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Post by Chambo Off To Work We Go on Sat Apr 13, 2013 9:56 am

Style over Substance

I have been quietly pondering over this topic for a while.

I have expressed views in this forum about the lack of a vision in football aimed at keeping its 3 tiers in proportion to each other, so that the game can remain sustainable at all levels now and for the foreseeable future. I blame, firstly the AFL as the top end custodians of the game for ignoring its rightful responsibility for this commitment and not engaging properly with other football affiliations in working toward a managed solution for the health of the code.

Secondly, the tiers under the AFL have accepted their lot in life and have probably been manoeuvred into a position where a realistic alternative is not on the horizon. By this I mean the AFL has provided essentially money for leagues like the sanfl to be the inbubator for their own needs, rather than any genuine interest in the prosperity of the science lab that is the sanfl competition. As I said in a post yesterday, the sanfl and the 3rd tier country & amateur leagues, are now in competition with each other for the services of players and whatever crumbs they can pick up being discarded from the AFL.

However, it is abundantly clear that the AFL is conducting its own experiment with Australian Football . Whether the AFL clubs are in agreement with Mr Demetriou, or just focussed on fighting for their own survival and go along with it anyway, they are a party to a program intent on taking the game away from the overwhelming supporter populace. They do not much care whether the product meets what that supporter population want to see, or if it even resembles the traditions upon which the game was founded by the footy forebears of 100+ years ago.

The AFL’s matters of priority seem to be;
• certainly a single-minded interest in an ever increasing financial bottom line
• taking the game to places where it will forever need to provide support from that financial bottom line
• maintaining its own and obsessive version of a “healthy image” often at the expense of justice, fair
play or even legislation
• a desperate need to reduce the national influence of other footballing codes

The third dot point is mainly the theme of this commentary. Basically, the AFL has been ruthless in proffering this “healthy image” upon us and in my opinion, at the expense of the integrity of the product, ie “the game itself”. It is what is classically called, STYLE over SUBSTANCE. And it runs unchecked at almost every level of society.

We have seen;
• A never -ending litany of rule changes aimed at speeding up the game, reducing injuries, then slowing down the game because of too many injuries, keeping the mums happy so that they continue washing the socks, jumpers and shorts for the foreseeable future amongst other perplexing reasons.
• A judicial and tribunal system that is as impartial and just as that invoked in 1939-1945 Germany. The current Essendon alleged doping saga, like the Melbourne tanking (or non-tanking) finding and the Crows Salary Cap finding are all examples of trial by media. That a penalty can be brokered prior to judgement being handed down, is comical by any legal interpretation.
• High profile Rugby players seduced by obscene coinage to convert to AFL in traditional rugby regions. You would call this a marketing exercise and if it doesn’t represent a style over substance definition in purist form, then I have never watched a game of Aussie Rules.

I am sure many more examples could be found, but this concept is boring already. I will move on.

So why have the AFL not looked at a team from Tasmania? Maybe they have. Experiments continue with Hawthorn and North Melbourne exploring games on the Apple Isle. However, this isn’t the same as having your own team, with its own ready-made support and in a traditional and long established football state. The elephant in the room?

Where in all this, has the football public been asked what it sees as the proper and rightful development of the game? It is worrying because a lot of the expansionist philosophy we have seen is highly speculative and not underpinned by solid demographics or sustainable business rationale.
The rapid growth of any business is always a questionable risk, if not underpinned by a current solid market base, adequate internal resources that are sustainable and a reasonable prospect of sustainable growth. I cannot see that any of these 3 things can honestly be ticked off by the AFL.

And yet the fervour with which it pushes on with this agenda continues unabated. What is worse, anybody who sees fit to question Mr Demetriou on any of the AFL’s programs, philosophies or operations towards this end, are met with a supremely aloof and arrogant attitude, followed up with snide responses of derision aimed at inferring ignorance on the part of the questioner.

For any purist footy follower if you had been in a time capsule for 15 years, upon your first visit to a game, you probably would ask, “Is this the same game, or some other hybrid game?”

