Why the Matildas being shown on Channel 7 is good news.

Just hours before the W-League grand final it was announced that Channel 7 (through its digital channel 7Mate) will be showing the Olympic qualifiers for The Matildas, the Women National Football team.

The news was generally enthusiastically welcomed by football fans, even by those from other TV channels that would have normally shown the matches.

However – as usual when it comes to Association Football in Australia – some were much less impressed.  One reason was that Channel 7 is the Olympic broadcaster and was always going to show them anyway.

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Well, I disagree.  Qualifiers do not necessarily get broadcasted. Can’t recall these being done before, and I even can’t recall the Opals having their matches broadcasted last year for instance. (I may be wrong).

If we follow the argument that ‘these games were always to be broadcast’ then Channel 7 would have done so for the Olyroos as well.  Maybe they weren’t because they were played at a very unfriendly Australian Eastern Summer Time (around 3.30am) unlike the Matildas which are at much more approachable times around 9.30ish.

But I would like to think that the commercial Olympics broadcaster thought it worth while enough to show them.

And my recollection is that football matches are not shown in their entirety at the Olympics anyway.  They may be the most watched event at the Olympics worldwide but I don’t think this is the case in Australia, or at least the producers think so considering the amount of space dedicated to them in Olympic coverage.

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OK.  I do think that the matches will not exactly rate through the roof.  But I don’t think the argument that ‘it’s one of those digital channels so people won’t watch it’ really holds water.

The success of the Women Big Bash League has shown that people will watch women sport on those channels.

But what about the A-League on SBS2? I hear you cry?  Debate has been going on whether the poor ratings the A-League is having for its Friday night matches is because is on SBS2 rather than SBS1.  Well,  recent ratings suggest that since matches have been shown on SBS2 the viewership has decreased by 110,000 per week, but apart from that the fact is that the A-League games have been poorly promoted by SBS as a whole.

And also, whether we like it or not, commercial TV has a bigger reach even with their digital channels.  The example of this was last night during the Australian Open final, an event which will certainly have very high ratings, where the Matildas qualifiers were advertised.  In my twitter feed I could read tweets of  people I follow who are dedicated football fans finding for the first time this was happening.  If these ads alerted football fans that the Matildas were going to be shown on 7Mate, imagine how many more people be aware of the fact being advertised by a commercial broadcaster in a high rating show.

Not all of people would be interested of course, but a commercial broadcaster ultimately has to sell broadcast time to advertisers.  And even if it is on a low rating channel like 7Mate and with a relatively (and arguably) a sport which does not have mass following commercial channels are not charities.  It is in its interest to let potential viewers know that an event is on and ensure the maximum number of people watch it.  This is a double edged sword of course as something than doesn’t rate will be mercilessly cut, but on the other hand it will be promoted (at the start at least).

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Finally is the long held suspicion held by many in the football community about Channel 7.

It is true that in 1998 when the television rights to the former National Soccer League were sold to Channel Seven at one point limited coverage on their main channel to one hour of highlights a week shown after mid-night.

To add fuel to the fire there was a revelation in a Federal Court case about sport TV rights that the executive in charge of C7, Steven Wise, lamented in one email that the AFL was not giving Seven credit that “we have secured the soccer rights and suffocated the sport, much to the chagrin of its supporters (by giving AFL games preference)”.

But 1998 was a long time ago.  Pretty Fly (For a White Guy) by The Offspring topped Triple J Hottest 100 and France won against Brazil 3–0 in the football World Cup final.

Things have changed.  Soccer is in a very different position that it was before the turn of the century.  I know there is a belief that Channel 7 is an AFL station and will do its utmost to thwart the growth of soccer in Australia, but as a commercial channel its decisions will be dictated by the bottom line, rather than some evil conspiracy.

So as a football supporter I am delighted that the Women National Football Team is getting more exposure, something it thoroughly deserves.  Now all the teams has to do is to qualify for the Olympics…fingers crossed!

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Librarians as actors.

The email looked innocuous enough.  Since the restructure those who managed to hold on to their jobs have been constantly been told that we are here to help students and academics, that we are in a service environment and that we are now much more accountable.

Actually this is fair enough.  Sometimes libraries lived in a world where the mentality was ‘that’s what we do, you come and get it. Take it or leave it’.  And I think every work place is like that now, and we should be no different.

The nature of the Library at universities has also changed.  I haven’t touched a book for years.  New books are not those made from dead trees anymore, they’re mostly made up of flows of electrons that students with an internet connection can access anytime, anywhere with few clicks of a mouse.  Those books who are still made up of paper are ordered automatically.  All we need to tell the suppliers is a Dewey range and subject headings and they will send the books that are relevant.

So the role of the university librarian has changed where the main focus has shifted towards helping academics in ensuring their students know how to research, use and evaluate information.  And this required us to move away from our information desks.

While the last thing I want to do is stereotype, my observation is that many librarians, while not necessarily wallpaper flowers, they are not the most extrovert out there people either.  The profession has traditionally attracted people that in past times, enjoyed the quietness of the library and interaction was limited to a few people coming to the desk asking where to find stuff.

