AFL expansion means boring, lopsided matches

Andrew Sertori Roar Rookie

By Andrew Sertori, Andrew Sertori is a Roar Rookie

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    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.

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    The Crowd Says (55)

    • June 7th 2013 @ 6:53am
      Shmick said | June 7th 2013 @ 6:53am | ! Report

      Humorous that The Roar chose a photo of the Lions to promote this story (WTF?).

      It’s not ideal at the moment, I agree. However I don’t prescribe to the theory of diluting the talent pool.

      I like the fact that more players are getting an opportunity via state leagues & rookie lists. It adds another dimension to the competition and rewards hard work.

      Don’t forget either that with population growth and growth of the game there will also be a steady natural increase in the number of quality players entering the system.

    • June 7th 2013 @ 6:53am
      Australian Rules said | June 7th 2013 @ 6:53am | ! Report

      We all love to speculate on whether the AFL’s expansion strategy will work or fail.

      Two things we can all agree on:
      1) It was an audacious strategy to implement 2 new clubs into the crowded Australian marketplace at the same time…especially clubs that were starting from scratch in what people call “non-heartland” areas. Big big move.

      2) Both these clubs were designed, from the very beginning, to be a slow-burn…with the hope that they would ripen as footy teams in 3-7 years and as clubs in 10-20.

      Andrew, you say “more Friday night games like Brisbane and Collingwood may be more costly than any other problem the AFL may face” – but the lions have been a spectacular expansion success. They have a loyal 20k strong crowd base, built on the 3-peat 10 years ago. Despite an off-game last Friday, the Lions are on the up, not the down.

      As for the Geel-Suns game, it was a cracker – with the matured bodies of the champion Cats pushing away only in the last quarter. It was a taste of very good things to come for the young GC team.

      I don’t like the blow-outs and it must be so hard for the Giants especially. But… all the short-term pain is desgined with long-term gain in mind. At least, that’s the strategy. Whether it works, again, we’ll know in 2032.

      • June 7th 2013 @ 7:52am
        Franko said | June 7th 2013 @ 7:52am | ! Report

        AR – Agree with point 1. What I’d be really interested to know is, if there were this many blow outs after the other expansion sides joined the league. I remember the Crows getting a few beltings, but were always good at home. I don’t recall Adelaide, Port, Freo entries causing enormous problems for the other sides in diluting the talent pool, or monopolising draft picks.

        • June 7th 2013 @ 8:08am
          Stavros said | June 7th 2013 @ 8:08am | ! Report

          The other expansion teams were completely different, with a lot of already developed WAFL and SANFL players. Last week against Carlton, GWS had 16 players under 21.

          GC v NM is probably the second most anticipated match of the round, so I think we just need to be a bit patient. Next year we might all be looking forward to a GWS match.

          • June 7th 2013 @ 8:24am
            Franko said | June 7th 2013 @ 8:24am | ! Report

            I didn’t realise GWS and GC were forced to recruit youngsters? Isn’t that their choice? They could sign 16 uncontracted players, they didn’t have to go for youngsters like Scully.
            When Adelaide entered, they could have fielded an under 18 side, but wanted to be competitive from round 1.

            • June 7th 2013 @ 9:53am
              Australian Rules said | June 7th 2013 @ 9:53am | ! Report

              It’s a very risky strategy, no questoin about it. But when it comes to long-term planning, the AFL have a pretty good track record.

      • June 7th 2013 @ 2:58pm
        Andrew Sertori said | June 7th 2013 @ 2:58pm | ! Report

        the lions chairman has declared they are in trouble off the ground, they clearly are on. Crowds are down and sponsorship has fallen away and there is not much on the horizon i would argue, not sure they are a success, the afl needs to ensure gold coast develops but not at the expense of the lions.

        the rubbish they dished up friday night in the prime slot was pretty poor, i doubt they will be seeing Friday night footy for a while

        • June 7th 2013 @ 3:33pm
          zug said | June 7th 2013 @ 3:33pm | ! Report

          Was always going to happen though. Lions over achieved because they were given better players and more money than other clubs in the early 2000’s.

          Take that away and put a new rival down the road, a strategy that was only going to end in tears. The strength of the lions was an illusion, underpinned by on field form.

          Now the NRL is thinking of finally putting a second club back into Brisbane. That will make the Lions task of finding sponsors and new fans all the more difficult.

          GWS has the opposite situation – all the support is consolidated in the Swans in Sydney, so the Giants will struggle for relevance in an area loyal to a different code.