At least the SANFL is only following suit at a much slower rate, but it is in the AFL’s slipstream all the same. If it was following any closer, I think I would be watching netball, amateur footy or have taken up golf long before now.

Off the soapbox now.

Last edited by Chambo Off To Work We Go on Sat Apr 13, 2013 12:19 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Post by Mongrel Punter on Sat Apr 13, 2013 11:09 am

Chambo - perhaps you should get back on your soapbox. This is the most articulate, sensible and well written expose of the AFL's intent and ambitions, which hits the nail on the head. It should have wider exposure, because I think you'll find a lot of people agreeing with you. However, like most things like this regarding the AFL, you are preaching to the converted, and it needs a wider audience. Well done!
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Post by brodlach on Sat Apr 13, 2013 11:50 am

What a great read Chambo, well done

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Post by Adelaide Hawk on Sat Apr 13, 2013 10:50 pm

I would like to correct one point. Hawthorn playing in Tasmania is not an AFL experiment, it is a sponsorship deal stitched up by (then) Hawthorn President Jeff Kennett and had nothing to do with the AFL. As a trade off, the Hawks agreed to play matches in the Apple Isle, but have at no time considered a move to Tasmania.

I have often wondered how the AFL managed to assume such control over the clubs. It seems incredible to me that clubs virtually have no say whatsoever in the running of the game.

A similar situation is developing in the SANFL. Is it because the clubs haven't banded together, gone to the SANFL and told them "enough"? Have the clubs meekly rolled over and allowed the SANFL to take total control?

I don't understand why the AFL wouldn't want vibrant state leagues all over the country nurturing local talent to feed through to the AFL. I mean, what do they have to gain by weakening these leagues? It reminds me of the push several years back for Cricket Australia to do away with the Sheffield Shield competition, the very hand that fed it. I have no idea where they thought future players would have learnt their craft.

Unfortunately, for genuine football lovers, the game is not ours any more. It has catered for the lower common denominator, just as we've seen in TV programs, music, etc. Mass produced, low budget, low quality garbage.

I don't know about others, but the game no longer provides what I want from it. I'm very picky about which games I choose to watch, and even then I rarely watch the whole game, often wandering off to do something else, and coming back later to check a score.

The AFL has been a marketing triumph. The way they have convinced an entire generation of people that the game has never been better is remarkable. We now see "superstars" who cannot mark, kick or handball, but they can run, boy can they run!!!

The same people responsible for a multi-billion dollar business are incapable of solving the clashing jumper problem. This often makes my head spin in disbelief.

Just watching the pre-amble to the Geelong v Carlton game, they interviewed Jobe Watson and highlighted a play where he gathered the ball and handballed to a team-mate, something you see a million times a year, and yet the commentators made it into some incredible ability Watson had to perform miracles. Give me a break!

Then, I guess, those deriving handsome salaries reporting on the game aren't about to start telling everyone how lame the game really has become. In order to watch footy these days, you need to consume copious amounts of mind altering substances just to stay interested.

So far as the AFL administration is concerned, they are no different to any other executive in the business world. They live for profits. They exist because of their ability to create numbers at the bottom of financial spreadsheets. Nothing else matters, least of all the SANFL.

They care not about the future of the game, and why would they? If it wasn't football, these people would be elsewhere ripping the heart out of something else that took 100s of years to build, but only a few to destroy. It's never anything personal, it's just the way they are.
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Post by Chambo Off To Work We Go on Sun Apr 14, 2013 1:08 am

No, I would agree with you there AH.

However, the AFL has allowed this Tassie thing to go on, and it is not to say Hawthorn are necessarily complicit in their agenda in so doing.

This almost illustrates where clubs will find footing where they need to amongst an environment that is foreign in pure footy terms.

Kennett is a smart man, often pidgeonholed by less than sympathetic interpretation. He sometimes creates his own headlines and that makes it harder to sift the pure sentiment from his diatribe.

However, a Tasmanian team still seems to me to be a logical and rational development of the game. Even at the expense of Hawthorn and North Melbourne's vision of their involvement down there.
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