Phil Gould wrote an article in The Sydney Morning Herald which deals with the what he calls the AFL’s desire to “obliterate the NRL” in western Sydney.
While he makes a lot of good points in the article, he is way off base with one particular point.
I don’t believe the AFL is out to destroy the NRL or A-League in Sydney or the Gold Coast. The AFL will have looked at the western Sydney region and worked out that in a city of five million people and one AFL team, after 30 years and good membership and crowd figures, they could probably put another team in there.
The fact that it’s a burgeoning potential area that every code has talked up since the AFL announcement is something that appears to have been glossed over by many sporting groups over the years. The AFL would know that while league and union converts will be welcomed, they are not the be all and end all for the new clubs.
There are many people who follow no code or barely have an interest in sport who the AFL are trying to reach. There are AFL followers who don’t follow Sydney who will get on board with the new team because they are a new team. This has already been seen in the Gold Coast experience.
It’s a simple matter of it being the right time; we’ve got the right money, and Australia’s largest city cannot have a single team uncontestedly holding the AFL banner, when smaller cities like Adelaide and Perth already have two.
The figures added up in terms of television rights and, so far, in terms of support. The clubs unanimously supported the expansion plans. The league simply took the opportunity because it could afford to.
“The war”, as Gould refers to it, isn’t against the NRL, the FFA, the ARU or countless other interested sporting acronyms. It’s an ongoing battle against the failures of the past.
Both Swans and Lions endured numerous hardships including poor ventures into private ownership, disastrous financial dealings that sent both clubs bankrupt a number of times, all while trying to carve out a niche with little support from a vaguely interested VFL/AFL administration of the day.
No, my friends, the AFL battles to make sure these mistakes are not made again – not just for the good of the new teams, but many AFL initiatives in these areas will also help the older teams in the area.
“The war” appears to be largely a media creation, although a number of league administrators have brought up the issues from time to time. The AFL Commission has had nothing to say on the matter.
This is a commission that weighs in on everything AFL related, that hasn’t even mentioned the apparent war it’s supposedly fighting with the other codes.
The AFL don’t need to win a war to be the number one sporting code in Australia, on almost every benchmark. Besides rural television viewing and total playing numbers, the AFL are already number one. AFL initiatives are being copied or applied to to almost every other football code.
Destroying league and soccer in Sydney and the Gold Coast won’t change that, and these codes are even now some way away from threatening the AFL’s position in the sporting landscape.