          Meanwhile Melbourne are on the ropes and should seriously consider relocation to Tasmania.

        • June 7th 2013 @ 4:12pm
          Australian Rules said | June 7th 2013 @ 4:12pm | ! Report

          What exactly did Angus Johnson say?
          The Lions have been paying millions each year off the LionsSpringwood Club debt – a point many people miss when declaring that the club has been running at a loss.

          What “sponsorship has fallen away”? Not “much on the horizon”..?

          They were poor against the Pies…but the week before they beat Essendon at home.

          Not sure where your doom and gloom is coming from.

    • June 7th 2013 @ 8:43am
      Christo the Daddyo said | June 7th 2013 @ 8:43am | ! Report

      Interesting that there is so much bile being directed at the newbie teams, particularly GWS (see Jeff Kennett’s comments in today’s press for example), and yet I wouldn’t say the Giants are much worse than Melbourne this year. And let’s be honest, GWS’ playing list has a LOT more potential than the Demons.

      I would actually look at the Giants and say, despite them being only halfway through their second season in a market that isn’t a natural fit for the sport, they still manage to pull several thousand people to their home games. Once they start winning game regularly (which I would expect them to do from season 4 onwards, my tip is their crowds will head up significantly.

      But the Demons don’t have the excuse of being a new team in a new market with a bunch of unknown kids playing for them. What kind of future do they have?

      • June 7th 2013 @ 9:52am
        Australian Rules said | June 7th 2013 @ 9:52am | ! Report

        I think that’s a relevant point Christo.

        Also, on the same day that the Giants were widely ridiculed for only pulling a 5k crowd, the Penrith Panthers (60y.o club) played the reigning premiers and drew just 7k.

        Everyone who attended Skoda that day would have *expected* a flogging. What will the attendance be like when the crowd *expects* to win?

        • June 7th 2013 @ 12:19pm
          warren said | June 7th 2013 @ 12:19pm | ! Report

          But AR this is the issue for the AFL to consider.

          Sydney people do not follow their sport like those in Melbourne. It is not part of their culture as it is in Melbourne. I have started businesses in other countries and I can tell you one of the most important factors I look at is the culture and how our products or services would fit into this.

          Also there may have been 5k for the game but how many were paying spectators? I understand that you need to get freebies out to gain some support down the road but it also devalues those who are real supporters.

          By the way and please do not take this to be ignorant but havent the GWS got 10k members. If so where are they and why arent they at the games supporting them through thick and thin.

          • June 7th 2013 @ 1:26pm
            Australian Rules said | June 7th 2013 @ 1:26pm | ! Report

            In relation to the 10k members…
            Some are in Sydney, some in Canberra, some probably in Melbourne – so they’re spread around. By way of comparison…Port Adelaide have almost 40k members but their average attendance this year is just 28k. Hawthorn have 62k members but are averging only 37k (though those figures are lessened by the smaller crowds in Tassie). Being a member doesn’t necessarily mean you go to every single game.

            In relation to the point on “culture”…
            I agree with you on this and it’s certainly one of the bigger challenges for the club and for the AFL. The AFL said from the outset that it doesn’t expect to ever be No.1 in W.Syd, but if the Giants can establish a loyal niche then that may be enough for the club to be self-sustainable in the longer term. It’s an area with a greater population than Brissie or Perth, so it’s do-able…in theory.

            • June 7th 2013 @ 3:40pm
              zug said | June 7th 2013 @ 3:40pm | ! Report

              The main point against the GWS argued by RL fans was that the niche in Sydney was already filled by the Swans.

              This may yet be true, so what is the back up plan for GWS? Permanently move to Canberra/Tasmania?

              • June 7th 2013 @ 3:52pm
                Matt F said | June 7th 2013 @ 3:52pm | ! Report

                Given the AFL have stated that it’s a 15-20 year plan I guess we’ll find out then

              • June 7th 2013 @ 4:19pm
                Australian Rules said | June 7th 2013 @ 4:19pm | ! Report

                A different question is why would RL fans “argue” that the “niche in Sydney was already filled by the Swans”?

                Why would they care?

          • June 7th 2013 @ 1:39pm
            Pat said | June 7th 2013 @ 1:39pm | ! Report

            Thats a good point Warren. GWS actually claim nearly 13,000 members. I’d like to know who these members are, where do they come from, what constitutes a member? If these numbers are like the overseas participation rates the AFL claims they’re probably meaningless.

