AFLX has an atmosphere problem

Mark Grogan Roar Rookie

By Mark Grogan, Mark Grogan is a Roar Rookie New author!


15 Have your say

    The AFLX was meant to be about the viewer experience, yet it failed to deliver.

    It would seem that AFL management sat down and thought about possibilities – how doing this or that or whatever else might entertain.

    This can lead to good ideas, yet in this case, it needed to be reframed back to the conditions that create atmosphere.

    The problem with atmosphere is that it’s elusive. It’s felt, not touched, and our common-sense impressions of it make it difficult to manufacture.

    Research shows that this is because we are largely unaware of how we experience atmosphere as it unfolds in time. Instead, we assume that atmosphere is what we think of it. But this is a mental short-cut made after the fact.

    We experience atmosphere through variations in time. It’s dependent upon what comes before and the anticipation of what comes next, like the crescendo of a symphony, which builds and reduces in order to hit that final, impactful moment.

    Yet the AFLX was a blur.

    It was played more or less at the same speed. And if that wasn’t enough, there were immediate kick-ins.

    As Chris Fagan recently put it, there wasn’t any time for players and fans to celebrate it, to enjoy it – and, by extension, to feel it. If everything is the same fast-pace, then none of it is fast-paced.

    Bring the ball back to the middle – at the very least, bring it back to the middle after a super-goal.

    Hindmarsh Stadium AFLX generic

    Photo by Mark Brake/Getty Images

    The best bits in (regular) footy are the variations: the celebration of goals, the fast-breaks, the goals against play, the scintillating scoring of a team in a particular quarter, the very close games.

    But this is only so because it doesn’t happen all of the time.

    As for super-goals (do we have to call them Zooper goals?), their purpose should be to intensify the game. Yet with so many goals kicked from outside the 40-metre arc, the impact was lost.

    Perhaps a super-goal could shift further out. If the ground was kept to 100 metres (the minimum length of a soccer pitch) then a super-goal could simply be marked by a half-way line. That would also be an incentive to play down the middle. And since it would reduce super-goals, it would mean something when they were kicked.

    As for amateur teams, they could shift the goal-posts in order to meet their respective abilities.

    Another example is the fluorescing of the goal-posts after all goals. Again, it quickly lost its appeal.

    Remember the excitement as a kid when someone got a duck in the cricket and the little cartoon quacked its away across the TV screen? The excitement was intensified because it didn’t happen all of the time. It’s the anticipation that matters here.

    As musicians are aware, the brain is hard-wired to complete patterns. A pattern is often established in the beginning of a song and then repeated in different ways without quite completing the pattern. This hooks us until the final resolution is achieved at the end of the song.

    But getting rid of the first part and instead playing an endless loop of what appears to be the good bit doesn’t create the same feeling. This appears to be what the AFL was trying to do.

    So have the goal-posts light up after a super-goal only. And get rid of the watered-down Zooper colours. Instead, make the goal-posts more impactful by having them light up in a solid colour, perhaps blocked in club colours.

    And for goodness sake reduce (or remove) the stadium commentary. This intrudes upon the TV coverage, but it also becomes one-dimensional. Just endless, distracting noise.

    Again, you need variations.

    But much of this can happen naturally through the crowd’s engagement with the game.

    What makes Bruce McAvaney or Brain Taylor so good in regular AFL commentary, is that they intensify the actual play. They intensify what you’re already feeling.

    Yet in this case, there was little to intensify.

    You don’t need all of the other stuff if the product is right. The novelty should only be there to add to the game itself, not the other way around.


    (Photo by Michael Dodge/Getty Images)

    The Big Bash is not well received so much because of the novelty, but because it’s built on the foundation of big-hitting and unpredictably. In other words, it has variations.

    All of this affects how we experience atmosphere, but also how we think about it.

    When recalling an event, research shows that we preference its peak and its end (more so than its duration). If we allow for variations, the peak is intensified and it becomes memorable. If we finish strongly, it lingers with us.

    At the moment the AFLX has no consequence, which means that we are left with a flat ending. This may change as the competition develops, but the ending could still be made meaningful.

    All goals scored in the last minute of a half could be worth 10 points. It would create much-needed variation, as well as some excitement.

    Then again, this might be better achieved through the game itself, by lengthening the halves. Players would tire more, which would open up the game and create variations of play.

    And get rid of the X smoke after the super-goals and have it instead open and close the halves – but do it centre-wing for the television cameras. This would inject a pattern that needs resolving and create an impactful ending.

    All in all, don’t start with possibilities (or wishful thinking), start with the conditions of the viewers experience – and the unfolding of atmosphere.

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    The Crowd Says (15)

    • Roar Guru

      February 24th 2018 @ 3:55am
      AdelaideDocker said | February 24th 2018 @ 3:55am | ! Report

      Good article.

      Diversity would be a good start for improving the fledging league, yup. I feel like they made this year’s series too extravagant, and far too over-the-top. Nobody needed constant light-up goal posters or Zooper goals or fireworks. They work well in isolation, celebrating something truly special or scarce, but do them a million and one times a game and it gets boring.

      From what I saw on TV, it wasn’t an exciting atmosphere, but it was a diverse atmosphere. Fans of six teams in the stadium at once? Some might think it’s excessive, I thought it was a brilliant social experience. Couldn’t agree more with ridding the broadcast of stadium commentary, also. Such a deplorably dumb idea, and it really distracts from the TV commentary. Can’t imagine having a live, constant stream of words playing at the stadium would’ve been well received either.

