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It’s easy to line up and whack the AFL. It’s almost a national pastime for those who follow Australian rules football at the highest level, as well as those from the northern states who don’t, and very often those at head office make it easy for us to have a crack.
A hundred rule changes a year, followed by a thousand interpretations. A long line of spectacular failures with grand final entertainment. Stadium deals that never seem to help the struggling clubs.
The AFL makes many mistakes, but the scheduling of the Collingwood versus Carlton game at 7.10pm last Sunday night was not one of them.
The two main lines from the detractors of that decision were about bowing to the television networks over the club members who want to see their team live at the ground, and that such a big game should haven’t been trialled at that time.
Well, the big, bad television networks basically pay the bills of our great game, and are an integral part of growing the sport to be the biggest in the country. Do you tell the boss who authorises your wage at work that you’re going to flatly refuse him or her when they would like you to try something?
Not demanding you do something differently every day, mind you, but merely a trial?
With nine AFL matches to fit in over a weekend, and eighteen sets of fans to keep happy (or seventeen, given there aren’t any Greater Western Sydney supporters), trialling different timeslots is a must.
I like the idea of relaxing on the couch to watch a game of footy at the end of a busy weekend. Over a million people watched the match on television, so I wasn’t Robinson Crusoe.
As for not scheduling a blockbuster match-up in that timeslot, the AFL would be negligent if they didn’t do so. The way people were carrying on, you’d think the AFL expected 95,000 people to be there on Sunday night.
Of course the crowd was going to be low. It was as rank a Melbourne winter’s day as could be reasonably expected, and a night of bitter cold. But no, as usual, people love looking to be outraged by the bleeding obvious.
Collingwood and Carlton clashes are a decades-long tradition, with a rich and storied history.
If you’re going to test a timeslot that is probably going to be unpopular with the paying public, then it needs to be a match with an inbuilt audience in terms of attendance, and one that will attract publicity in the lead-up, regardless of where the sides are on the ladder.
Better to have a match that usually gets seventy thousand so you can still get forty, rather than a game that would have its crowd cut from thirty thousand to sixteen, which is what would have happened with Melbourne versus Western Bulldogs, for instance.
Sunday nights haven’t worked, and it was probably never going to. People don’t want it, and they’ve made that clear. That’s fine, life is all about trial and error.
The AFL has often said it puts a priority on people attending games, and we will see them deliver on this promise under Gillon McLachlan. The new man in charge has said he will listen to the fans on these key issues, and so far has shown every sign of doing so.
The trial was worth a go, and Collingwood versus Carlton was the right match to do it. It’s time we all got over the confected outrage that seems to rule the airwaves of such a debate.