            • June 7th 2013 @ 2:30pm
              Post_hoc said | June 7th 2013 @ 2:30pm | ! Report

              I walked my dog past an AFL ground yesterday, I believe the dog and I are now both officially members of the GWS

              • June 8th 2013 @ 7:55am
                holty said | June 8th 2013 @ 7:55am | ! Report

                We will take the dog, but you can F#@K off!!

    • June 7th 2013 @ 10:28am
      fatboi said | June 7th 2013 @ 10:28am | ! Report

      there was nothing stopping the Giants or the Suns from doing what Port Power, Fremantle did when they entered the competition, raided mature AFL players from other clubs to ensure they were a competitive team from the get-go. instead they went for kids which is fair enough

    • Roar Guru

      June 7th 2013 @ 10:42am
      TomC said | June 7th 2013 @ 10:42am | ! Report

      I’m not sure why Brisbane v Collingwood is a relevant example here. Is it because the Lions could’ve drafted some of the players taken by GC and GWS? I wouldn’t have thought it would’ve made much difference.

      I agree that the talent pool is spread too thin.

    • June 7th 2013 @ 10:55am
      Twingo said | June 7th 2013 @ 10:55am | ! Report

      My only question is how on earth is the broadcaster or the AFL ever really going to be able to predict what will be an exciting or boring game? Yes friday night game was one of the most boring ever (not to mention, as Lions Member, really disappointing), but if my team had of showed up, even with some of their stars missing, it could have been a lot more interesting.

      You can’t predict these things with a high degree of accuracy, sometimes you just have to hope for the best & ask the clubs for theirs.

      • June 7th 2013 @ 3:43pm
        zug said | June 7th 2013 @ 3:43pm | ! Report

        The worry there is how can the broadcaster get value for money out of its TV deal?

        So far we have seen Andrew D talking about Monday Night football in future, something I have heard AFL fans heckle RL fans about in the past.

        Maybe the schedule will need to be more “flexible” ?
        Maybe they will push more ads into the broadcast?
        Maybe more on field advertising?
        Maybe bigger/more Guernsey sponsors?

        • June 7th 2013 @ 4:16pm
          Australian Rules said | June 7th 2013 @ 4:16pm | ! Report

          What’s your point? Monday Night Football only increases the value of future deals.

          So far this year, both broadcasters (FTA and Pay) would be positively giddy with the ratings. In terms of sports content, the AFL is No.1 on both…what more can you ask for?

          • June 7th 2013 @ 4:46pm
            clipper said | June 7th 2013 @ 4:46pm | ! Report

            It was only 2 years ago that league had 77 of the top 100 pay tv shows for the year. It would be interesting to know how what the percentage decline is this year and what percentage increase the AFL have. I also suspect that the A league may have a few in the top 100 this year.

            • June 7th 2013 @ 5:44pm
              Stavros said | June 7th 2013 @ 5:44pm | ! Report

              The AFL will start dominating the Pay TV ratings now. Syd v Ess was the highest rating Foxtel show last weekend and Fox Footy was the highest rating channel overall. Pretty good when you consider that NSW has twice the number of Victorian subscribers and Queensland has even more.

              • June 8th 2013 @ 8:47am
                warren said | June 8th 2013 @ 8:47am | ! Report

                Yes it was and will continue to increase. The issue for the AFL is how do they now make sure this does not become a cultural problem. I am a RL supporter and hardly go to a game because why would I when I get all the games on either Fox or free to air. I then get to watch the AFL which I enjoy as well and all the other sports that come along.

                As someone said to me the other day the broadcasters did not pay over a $1B for people to go to the games. They need them sitting in front of the box and paying their $100/month subscription.

                I know I will get arguments from AFL supporters who will tell me differently but once people understand that they are not getting as much value by spending $150 to take the family to the footy then I see an issue with crowd numbers for the AFL.

                It will not drop dramatically but I do not think they will grow either. If clubs like the GWS and Suns need this to meet budgets down the track then I see some real issues for the survival of some clubs.

              • June 8th 2013 @ 10:35am
                Australian Rules said | June 8th 2013 @ 10:35am | ! Report

                Warren, I think the AFL has already seen some crowd decline as a result of the widened broadcast deal. From the moment the AFL had every game live on Fox, there was a small decrease in crowds…add in the 2 new clubs and the average went down further.

                Fortunately, crowds were always pretty decent so the AFL was able to take a small hit on this. I think it’ll be a while before we see crowd averages go up.

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