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Should the AFL adopt the EPL format?

(AAP Image/Rob Blakers)Hawthorn after the Round 8 AFL match between the Hawthorn Hawks and the Fremantle Dockers at Aurora Stadium, Tasmania Saturday, May 14, 2016 (AAP Image/Rob Blakers)
Roar Rookie
24th May, 2016
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With two games remaining in the 2015-16 EPL season, a Tottenham/Chelsea draw saw Leicester complete the greatest sporting shock of all time to win the Premier League.

It is an amazing achievement that cannot be taken away. However, after watching a reported 120,000 people celebrate with their team, would it have been more of an achievement if they had won a grand final? Conversely, what would the AFL look like if the top team was awarded the premiership?

The last couple of games in the Premier League allowed Leicester to prolong the celebration, to embrace fans both at home and in London (during the final game versus Chelsea), and finally have the ultimate party back at home after the season has been completed.

However, would their name be further etched into history from winning a big game at Wembley after a hard fought finals series, or the fact that the competition is a war of attrition and they only lost three games?

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The way the AFL system is designed, the top eight teams at the end of the home-and-away season will play off over the course of four weeks to eventually find a winner. There are 23 rounds plus four more games until the AFL crown the deserving winners.

The excitement this has created since its inception in 2000 causes a great build up to the final game, as well as allowing a well-deserved week off to the teams (within the top four) that win in the first round of the finals.

Then finally, the stage is set at the ‘G. The controversial public holiday is in place, ticker-tape parade through the streets of Melbourne and then the ball is bounced. It’s a brilliant weekend and even those who oppose the game of AFL, get sucked into picking a team and supporting someone (normally the underdog).

Alternate history is a genre of fiction that allows the author to diverge a story away from the reality. In this instance, what would have happened over the past ten years, if the AFL had adopted the Premier League system of a minor premiership, is the major premiership?

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Year Minor premiers Grand final winners
2005 Adelaide Sydney
2006 West Coast West Coast
2007 Geelong Geelong
2008 Geelong Hawthorn
2009 St Kilda Geelong
2010 Collingwood Collingwood
2011 Collingwood Geelong
2012 Hawthorn Sydney
2013 Hawthorn Hawthorn
2014 Sydney Hawthorn
2015 Fremantle Hawthorn

Four teams in the past ten years have had the honour of being crowned the minor premiers and then have gone onto win the grand final. It certainly presents a compelling story that a finals series can be a whole new ball game.

The 2005 season saw Adelaide finish on top (by percentage), only to lose the first final to St Kilda, win the second but have to travel to West Coast and eventually lose. 2011 saw Collingwood dominate the season with only three loses, with one of them being the grand final.

Could the AFL adopt the Premier League system? Culturally it couldn’t. It is so engrained in our society that we as supporters love the smell of a finals series. Even the A-League followed suit rather than adopting the system of their football cousin.

Financially it couldn’t work either. If, like the Premier League, the season was already wrapped up with a few games to go, imagine the fickle crowds that would go to the game, tune into the TV, and consider the current media rights agreement.

Most of all, consider some of the ‘tanking’ – sorry, player management – strategies that would be employed by clubs.

No, the AFL format has it right. Despite the un-evenness of the draw, the 23 rounds build suspense and creates a narrative for all supporters and when it boils down to that one day in September.

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