vital that all clubs acknowledge their history, but they need to evolve and develop so that they become better.
    Port Adelaide Football Club has a great history that includes great success as both a SANFL and AFL club. I believe that the Port Adelaide Magpies should merge with the Port Adelaide Power and AFL records should acknowledge the records of the Port Adelaide Magpie’s premierships, games played, life members part of the merged AFL club
    I also believe that AFL records should acknowledge VFA premiierships for clubs that have subsequently joined the the VFL in 1897 and 1925 as well clubs that relocated or merged such as South Melbourne and Fitzroy.

  20. the draw will never be made fairer while the big $$$$$$$$$$$$ drives the league.

    Being a Cats supporter I am enjoying the recent (just by pure chance of course) Friday / Saturday night prime time Telly matches. But can I really argue that it is fair. Certainly not.

    The system is corrupt. The recently successful clubs are used by the league as tools to meet their fiscal KPI’s and ensure their personal performance bonuses at review.

    There is merit in having policies that allow battling clubs a chance to improve in a more even playing field but it appears that the power that League officials have to do good also enables them to do destructive.

    There are two places I would not like to be down and out at the moment. London and the AFL.

  21. Energy Fools The Midfielder says

    I’ve always been under the belief that if North Melbourne and Footscray had a place in the national competition, then surely the likes of South Adelaide and West Adelaide have an equally valid claim.

    So one cannot really see the arguments against Port Adelaide apart from “well, Melbourne is the centre of the universe…right?”

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