Not anymore.  Now we are required to hold classes in lecture theatres, as lecturers do.  So our managers thought it would be a good idea to engage two professionals from the Theatre Department to conduct workshops on presentation skills. The email described these as ‘Highly practical, workshop-based sessions focusing on effective use of voice and movement while presenting.”

The email came a few days before I was going overseas.  There were going to be three sessions, two in December and one in January, and the latest one had to be the one for me.

“It’s confronting” one colleague who already did this in December warned me.  This raised alarm bells.  Confronting?  How?  I am the type of person who gets annoyed when I hear a trainer saying at the start “and now turn to the person next to you etc.”  Really? do we have to?  It is always so awkward and for me forced.  So anything which is confronting didn’t sound good.

In any case I knew then that this training wasn’t going to be  a sitting down and take notes type.  I gently explored what type of things we had to do, even though they were sworn to secrecy as apparently the trainers didn’t want those who didn’t do the training to know too much.

So the day started with some exercises.  These were not too daunting, such as being in a circle and look around and once an acknowledgement was achieved to swap places. Or to go around and shake hands and tell your name.  One that was more challenging was when we had to go around and give different stares at each other.

The other thing that made me feel a bit like a goose was when we had to move with our words, that is move around to ‘feel’ the pattern of the word.

I wasn’t against this.  I could see the value and in fact I volunteered for a few things. So much so that when the trainer asked for a volunteer and no one was coming forward a colleague turned to me and said “go on Guido. You’re the extrovert one”.  The source of me being at times uncomfortable was that it was with colleagues.  I get along really well with them all, but the relationship I have with them is a definite one within the boundaries of work.  Stretching that boundary I sometimes felt uneasy.

In my twenties I went through a phase where I threw myself in various type of therapies, including groups ones where we all played roles (often being a parent or a partner) and with the guidance of the psychologist we would act out our fears, anger, whatever.  It was heavy stuff.  Big cushions were employed to ensure that the anger surfacing during the therapy didn’t actually hurt someone.  But it was our choice and we knew what we were in for.  While the type of work in the training I did was very much less intense and much ‘safer’ if was with people I work with.  And we had to go, there was no choice in the matter.

Having said that the second day where we had to speak in the one of the largest Lecture Theatre in the University (500 seats) was invaluable.  I did see how some of the exercises we did the previous day could be used to give a better presentation.  For instance how to use a space, how to be aware of a space when talking.  How to use gestures, how to engage an audience etc.

Will this make me a better presenter?  Probably.  I will use some of the knowledge I acquired at this training, such as using more pauses and move when delivering a concept. But I must admit I was happy to go back to my safe space of my desk and my computer the next day.

 

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Rarotonga. Picture perfect Pacific island

On my way over to the Cook Islands I tried to remember songs from ‘South Pacific’. No idea why. Westeners in general makes generalisations about other cultures which often fall in the category of ‘idyllic’ or ‘hell’.  

Rarotonga, the biggest island in the Cook Islands is definitely the picture postcard image of what I imaged a South Pacific island would be.  It took me more than 40 year of living in Australia to get somewhere in the ‘Pacific’ a region close to us and linked in many ways but somewhat forgotten in our desire to look to Asia.  I am certainly guilty of that when I think of how much better football in Australia is placed in Asia, rather than in Oceania.

Perhaps the Pacific doesn’t resonate as much as cities more in the eastern seaboard like Sydney, Brisbane and certainly in North Queensland which actually face the southern Pacific, unlike the cold and broody Southern Ocean.  I had a glimpse of it though.  At Preston market there used to be a stall selling ‘South Pacific stuff’ such as corned beef which was a staple in this region not having the opportunity to have fresh meat very often.

My first impression of Rarotongan life is that those railing against the ‘nanny state’ would love it here.  There is only one real road in Rarotonga that circumnavigate the island hugging the coast, as few metres inland you encounter steep hills that are inaccessible.  The main mode of transport is the ubiquitous scooter which is ridden in singlet, shorts, thongs and definetely no helmet.  I guess with one road, going around an island with a speed limit of 50 kph chances of major accidents are reduced.

But I think that the overall attitude also helps. I have seen no aggression on the road. If someones stops, or reverses into something people just wait. No signs of nervousness or trying to get around etc.  the road will get clear again.  It could be also the unconscious religiosity of the islanders. In Australia Christians may, in certain situations be unconfortable in declaring their faith in a very secular society. Here is just part of the culture.  We went to a Christmas market which had a show for the kids and dancing.  Totally secular as it would be in Australia. So much so that the Filipino community dancers had a disco version of a religious carol which they danced in a suggestive manner.  But at the end the MC after doing jokes all night went serious and thanked Jesus Christ.

The other religion is rugby league. Not much round ball football here.  Blokes often wear NRL shirts of different teams. I did see this ad on the shops though.

And I also saw the headquarters of the Cook Islands Football Association as I was travelling one of the two buses around the island (one goes clockwise, and the other anti-clockwise and even if there are bus stops can be flagged anywhere). Not sure when they play games. Something to check out next time.

