Soccer is the alternative to AFLX

Nick Symonds Roar Rookie

By Nick Symonds, Nick Symonds is a Roar Rookie

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    The AFL has put a lot of work into developing AFLX only for it to be pilloried by the fans, but perhaps soccer could fill the gap in the off-season.

    Who knows why AFLX was developed? But in any case the AFL have a new form of the game that they’ve created, and they’re now trying to flog it as the Aussie Rules equivalent of Twenty20 cricket.

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    But unlike T20, which is played on a field of the same size and shape and with the same number of players, AFLX is designed for a smaller field of a completely different shape and without even half the regular number of players.

    It’s practically unrecognisable from the standard form of the game, which has already had so many rule changes that it’s hard for anyone to keep up with it. The changes to the rules to create AFLX might just be a bridge too far for long-time fans, who may simply be unable to cope with it.

    So if no-one’s interested in AFLX, maybe a different sport could fill the gap during the off season.

    How about soccer?

    It’s often said that people play soccer for exercise on weekends because it’s safe and with a low risk of injury and watch the AFL or NRL on TV when they’re at home. The low risk of injury also makes soccer a suitable sport for AFL players during the off-season, unlike AFLX.

    Soccer could also help to sharpen ball skills and improve players disposals by foot, as in the examples in the video below.

    The only trouble with soccer is that AFL fans often find it too slow and boring. The fans have to jump and sing to keep themselves entertained, as they say – or, as soccer fans would call it, ‘creating atmosphere’.

    Oddly enough, I’ve actually heard a few Fremantle fans on TV copying some of the chants from soccer. I once heard a group in the crowd singing, “Ole, ole, ole, ole, Freo, Freo”. I thought it created a great atmosphere. But then again, they were watching Fremantle, so maybe they just had to jump and sing to keep themselves entertained.

    If AFL fans find the regular form of soccer boring, maybe a new form could work better for them. In Hong Kong at the same place where rugby sevens took off, soccer sevens is now being promoted. The HKFC Soccer Sevens follows a similar format to rugby sevens and has a 16-team main tournament and a ten-team masters tournament.

    Matches are divided into seven-minute halves followed by ten-minute halves during finals. Teams are limited to seven players on each side, which reduces congestion and speeds up the pace of play (something the AFL should consider). There’s also no offside rule, which AFL players aren’t familiar with anyway.

    These changes result in a fast-paced, high-scoring game with about ten goals in each of the four groups of four. This should appeal to AFL fans who are used to higher-scoring rates.

    Soccer sevens makes about as much sense to soccer fans as AFLX does to AFL fans, but maybe soccer sevens or seven-a-side home-and-away soccer with 30-minute halves could have some kind of appeal to AFL fans in the off-season.

    So what do you think, could soccer sevens or seven-a-side soccer be a better alternative to AFLX?

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