AFL expansion means boring, lopsided matches
Dejected Brisbane Lions players after being hammered by Collingwood at the GABBA. (Photo: Bradley Kanaris/AFL Media)
The inclusion of the Gold Coast Suns and Greater Western Sydney Giants was always going to spread the overall talent pool more thinly than previously.
It is something we can hope over time that will spread more evenly, but in an 18-team compeition it seems to be largely accepted at least eight teams are already unlikely to play finals and at least 12 if not 14 are not genuine contenders for the premiership.
This means week to week we have games that are going to lopsided or almost meaningless, games that the neutral fans are unlikely to tune into, nor will they attract new fans.
The recent TV rights deal was somewhere near a reported $1.25 billion dollar deal, yet last week the host broadcaster in its two prime time slots had Brisbane vs Collingwood at the Gabba on the Friday night and Geelong vs Gold Coast at Simonds on the Saturday night.
Saturday also had the lopsided Carlton vs GWS game and Sunday the Hawks took on the Demons, the only interest was in how whether the margins in the last two games would balloon out to 100.
The TV rights money is important to all clubs and while the poorer clubs need TV exposure there does need to be care taken with fixturing to ensure there is value for money for broadcasters.
Brsbane were missing several players, this could not have been expected, but that was arguably the most boring game served up on TV of all time.
Neither club provided much worth watching, and essentially 10 minutes in the game was over.
Listening to various radio reviews the next day the consensus was that there needs to be something better done to keep these games out of the primetime slot.
There are a few possible solutions to consider but all must be tempered with the fact that to maintain sponsors and buld a brand all clubs need exposure.
One solution may be to work out the broadcast guide closer to the date.
Currently you can see the broadcast details up to Round 22 as the channels are locked away, maybe the free-to-air games could be decided closer to the round, at least for the Saturday night fixture to ensure the most interesting one is on free-to-air.
Another option might be too add an extra Friday night game at the expense of a twilight weekend spot, this means there is a greater chance to ensure Friday night always has a good game for broadcast.
If they are to be at the same time, again it may need to be decided closer to the day which one is broadcast on free-to-air.
Alternatively when drawing up the fixture ensure at least one side from last year’s finals series is scheduled every week in the free-to-air Friday night and Saturday night games.
It may be necessary to go as far to exclude underperforming teams from the golden Friday night slot.
Lastly, the AFL could look to broadcast some games itself at the next tv rights deal, it may reduce the TV rights deal, but the income from its own broadcast could offset this and ensure that TV is left for the quality games.
There has always been lopsided contests, but in days gone by they never made it to TV, embracing online mediums may be the way forward.
There is balance in there somewhere, and the AFL banks heavily on its equalisation methods to ensure the bottom teams move quickly, but more Friday night games like Brisbane and Collingwood may be more costly than any other problem the AFL may face.