Yes, I know, there has been lots of talk about how unfair the AFL fixtures are.
The fans of non-Victorian teams complain about the travel while the fans of Victorian teams claim they don’t have a genuine home-ground advantage when they play other Victorian teams at home.
Both are valid points and both are impractical, if not impossible, to fix.
However, there is a simple way to reduce the travel burden for non-Victorian teams. This could also be used by those teams based in Victoria when they need to play away games in other states.
The fixtures for 2020 are already set but the formula has been consistent for a few years now, with non-Victorian teams playing 12 games in their home state and ten games in other states. I’m not proposing a change to this.
The AFL could introduce the concept of road trips, allowing the travelling team to play two games in one location before returning home. This could be done once or twice a year by each non-Victorian club, thereby reducing their travel commitments by ten per cent or 20 per cent each season.
The road trip games could be scheduled to be four or five days apart. Given that some teams occasionally play with a six-day break including travel, this should not be a problem.
So, for example, Fremantle travel to Sydney, play GWS at Giants Stadium on a Sunday then the Swans at the SCG on a Thursday night. Later in the season they travel to Melbourne and play Geelong at GHMBA Stadium on a Thursday night then the Bulldogs at Marvel Stadium on the following Monday.
There are many benefits of implementing this plan, including:
• Less wear and tear on players. Travelling definitely affects the longevity of players’ careers.
• Fans would be more likely to travel interstate for games. A seven-day break would give you time to watch your team play two games interstate and get back work refreshed, perhaps with a couple of games of golf and a little shopping as well.
• The above point will give the away team more fan representation at away games, creating a better atmosphere.
• The AFL could promote the games a little differently. For example, if Port Adelaide went to Brisbane to play the Suns and the Lions, the AFL could run a Port Adelaide-specific promotion in Brisbane and the Gold Coast.
• In between the games, clubs would have time to provide players to promote the club to their local fans in the city they are visiting.
• Victorian-based clubs could do the same with a single trip to Perth, Brisbane, Adelaide or Sydney.
• The system can be introduced gradually with volunteering teams trialling it once in 2021.
• Clubs could request from the AFL fixtures committee one or two such road trips each season.
• Any team could opt out by request if they didn’t feel it was of any value.
• The fixtures may be a little more complicated but someone is getting paid a lot of money to do it now and if they don’t want to continue to do it, I’ll put my hand up!
• Playing two away games in a row will mean those travelling teams would inevitably play two home games in a row at some stage during the season.
AFL fixturing has only partly evolved. In the old days, footy was on at 2:30pm on Saturday afternoon. One week you played at home, the next away.
At the end of Round 23, all teams will have played 22 games with 11 at home and 11 away – I’m only proposing to change how we get there.