Live scores
Live Commentary
Essendon : 4.2 (26)
Adelaide Crows : 3.5 (23)
| Q1 - 29:00

The AFL needs to fix itself before it takes on the world

Andrew Harman Roar Rookie

By Andrew Harman, Andrew Harman is a Roar Rookie New author!


25 Have your say

    The AFL is a complex beast, a confusing game with an odd shaped ball that forever seeks to be a global sensation while barely garnering the majority of the interest in a country with a population of a small European nation.

    The AFL is trying to expand and the AFLW started with a bang. China is the new frontier, New Zealand has been tried, and the introduction of hybrid styles like AFL X are planned.

    All these bold ideas are the moves of a grounded, well established, dominant sport. But is it?

    Forever looking to become ‘the ultimate sport’, the AFL doesn’t seem to have an identity of its own that it can be truly proud of. It is the kid at high school that floats from group to group looking to please everyone. In doing so, the kid conforms at will to the slightest hint of a derogatory comment.

    The AFL, needs some self-confidence. Like the high school kid, it needs to drown out the negative voices that influence it, such as ‘x is a blight on the game’ and ‘this tactic will spell the end for player y’.

    For years, the AFL has jumped at the loudest of voices and changed rule after rule for ‘the betterment of the game’. These voices unfortunately are generally outspoken media types or ex-players that are looking for a headline to further their own agenda rather than wanting what’s best for the game.

    Meanwhile, the public, the paying public, the supporters of the game, are watching the sport they love being manipulated by people other than the AFL. The game they knew is now just a hybrid sport that will differ year on year unless the AFL can grow up, own its identity and drown out the negativity to become a bold and confident sport.

    North Melbourne Kangaroos Andrew Swallow AFL 2017 tall

    Year on year the altering of rules and interpretations has led to a community that believes if it can whinge and cry about a problem, then they may be able to force the AFL to conform to their wishes. A strong independent sporting body, wouldn’t allow its time honoured rules and regulations to be tinkered with, let alone be hotly debated night after night on television.

    It’s time for the AFL to grow up. It’s scary, but it’s time, time to stop being worried about how it’s perceived and be self-confident. There is a ‘Rules of the Game Committee’ who debates if rules should be changed to make the sport better, however it’s major focus is changing rules instead of preserving the sanctity of the existing ones.

    There is no doubt that a sport that refuses to change with the times will be left standing still. The safety of players is paramount and rules that prevent sliding at an opponent’s knees and the centre ruck circle have been important and effective.

    However when vague rules which are difficult to adjudicate affect the very core of the sports unpredictable nature, the common fan is left scratching his head as to why their beloved sport is being tinkered with.

    A sport that is bold enough and brave enough to back itself in will earn a lot more respect than the sport that constantly tries to appease everyone.

    When that kid in high school leaves for the real world and realises that it’s impossible to please everyone all the time, he will find his identity. The derogatory comments won’t matter, the respect for his strength of character will increase.

    It’s time for the AFL to do the same, because if the AFL can’t respect itself, nobody else will. Growth starts from within, get that right before you take over the world.

    This video is trending right now! Submit your videos for the chance to win a share of $10,000!

    Have Your Say

    If not logged in, please enter your name and email before submitting your comment. Please review our comments policy before posting on the Roar.

    Oldest | Newest | Most Recent

    The Crowd Says (25)

    • April 18th 2017 @ 12:03pm
      Perry Bridge said | April 18th 2017 @ 12:03pm | ! Report

      I tend to agree – re the rules – the AFL has to be careful to not fall in line with other sports/codes.

      It’s the differences that make Australian Football great.

      The variants such as AFL-X, AFL 9s/7s etc – a lot of that has been initially driven by people at grass roots level growing the game internationally and generally well outside of the watchful eye of the AFL.

      This years 6th AFL International Cup shows that people overseas CAN and DO fall in love with the game even with minimal promotion/support (most are ‘accidental’ footballers – there’s always a story behind how they came to the game).

      The AFLW shows that women/girls had been an untapped marked – especially domestically – and perhaps it was the encouragement of the 2011 and 2014 AFL IC Womens divisions that helped spark the AFL to get serious, perhaps it was competition from soccer in Australia via girls/womens participation. Whatever it was – the AFL has set itself far better for the future by way of more fully embedding itself in the psyche of women both as fans and importantly participants.

