OPINION

AFL faces hard sell to win back disenchanted fans

It's clear that the AFL will have to work hard to win back the game's disenfranchised supporters. Photo: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images
It's clear that the AFL will have to work hard to win back the game's disenfranchised supporters. Photo: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

Eddie McGuire believes Saturday afternoon football is "kaput", but it wouldn't be if the AFL chose to schedule more games between clubs with massive drawing power in the timeslot.

McGuire's comments demonstrate just how out of touch powerful figures and administrators within the code are with average supporters.

Yes Eddie, people's priorities have changed.

Times are tougher as we hopefully come out the other side of the pandemic, but you don't have to be a former student of an elite private school to understand that school sports and league football have co-existed for many years and the reasons for reduced crowds run much deeper than that.

The traditional Saturday afternoon timeslot has never been a ratings winner, with the Friday night and to a lesser extent Saturday night games the biggest TV drawcards.

Thursday night games have been a success and are set to become a regular feature in future fixturing.

But the AFL faces a battle to win back disenchanted supporters.

It is much easier to watch from the comfort of your loungeroom, on McGuire's channel Fox Footy and host broadcaster Seven Network, as many discovered last season.

But even TV ratings for football are down. Maybe people are sick of the saturation coverage and looking for alternatives.

Crowds are down across the board, and not just on Saturday afternoons.

Many remain apprehensive about travelling in crowded buses, trains and trams.

The revised ticketing system has been shambolic and left many supporters cold.

People can't sit together in their regular spots, those seats costing hundreds, even thousands of dollars.

Parking at venues costs money, dollars many might not have.

The effects are widespread, including reduced sales for merchandise, catering and the AFL Record.

PUBLIC VOTE A FARCE

Thankfully, the AFL mark and goal of the year awards are not based solely on the public vote, as it would be farcical if Shai Bolton's spectacular grab in round eight was ruled ineligible.

The high-flying Tiger's mark was clearly better than the one taken by Collingwood's Brody Mihocek, yet the public voted in favour of the Magpie in the weekly award.

The AFL nominates five other candidates for each award apart from the 23 weekly winners before they are announced on Brownlow Medal night.

The league's game analysis committee has the final say in the overall winner with the public voting having limited influence, so Bolton's mark is sure to figure prominently in discussions.

Being overlooked for the award completed a tumultuous week for Bolton, who was involved in an off-field incident with Richmond teammate Daniel Rioli.

While they are professional sportsmen, AFL players should be able to enjoy life and are often targets for drunken idiots.

Rioli finished off a controversial week on a high note, snapping the match-winning goal against the Giants on Saturday night.

Sadly, just a crowd of under 19,000 was at Marvel Stadium to watch the dramatic events unfold - a pathetic turnout from the 100,000-strong Tiger Army, who share Hardwick's hate for the venue.

CUNNINGTON PIVOTAL FOR ROOS

It is no coincidence North Melbourne's fortunes have improved significantly since Ben Cunnington returned from a concussion sustained pre-season.

Cunnington has played in the Kangaroos' past seven games after missing the opening two rounds.

His important contribution to a young, developing team under first-year coach David Noble was underlined in the breakthrough win over Hawthorn in Launceston on Saturday.

The midfielder, restricted to three games last season because of a back problem, was instrumental in North Melbourne's spirited comeback from a 32-point deficit early in the second quarter, alongside fellow veteran Todd Goldstein, Jy Simpkin and Luke Davies-Uniacke.

After a disastrous first month under Noble, the Roos had been far more competitive in their past four games.

This win should provide much-needed confidence and belief to approach the second half of the season.

An early start to the AFLW season is wise. Photo: Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images

An early start to the AFLW season is wise. Photo: Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images

AFLW SHIFT GOOD CALL

AFLW's decision to start its 2022 season early and give the competition "clear air" makes sense.

The women's season loses momentum in terms of crowds and TV ratings when it clashes with men's fixtures.

Beginning the season in December this year and culminating in a March grand final, with a break over the Christmas-New Year period, should result in further growth for the women's league.

The AFLW already competes in the summer market against a myriad of other sports.

Fox Footy, desperate for fresh content during that period to satisfy the hunger of AFL diehards, will be more than pleased to show the games.

Securing venues will not be a problem.

Meanwhile, most games would have to be scheduled as twilight/night fixtures, as it would be simply too hot and demanding to play during the intense summer heat.

Email: howardkotton11@gmail.com; Twitter: @hpkotton59.

  • This article is supported by the Judith Neilson Institute for Journalism and Ideas
This story Howard Kotton: AFL faces hard sell to win back disenchanted fans first appeared on The Canberra Times.