Why you can’t force sport to be entertaining

Athos Sirianos Roar Guru

By Athos Sirianos, Athos Sirianos is a Roar Guru & Live Blogger


20 Have your say

    Sport and entertainment are two very distinct ideas, yet the lines between them are often blurred.

    Genuine human emotion interwoven into sport is what makes it so captivating, and it’s the reason that for many it fails as a hobby but succeeds as a livelihood.

    People do not attend or watch matches to be entertained, and those who do are often left disappointed. Fans go because they are emotionally invested, concerned only for the result rather than the quality of the performance.

    Entertainment can be found in sport, but it can’t be manufactured into it. True entertainment emerges organically from what naturally takes place on the field – or in some cases what happens off the field.

    From the onset no-one thought the fixture between Richmond and Fremantle at the MCG last season was going to be one of the most talked about matches of the season, but the AFL world exploded as David Mundy sealed the win for the Dockers on the siren after the Tigers hit the front with 21 seconds left.

    The next few Richmond games became all the more intriguing as people switched on merely to see whether the Tigers would suffer a fate which had haunted them for many years. That’s true entertainment.

    (Paul Kane/Getty Images)

    There are both exciting and tedious moments in AFL, as is the case with all sports. These tedious moments make the exciting ones all the more thrilling, and their spontaneity makes them memorable.

    The AFL do not need to implement any additional rules to increase the entertainment value, so why does it appear as though they are doing it anyway?

    The creation of AFLX is as baffling. It is ridiculous. The competition fails to benefit or improve the standard of the game, with the only justification for its existence being to entice new fans, particularly those overseas.

    While it may be believed that shortening the ground and segregating fans may appeal to people overseas due to its resemblance to football, it ultimately provides a false representation of what AFL consists of.

    AFLX has been likened to the Big Bash League, but the BBL provides a greater purpose by acting as a pathway for players into the national side.

    Further, it is surprising how after making a significant step in introducing AFLW the AFL go ahead with such a mickey mouse competition to run adjacent to the women’s season.

    (AAP Image/Dan Peled)

    Do the AFL believe that by creating AFLX the significant deprivation felt by fans during the offseason will be eased?

    The anticipation and build-up towards the start of the season is what makes the first bounce launching a new season so sweet. Having a system where footy is played all year round through meaningless competitions will only diminish and exacerbate its legitimacy.

    This can be said about cricket in contemporary times. When cricket consisted mostly of Test matches and limited ODIs every match felt important. Today the large number of ODIs and T20s following a Test series feel irrelevant and thus the aura sounding these formats is diminished, contradicting the old saying that you can never have too much of a good thing.

    Moreover, the last thing any sport needs is significant commercialisation. Vince McMahon sought to provide a more entertaining alternative to the NFL through his XFL competition, but it failed due to the tournament lacking any legitimacy as a sport, being heavily driven by entertainment.

    AFL is unlike any other sport played anywhere in the world, and if the AFL seek to promote the game, this is their selling point. High flying marks and crunching tackles excite even the most hardcore AFL fans, so imagine what it would do to someone watching it for the first time.

    Entertainment is everywhere you look, especially in AFL. It’s one of those things you cannot force. You have to let it happen.

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    The Crowd Says (20)

    • January 9th 2018 @ 4:10am
      Kangajets said | January 9th 2018 @ 4:10am | ! Report

      Sometimes less is more …. especially with afl

    • January 9th 2018 @ 9:24am
      Tony Tea said | January 9th 2018 @ 9:24am | ! Report

      Nothing in sport makes me cringe like the phrase “match day experience”.

    • January 9th 2018 @ 9:56am
      Gyfox said | January 9th 2018 @ 9:56am | ! Report

      agree with you 100% Athos

    • Roar Guru

      January 9th 2018 @ 10:32am
      Paul D said | January 9th 2018 @ 10:32am | ! Report

      “People do not attend or watch matches to be entertained”

      Really? You might be emotionally invested but there’s a hell of a lot of casual fans who go too. Maybe it’s different for me as I put a tourniquet on any emotion tied up with the Lions long ago, too disappointing otherwise. A laissez-faire approach to their winning games is a necessary defensive mechanism. But I see entertainment as a key component of sporting competitions – there’s a reason the A League pulls terrible crowds after all, it’s not entertaining and there’s much better fare available overseas on the internet or TV.

      I think the tinkering with the rules is starting to ebb away – I am not sure what will change this upcoming season, but on the whole I am inclined to agree that the game needed a bit of tweaking to attack congestion that had crept into the game through the coaches, and it certainly does feel less congested than it was 5-6 years ago. If they ever brought zones into the game though I would man the barricades.

