Simultaneous games the answer to AFL fixturing issue
Fremantle provided an early AFL Finals shock by beating Geelong (AFL media/Slattery images).
Everyone complains about the fixture. The coaches say it’s too long, the fans say teams get easy rides, and the broadcasters get angry if two heavyweight matches are on at the same time.
Ignore them all. Let’s play games simultaneously.
This year’s preliminary final has drawn attention across the league due to an ANZ Stadium farce. The Sydney Swans must host their preliminary final on the Friday night due to a double booking at the venue.
Because of this, Hawthorn must host their preliminary final on Saturday night and therefore have one less day of recovery, despite finishing atop of the ladder.
The AFL decided Hawthorn would host a twilight game starting at 5.15pm so that the travelling team would have time to return home following the game.
From next year onwards, the AFL must consider making a deal with broadcasters to play a number of games simultaneously.
Firstly, both preliminary finals should always be played at the same time, either on the Friday night or the Saturday night. Both winning teams are then given an equal recovery time for the Grand Final.
The other simultaneous matches should be played on the final round of the home-and-away season. Soccer is famous for doing this in the final group games of tournaments. This way, teams cannot manipulate the game and the scoreboard to give themselves an advantage.
The NFL also do this in the final week of the regular season, when all games are played on Sunday. As such, they scrap Monday and Thursday night football, which usually gets the highest TV ratings.
There are enough venues for the AFL to make it happen.
It would not affect crowd sizes because how many people go to more than one game per week?
Yes, it would be a nightmare for broadcasters. But the AFL should address the issue now, before teams decide to shave points or lose in order to advantage themselves for the first week of finals.
If it can happen, it will. It’s just a matter of when.
This possibility almost eventuated this year when Fremantle played after the Kangaroos in Round 23. Luckily for the integrity of the game, Ross Lyon knew better and was rewarded a week later.
There is no denying that players and teams can manipulate their results to maximise their future winning chances.
It happened in the Olympics with the badminton players, who were later disqualified. Although they were not penalised, the Russian women’s basketball team “strategically lost” too.
This would be a broadcaster’s nightmare. But when it comes to the final round of the year, only three of four games matter enough to be broadcasted.
As for playing both preliminary finals simultaneously, Channel Seven has enough digital channels to make it happen.
This is not one of those issues that require urgent attention. But if it is allowed to get to that stage, it will be too late.