      And perhaps it will be the womens’ touch that helps the game to be more assured.

    • April 18th 2017 @ 12:10pm
      Scott said | April 18th 2017 @ 12:10pm | ! Report

      Perfect article mate. One of the best I’ve read on this site. I just mentioned this exact thing in the comments section of an article written a few days ago, about taking the game to the world. Im gonna add more to this comment but gotta do some work now

    • April 18th 2017 @ 12:15pm
      John said | April 18th 2017 @ 12:15pm | ! Report

      Disagree. The game is fine as it is!!! All the changes make for a better game for mine.

    • April 18th 2017 @ 2:06pm
      I ate pies said | April 18th 2017 @ 2:06pm | ! Report

      Careful there Andrew, some around here will accuse you of being old fashioned if you don’t like change for change sake.

      • Roar Guru

        April 19th 2017 @ 1:20pm
        Peppsy said | April 19th 2017 @ 1:20pm | ! Report

        On the other end there’s nobody more frustrating than someone who wants the game to return to its “glory days” of kicking long to a 1 on 1 in the goal square for the entire game.

    • April 18th 2017 @ 2:18pm
      Liam said | April 18th 2017 @ 2:18pm | ! Report

      I don’t disagree, but I don’t know if I quite agree either. I like the idea of a more static set of rules – means that the umpires have less interpretation to worry about, and can just concentrate on getting what they’ve got right instead of being forced to relearn or reinterpret rules every year – but I think that the changing rules gives the AFL the flexibility to remove aspects of the game that ruin it.

      Soccer, for example, has diving as a huge problem, which is unable to be remedied at a rule level due to a fixed set of rules. AFL, upon recognising a similar trend, enacted rules mid season to prevent players taking dives to get free kicks, which while it didn’t stop the problem limited it somewhat. The NFL in America has massive concussion problems, which it cannot do anything about due to the fixed rules; the AFL have trialed first a substitution rule, then the removal of the rule but with increased caution applied to the team doctors for concussion checks.

      Do I like the rules changing every season, absolutely not. Do I think that less rules need to be changed season to season, absolutely. But dispensing of the vehicle allowing the competition to remain flexible when it comes to injury prevention? Not for that at all.

      • Roar Rookie

        April 18th 2017 @ 2:26pm
        Andrew Harman said | April 18th 2017 @ 2:26pm | ! Report

        Absolutely. There is no need to be stagnant, some rule changes are for the betterment of the game. However the current attitude of changing the rules or interpretations year on year to appease the loud minority needs to cease.

        • April 19th 2017 @ 3:23am
          Tricky said | April 19th 2017 @ 3:23am | ! Report

          This post right there is your article! Taking on the world? I can’t see much evidence to suggest this is high priority at HQ – more to grow the game North of the Murray. There is an article purely on the idea of making Australian Football an international sport.

          On that article I posted my view that on current TV ratings and crowd numbers stacking up against the biggest and best known leagues on the planet, I don’t see a need – yet – to attempt to show it off os. It is already in someway growing os off it’s own back. As you may already know the yanks had TV access to the GF’s in the 80’s and since then leagues have sprouted in the us and in parts of europe

      • April 19th 2017 @ 1:03pm
        Phil said | April 19th 2017 @ 1:03pm | ! Report

        “The NFL in America has massive concussion problems, which it cannot do anything about due to the fixed rules;”


        The NFL changes rules annually, and the more significant changes are almost exclusively about improving player safety.

    • April 18th 2017 @ 3:39pm
      Chris said | April 18th 2017 @ 3:39pm | ! Report

      The AFL is an Australian based sport played mainly in 4 states of a country with a total population of 24 mill. So in world terms it doesn’t even register interest outside these shores and in fact outside state boundaries. It is a big fish in a very small sporting pond. It has received way above the market price for its television rights and these have been supplemented by the constant addition of teams to the competition. saturation point is nigh upon them. The league has no relegation or promotion. There are no grand prizes for coming top of the league but rely on a one off game to decide . The draw is manifested so that the big crowd pulling teams meet each other on more occasions than others. The rules constantly change due to the fact no one outside a few borders really cares . The game has had prime time TV coverage for 50 years yet the sport still isn’t the no 1 participation sport in the country.