      AFLX I don’t have a view on and I don’t think I will until I see it in action. It’s a worthwhile exercise in pragmatism I think, as it’s the AFL admitting that most overseas venues don’t have oval shaped sporting fields so they had to design a rectangular version if they want to have a hope of playing it over there. Give it a look. It won’t hurt the game in Australia overly, I can’t see too many people walking away from AFL because of AFLX

      • January 9th 2018 @ 11:13am
        Aligee said | January 9th 2018 @ 11:13am | ! Report

        I think AFL X IS also an admittance that the game itself is very demanding.

        Look at it this way, a game of community football from about year 8 or 9 or around under 13/4’s requires around 20/25 players per side, coaching staff,runners, boundary, goal and field umpires, water carriers, timekeepers, interchange steward, medical staff, it’s a huge ask and commitment, AFLX should reduce that load quite substantially at community’s level.

        • Roar Guru

          January 9th 2018 @ 1:52pm
          Cat said | January 9th 2018 @ 1:52pm | ! Report

          On the flip side of that, AFLX will further limit the body types that can play. Will be no place for anyone that can’t run all day. No place for big forwards or ruckman in AFLX.

          • January 9th 2018 @ 3:14pm
            Slane said | January 9th 2018 @ 3:14pm | ! Report

            Will be 100X easier to put a team together. Instead of needing a massive great big club and 20-30 blokes you can just start a team with your mates.

            • Roar Guru

              January 10th 2018 @ 10:02am
              Paul D said | January 10th 2018 @ 10:02am | ! Report

              Agreed on that Slane – currently in Brisbane they do have a social sport comp of AFL 9’s but it’s hard for casuals to pick up and play because it’s only 9 people each side on a full sized field. If you can’t run a long way or kick a long way you might as well not even bother.

              AFLX will allow for a lot more social sports teams to start up and potentially use some of the vast numbers of rectangular fields up here that currently get mainly used for touch football.

              • Roar Guru

                January 10th 2018 @ 10:29am
                Dalgety Carrington said | January 10th 2018 @ 10:29am | ! Report

                A smaller field just makes it feel more accessible to people. I know someone who works on a site up north where they have a full sized oval and cricket pitch, but it was rarely used. So in the corner of the oval they plonked an outdoor indoor cricket net and it gets used every other day.

    • Roar Guru

      January 9th 2018 @ 10:45am
      AdelaideDocker said | January 9th 2018 @ 10:45am | ! Report

      “Further, it is surprising how after making a significant step in introducing AFLW the AFL go ahead with such a mickey mouse competition to run adjacent to the women’s season.”

      Huh? AFLX runs in three different states from Feb 15 to 17, and only one of those days is the same as a AFLW match day (Feb 17, which is a Saturday).

      “People do not attend or watch matches to be entertained”

      It’s an interesting enough article regardless, but I think you’ve got a fair few of your arguments wrong. I think you’ll find many fans (like myself) who attend games for both the result and to be entertained. If my team loses, but it’s a close and exciting game, I’ll find myself disappointed but happy with the state of the game. Your premise that no one goes to games to be entertained is confusing to me.

      Also: “The competition fails to benefit or improve the standard of the game, with the only justification for its existence being to entice new fans, particularly those overseas.”

      But, if we’re enticing new fans, and expanding our horizons, aren’t we ‘improving our game?’. It very well might turn out to be a flop, yes, but I have nothing against the AFL thinking pragmatically – as PaulD mentioned – to try and entice these fans, and give them an opportunity to translate a form of our game onto rectangular pitches and the like. It’s worthwhile, and it really isn’t as big of a deal as some naysayers are making it out to be.

    • January 9th 2018 @ 12:38pm
      Leighton said | January 9th 2018 @ 12:38pm | ! Report

      Pedantry is often indulgent unless clarity is important to understanding and constructive debate. It matters here. Thus, ‘AFL’ is the name of an entity that organises competitions of Australian Rules Football – nothing more.

      The game is Australian Rules Football. No one ‘plays AFL’. There are 800 odd footballers that play a game of Australian Rules Football in the AFL competition.

      Agree with the rest of the article. AFLX seems to be a product without demand. It will likely spiral into little more than a historical curiosity.

      • January 9th 2018 @ 1:46pm
        Aligee said | January 9th 2018 @ 1:46pm | ! Report

        I agree with your comment regarding the name of the game, however even when you submit an article they change the name to AFL, but I disagree about AFLX, it’s s corny name IMO but I am of the view it is needed and will successfull, possibly more so at a community level.