Rebrand should not be AFL’s first Port of call
Danyle Pearce in the NAB Cup (Slattery Images)
Forget tanking, forget the growing pains of the expansion sides, forget the tribunal and the umpires. Port Adelaide is the AFL’s biggest problem.
Just 13,683 fans – the lowest crowd ever at AAMI Stadium – saw the Power get pumped by 48 points at the hands of West Coast on Sunday.
Port’s predicament needs no further exposition – except to say that the club needs urgent mending, or its very future will be in jeopardy, we’re told.
So what are the options for the AFL, as it stands?
There is a CEO in place, Keith Thomas, who has the backing of Andrew Demetriou and a mandate for sweeping change.
Disturbingly, though, the push for a complete Port Adelaide rebrand is said to be gathering steam.
The new fix being bandied around is to rename the club – make them the Southern Power, perhaps, or give them some other neutral, cotton candy, non-Port Adelaide name – to widen their supporter base.
Change is indeed needed, but not like this.
Presumably this mind-numbingly ridiculous idea comes from the same marketing geniuses who waved their magic wand and cured the Bulldogs and the Kangaroos with name changes.
Oh, wait – that’s right. That never happened.
Both clubs – who, just like Port, are blue collar to the bone – are currently backing away from these disastrous decisions at a rate of knots.
Let’s start with the Doggies. The ‘Western Bulldogs’ name is an abomination. They are Footscray, and no amount of spin doctoring or Roy Morgan research will change that.
How can they not be? Just look at their jumper. This year, they did away with the cartoon dog’s head and they now wear almost exactly the design that has been synonymous with the club since 1936.
It doesn’t just ooze Footscray… it is Footscray. And for a club that was trying to be all things to all people, it is clearly an admission that they cannot change who they are.
You get the feeling it’s only a matter of time until that ‘FFC’ on the back of their jumpers becomes a reality once again.
Give them time, because North Melbourne have shown what is possible when a former weakling club returns to their roots – and then combines it with good, honest, winning football.
In 1999, they became known solely as the ‘Kangaroos’. What a brilliant move that wasn’t.
It was just one of a series of dominos that toppled in a tumultuous period for the Shinboners, who could so easily have relocated to the Gold Coast, or Canberra, or anywhere but Arden Street.
How did they pull themselves from the brink of collapse? The day after saying they would not be moved to the tourist strip, they became the North Melbourne Football Club once again.
They stood up for themselves. And then they got back to business. Fast forward nearly five years, and they are now one of the form teams in the AFL – one that people want to watch.
So entertaining and fashionable have they become that according to The Age, Channel 7 are prepared to hand them more primetime football. That brings sponsorship and exposure. The Roo renaissance continues.
People tend to forget what winning can do to a fanbase. It wasn’t so long ago that Hawthorn, Collingwood and Fremantle were problem teams. Not to mention the NRL’s South Sydney.
In this light, we turn back to Port Adelaide. Perhaps the solution for this club is to finally live up to their name, rather than change it or pretend to be something else.
Instead of fooling people into thinking they are another club, how about trying to solve the identity crisis and convince the 300,000 or so people who think themselves as supporters to come back to the games?
“Less Port and more Power”, in failed presidential bidder Kevin Foley’s words, would serve only to destroy the soul of the club – and further confuse the kind of hardy fans like the near-14,000 who actually turned up on a freezing Sunday, to the worst stadium in the AFL, to watch their horribly out-of-form football team get belted.
The fact is there is nobody in SA who is looking for a new generic team to follow. This supposed market is a myth.
If a rebrand is needed at all, it would be only to finally unite and engage all the scattered and divided supporters across South Australia under the one banner.
The best way to do that? Ignore the unbalanced debate and the detractors who don’t understand. Just get back to winning.
Appoint the right board members, make the right decisions for the right reasons – and leave the name alone.
Then get the Power playing well again, and this might not be the armageddon that it is made out to be.
Vince Rugari is an Adelaide-born journalist who cut his teeth on the sporting graveyard that is the Gold Coast. He fancies the round ball and the Sherrin, and used to be a handy leg-spin bowler before injury curtailed a baggy green push. He is a Port Adelaide fan by birth, as painful as that has been recently. He's now sports editor of The Area News in Griffith, NSW.