      • Roar Guru

        February 24th 2018 @ 10:07am
        Cat said | February 24th 2018 @ 10:07am | ! Report

        Problem with six different sets of fans is once a team’s games are done you’ll start having people leave early. A practice concept game with nothing on the line won’t keep many neutrals watching a ‘Grand Final’.

        Channel 7 did a horrendous job broadcasting it. Even worse than their usual pathetic coverage of sport.

        I didn’t think the light up goal posts were a big deal. To be honest I probably wouldn’t have even noticed then except for the sooking about them beforehand made me intentionally look for them.

        The fireworks and smoke X I can take it or leave it. Was it too much with the current AFLX rules? Yes. Might they be okay if the format is tweeked to reduce goals? Maybe. Didn’t bother me on TV but I realise at the ground they may have been worse.

        • Roar Guru

          February 24th 2018 @ 10:50am
          AdelaideDocker said | February 24th 2018 @ 10:50am | ! Report

          Yeah, I did noticed the fans leaving early issue. I drove past shortly before the ‘grand final’ at the Adelaide competition and there were masses of Port fans leaving.

          Seven’s broadcasting was horrible. Seems to be a trend for them, to be honest: their Olympics coverage is no better.

          I still maintain that for a point of difference AFLX could be turned into some sort of charity tournament; raising money for a particular cause, having a gold coin entry and maybe every team partnering with a charity partner. You’d still get all the positives of AFLX, whilst also supporting various causes and making it a slightly more worthwhile night. Let’s be honest, though: the AFL won’t ever go for a format where they’ll be making virtually nothing.

          • Roar Guru

            February 24th 2018 @ 10:55am
            Cat said | February 24th 2018 @ 10:55am | ! Report

            Maybe they should run a tournament in conjunction with the AFLPA that benefits retired players or further research into concussions/CTE or any other cause the players and/or PA would be interested in. If it was of direct benefit to the players you might get more interest from them in putting their hands up to play. Might even be able to coax recent retirees into playing.

    • February 24th 2018 @ 9:02am
      Peter s said | February 24th 2018 @ 9:02am | ! Report

      How abt 18 a side on a oval

      No more cringeworthy footy

    • February 24th 2018 @ 9:52am
      Blue said | February 24th 2018 @ 9:52am | ! Report

      Great article. The games were very same-y. and the points you raise would punctuate things well.

      Having said that, it wasn’t too bad for a training run, so maybe we’re all over-thinking it.

    • February 24th 2018 @ 12:06pm
      Patrick Moran said | February 24th 2018 @ 12:06pm | ! Report

      You’ve summed it up perfectly. I enjoyed the first game, but it got repetitive after a while. It will be interesting to see what the AFL decide to do with it in the future. Personally I think that if they really want to continue with it, it has to be overseas, but also significantly changed. It could attract merchandise sales and broadcast deals overseas, but in order to achieve this, it can’t be presented as a gimmick. Removing the zoopers, in stadium commentary, whilst slowing down the pace by bringing the ball back to the middle would be a start.

      • February 25th 2018 @ 2:28pm
        Stalking Fred said | February 25th 2018 @ 2:28pm | ! Report

        Lol overseas.
        Won’t happen .
        Couldn’t get a decent crowd in Syd with free tickets to anyone who wanted them .
        Yet somehow overseas people will take to the game .

    • Roar Guru

      February 24th 2018 @ 1:14pm
      Cousin Claudio said | February 24th 2018 @ 1:14pm | ! Report

      Take a look at the promo photo with McLachlan above.
      Who are they trying to attract?

      Its a mix between Big Batch and the gay Mardi Gras.

      And look what the stress of AFLX is doing to his wife and kid . . .

      • February 24th 2018 @ 1:47pm
        Jack said | February 24th 2018 @ 1:47pm | ! Report

        The posh private school image of McLachlan is a far cry for vfl as I grew up . He’s taken footy in the wrong direction. He answers to no one
        Next t v deal. I reckon footy is going to struggle to get a good deal .

        It’s hard to take it seriously anymore at all.

        Gil out

        • February 28th 2018 @ 5:26pm
          republican said | February 28th 2018 @ 5:26pm | ! Report

          ……..completely concur while Dimetriou lost the plot as well.
          I reckon the culture of the AFL has degenerated into that of a multi national sporting behemoth that is abjectly desensitised from its supposed custodian responsibilities.
          AFL has become synonymous with Australian Rules Footy sadly……….

      • February 24th 2018 @ 2:03pm
        peeko said | February 24th 2018 @ 2:03pm | ! Report

        i dont know what the mardi gras has to do with it

      • February 24th 2018 @ 11:12pm
        Drago said | February 24th 2018 @ 11:12pm | ! Report

        Perfect for soccer hey cu. Perhap there is a lesson. If you strain your brain you may find a positive.

        • February 25th 2018 @ 3:52pm
          josh said | February 25th 2018 @ 3:52pm | ! Report

          Perfect for soccer ?

          FYI in Western Sydney we use those insults on AFL, we are brought up to use them.

    • February 28th 2018 @ 5:18pm
      republican said | February 28th 2018 @ 5:18pm | ! Report

      ……crikey, dont over complicate this.
      AFLx is the problem period.
      Our game doesn’t need this plastic tele concoction, contrary to what the AFL hard sellers may like us to think.
      If the governing body are so cashed up, then expand the league to include Tassie and the Nations Capital to begin with anyway, if you must tout the big league as truely national………

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