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AFL continues the Americanisation of Australian sport

Roar Rookie
15th January, 2014
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The Sydney Swans will not play any more home games at ANZ. (Slattery Images)
Roar Rookie
15th January, 2014
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3486 Reads

Recently I’ve read several articles here on The Roar concerning the ways Australian sport can be improved by our friends in America.

I don’t disagree with these sentiments. American sports are extremely successful for a reason.

But does this translate to a successful sporting code across the Pacific?

In this article I’m going to focus predominately on the AFL, though I believe the same notions can be discussed in relation to the NRL, A-League and the soon-to-be NRC.

The American influence on the AFL began with the introduction of the salary cap and national draft. These two components allow for a form of equalisation across the game, unlike the English Premier League.

It is also understandable that these pillars of the AFL have been adopted from the USA’s National Football League.

International players aren’t easy to come by when your country is the only place playing the sport. Undoubtedly a few eyebrows would be raised if the Giants next big acquisition came from the USAFL.

But why should we stop here? These two aspects of recruitment have been so successful, perhaps these American sports truly have great ideas to offer?

We now have free agencies and prolonged trade periods. You only have to look at the free agency coverage from the past few years to see how quickly these components are taking over.

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Gone are the days when a player would stick with their club from debut to retirement.

Chris Judd, Garry Ablett, Lance Franklin. These are the elite players of our national game but like the American fans of LeBron James and Payton Manning, we must watch in horror as our beloved heroes swap sides and take their former teams for a ride.

All the young Hawthorn supports with No.23 on their guernseys will have to reconsider wearing them to Hawks home games in 2014. The alternative is to be Tim O’Brien’s biggest supporter as he runs out on the field for the first time.

It’s not just the playing group where this Americanisation is taking place.

In the world of professional sport, money talks. It is the exact reason the AFL are experimenting with the 2014 draw.

How sexy does Sunday night football sound? It picks up the ears in a similar way to Monday Night Football in the states.

The AFL are calling these games a trial, but it’s hard to call six blockbuster games an experiment. The AFL are attempting to control a market that no other Australian sporting code has targeted before.

Why else would they plan an 80,000 crowd spectacle like Collingwood versus Carlton on a Sunday night? I know what I would rather watch if given the choice of a footy match and a repeat of The Big Bang Theory.

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It makes sense for these American sporting tropes to find themselves in our game. It was only last year that the AFL’s head honchos and club representatives found themselves in conversations with the Patriots’ CEO, and the heads of the NFL and NBA.

While the NRL flounders at drawing in new crowds, the AFL is openhandedly embracing it. But it’s not from a love of the game. It’s from a love of the almighty dollar.

You have to wonder what is next. A new expansion team in our continental neighbour? A beloved team leader having success with another club? Player names on the back of jerseys?

Collingwood recruiting more members than the MCG can fit? If it happens in America, why won’t it be successful here?

So strap yourselves in. On the field, the AFL won’t be the same as American football.

Behind the scenes, however, we are welcoming the NFL MK II to Australian shores with an open heart.