      • April 18th 2017 @ 7:13pm
        joe b said | April 18th 2017 @ 7:13pm | ! Report

        Chris, I don’t think the AFL has any real plans to grow the game, as it is, outside Australia… I think it’s only ambition is to sell the current content to overseas broadcasters (i.e. improve that revenue stream). The modified version/s of the game is to complement the main (18 a side) game… so it can be played with smaller numbers and on smaller grounds (like touch footy). The league does not require relegation and promotion, as it has equalisation measures in place (salary cap, draft, and priority picks)… there are numerous professional sporting leagues around the world that don’t use pro/rel…. some use equalisation measures (eg. NFL).
        “There are no grand prizes for coming top of the league but rely on a one off game to decide ” – there is the minor premiership for top of table at regular season conclusion, but yes the major prize is for the grand final premiership decider (which requires both teams to win multiple knock-out games). It is a great test of ability under pressure. Soccer world cups, euro cups etc all use a knock-out process…. as do other sporting leagues.
        “The draw is manifested so that the big crowd pulling teams meet each other on more occasions than others.” Yes the draw is compromised… it is a brutal contact sport, and playing each other twice (H&A) would make it a too long season. The double up games is a mixture of traditional rivalries…and some form of ‘eveness’.
        Yes the rules change from time to time… some player welfare, some to negate existing rules being manipulated to play against the spirit of the game.
        “The game has had prime time TV coverage for 50 years yet the sport still isn’t the no 1 participation sport in the country.” It wasn’t until the late eighties that games were broadcast in full on a regular basis… and then in the mid nineties games were played in the evening. Participation rates? I am assuming you are comparing to soccer (and other football codes, but not netball)… soccer has been higher for a number of years, yet League and Aussie Rules still out rate soccer, and get bigger broadcast deals… BBL out rates soccer… in fact, does soccer out rate anything it goes head to head against? that sounds a bit mean… but does it?
        I realise you are trying to push the old soccer is bigger world wide therefore AFL must be rubbish argument, but the fact remains, we have 4 competing football codes, which is equally accessible to everyone, and people watch the codes they prefer. In the US they prefer American Football, in New Zealand they like Rugby…. don’t get angry about it…vive la différence!

      • April 18th 2017 @ 9:00pm
        GJ said | April 18th 2017 @ 9:00pm | ! Report

        “It has received way above the market price for its television rights and these have been supplemented by the constant addition of teams to the competition. saturation point is nigh upon them.”

        I’d be interested to know how you came to that conclusion Chris.

        • Roar Guru

          April 20th 2017 @ 8:07am
          Redb said | April 20th 2017 @ 8:07am | ! Report

          Spot GJ,

          I recall many anti AFL posters on the Roar proclaiming when the the AFL got $780M it was way over the odds. What was the last deal?, oh yeah $2B + lol

      • April 18th 2017 @ 9:04pm
        GJ said | April 18th 2017 @ 9:04pm | ! Report

        “The game has had prime time TV coverage for 50 years yet the sport still isn’t the no 1 participation sport in the country.”

        My memory of prime time 50 years ago was being lucky enough to be at 1 of the grandparents house for a few hours on the weekend. That was the only tv I ever watched. Black and white to boot. It was the same scenario for a large section of the population then. And truth be known we would usually be outside entertaining ourselves (often with a football – not the round type).

        I cannot help but feel that you are being a little loose with the facts that you perceive help support your opinion.

        • April 20th 2017 @ 9:36pm
          Perry Bridge said | April 20th 2017 @ 9:36pm | ! Report

          “Prime time”

          Interesting notion.

          GF has been broadcast live since 1977 (40 years)

          Weekly rounds were 6 games Sat arvo all starting at 2pm until Sydney gave us a live Sunday arvo game every 2nd week.

          Friday nights didn’t feature until the mid/late ’80s but wasn’t considered ‘prime’ real estate until the later ’90s.

          Irrespective of which – to get to #1 in the country for participation (on the basis of this tv coverage….in Sydney? in Brisbane?) – I’d just like to see the participation numbers that Chris is basing his assertion upon.