The whole of the AFL community and wider Australian sporting public is celebrating the landmark $2.5 billion media rights deal the league secured.
It has provided the game with a massive warchest to secure it future and expand its reach.
AFL chairman Gillon McLachlan has been bullish in his desire for the code to win the hearts and minds of new migrants and the development of a women’s AFL league. There have even been talks about buying Etihad Stadium earlier than anticipated.
All of these projects are exciting developments, however I believe the game should consider and start planning for a second division of the men’s competition. I believe this would have a number of benefits.
First it would eliminate forever the notion that a team has ‘tanked’ in order to gain a higher draft pick. The threat of relegation would force these teams to squeeze every last competitive drop out of their list and lead to exciting and desperate matches in every game of the season.
If you think about it, winning the wooden spoon isn’t all that bad. You get a higher draft pick, and the coaches and players still get the same income covered by the AFL and get to play in the same elite competition. Their is no disincentive for losing.
Secondly, it would increase the player pool which has become an issue recently due to the number of blowout games. Having more players training full-time would lead to an increase in skill and talent base.
Thirdly, it would allow ambitious state-based clubs or regions the chance to experience a national competition. Tasmania has long cried out for their own AFL team, yet the AFL chairman said is doesn’t have the revenue base to compete in the league. Wouldn’t a second division with a smaller salary cap and smaller overall costs (stadium rent, organisation) solve this problem?
There are a number of ways to test whether this concept would work. One way would be to allow the first and second-placed teams of each state competition to play in a sort of knockout ‘Champions of Australia’ league.
This could be played before games in the NAB pre-season so state-based teams wouldn’t suffer from fatigue. It would allow fans to see their AFL teams in action plus see the likes of Footscray versus Norwood or Subiaco versus Aspley. These teams could benefit from having national expsoure and begin to build a fan-base.
The other way would be to tender out to clubs in Australia the chance to join a second division. It would naturally have lower operating costs and would have to be underpinned by some sort of media deal as no professional sporting body can survive without one.
I think the idea of a second division for the AFL has a lot of merit. I know it is a foreign concept to a lot of fans as it is mainly seen as a ‘soccer thing’, but it is worth talking about to see if it is viable.