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The Roar



We can have a healthier AFL

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Roar Guru
29th March, 2020

Sport is not going to cure coronavirus, but maybe coronavirus will prompt sport to finally cure itself.

‘Don’t believe in never’ is the slogan, and we may never see a 2020 season or a season like this one ever. Nor would we wish to see a season like this again.

For the athletes this will be a bigger loss than for others. Their hopes for the future, their daily routine and means of subsistence have been ripped apart by COVID-19.

Yet whatever happens in the 2020 season will be a mix of individual human inspiration, collaborative endeavour and some economic stimulus. It will also be full of hyperbole created by the phoney and self-regarding ‘big sport’ institutions.

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The season costs will be borne by fans, who are blinded by clubs, stadiums, TV companies et al into paying for the privilege to support the AFL. In this moment of global and national health and economic strife it is time to do things differently when the moment comes for the AFL to restart.

When a macro disaster hits it is tempting to believe the old certainties can be swept away, that there is a freedom to be gained. In the 1956 Olympics the athletes were not housed in a barracks but in a village that was built so that when the athletes left the houses could be used by ordinary Melburnians. It was an egalitarian idea that was lost over time as Melbourne reverted to its old opaque ways.

The athletes, over 5000, ate and stayed in the village. Only one had a special diet and only one lived outside the village. The athletes soon ignored the rule on the male and female areas in the evenings. There were no sponsor logos and corporate events. There was blood in the water, though.

How different now, when big sport rules and spectators in the stadiums and through the media are seen to be consumers. To participate in the sport you need to pay, and the more the better for the sport.

This model made itself the healthy model, the model vital to the sport. Yet it was based on the sport being dependent on gambling or alcohol or other unhealthy products, with the true costs not being paid for by the sport.


The big sport model is portrayed by big media, who copyright the images, and woe betide the fan who decides to use an image without permission.

This can be the reset moment when sport can cast off its unhealthy influences – when paying to go to a match or watch on the TV is more inclusive and accessible and when sport constantly asks how easy it is for someone to play, watch and enjoy the sport.

People will say it is utopian, that sport will need to get money fast when it comes back into our lives. Yet sport is supposed to make us healthier, both physically and mentally, and it can do without the unhealthy additives that have encrusted it.

The world of sport of 1956 is still there, it is within us now. Let’s see it in sport again.