Another thing is chickens. There are chooks and roosters roaming freely around the island, an advantage of a fox free island. Also no snakes and no (according to the locals) poisonous spiders.  But there are other hazards. These signs are posted regulalry throughout the island.

The Raratongans are relatively lucky that few metres inland they have steep hills to go to.  I wonder what those living in much more low lying islands would do.

We are in the wetter season, so rain it expected, but we were lucky to get a couple of sunny days so far and maybe according to the local weather report we may get some more.

Ka kite! 


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Reaction to walkout could show cultural divide

Last night the Northern Terrace, which hosts a number of active fan groups for the Melbourne Victory walked out during the Melbourne Victory – Adelaide match at Etihad stadium.

The reasons for this action are contained in the leaflet below.

 

The reactions on this have been generally supportive. However some have disagreed, stating that the actions of the Northern Terrace were selfish, and that ultimately it’s about supporting the team and not about them.

I think this difference of opinion raises a very interesting point.

As I have written before, many A-League fans from other teams and Melbourne Victory fans themselves who are not part of the NT are sometimes are dismissive of the NT because they seem to be protesting a lot. The criticism stems that we have been provided with a team to follow, and the role of the fan is to support the players on the pitch, not to believe that somehow the needs of the NT are above the needs of the players to feel supported as they play.

I think this criticism fails to understand the issue of how Social, or Group Identity works in the NT. I believe that NT members for the most part do want to support the team and give it all to make them win. But I also think that to do that they need to own their support, not to be dictated by some authority above.

And as I was reading the reactions of the walkout in social media, I was struck how most of those critical of the NT actions came from fans that came to football later from other sports.

For instance. The passion Tony Wilson has for football cannot be questioned. His writing about his experiences watching the national team in Germany is epic. And last night he tweeted:

Walkouts and protests at football matches do happen in other countries. For instance this was a walkout and protest by AC Milan fans (in this case for the shambolic way the Club was being run) earlier this year.

Protest during the Serie a match between AC Milan and AS Roma at Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on May 9, 2015 in Milan, Italy.

Protest during the Serie a match between AC Milan and AS Roma at Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on May 9, 2015 in Milan, Italy.

But in Australia? These things don’t seem to happen in the AFL, NRL or cricket. And I wonder whether perhaps protests such as these show a divide between fans who have been exposed to the so called ‘football culture’, for want of a better word, and those who have come to football and have grown up with other codes, and may see ‘protests’ outside their perception of normal fan behaviour.

So do walkouts and protests such as the one we saw last night are in the same category as other behaviour that is perceived as being ‘un-Australian such as marches to the stadium, chants and choreography? Do they show again football to have a culture different from what is known in Australia?

That is for me an interesting question. The over the top presence of police expecting ‘trouble’ last night shows that perhaps it is.

 

 

But things are moving. I’ll leave the last word to another convert, the journalist Richard Hind. He did describe the protest ‘pointless’, but at least in an article published in the Daily Telegraph wrote:

But – and this takes some gritting of the teeth by football fans – these stories mostly reflect football’s steady rise as much as the supposed ‘’problems’’ themselves. Remove the hysteria and the current debate is not about football’s failures but its growth. It is about those unfamiliar with football being confronted with a different – and yes, sometimes challenging – fan culture, not a return to the old ‘’Sheilas, Wogs and Poofters’’ days when soccer was ridiculed for its mere existence.

It is about ‘’old Australian’’ sports fans understanding 3000 people chanting loudly and forcefully at one end of a ground is a concert, not a riot.

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What Gallop should have said.

When The Sunday Telegraph contacted me about a leaked list of 198 people banned from attending matches in the Hyundai A-League, my reaction was to say “Where and how that newspaper got hold of that list?”

Since the publication of the story about the banned list, many in the game have pointed fingers about the list and how it came to be published.

Let me assure all fans that the list wasn’t leaked by the FFA.  The list is sent to clubs, venues and police to give them the tools to enforce the bans, but those on the list still have the right to confidentiality.  The FFA will pursue any possible avenues to identify the source and assess whether any criminal procedure needs to be undertaken.

Let’s be clear about this.  The publishing of that list was clearly done to damage football and portray the sport in the worst possible light.

If you come to our attention because of serious anti-social behaviour, you are liable to be banned. Every A-League club has a home ground and if you enter someone’s home you need to respect the host.

That being said I understand that in some cases, some believe they were banned unjustly.  That is why the FFA will now put an appeal system in place where fans will be able to challenge their bans if they feel this was done unfairly.

 The article in the The Sunday Telegraph and later repeated on Sydney radio have tried to portray football as a sport which is alien to Australian sporting culture.

Nothing could be further from the truth. An example is a recent survey has shown that football is now more popular among both 6-13 year-old girls and boys than basketball, athletics, bicycling and cricket.

We must all continue to work together on our mission to continue in making football a viable and sustainable sport in Australia and the 1.8 million fans who attend A-League games are a huge part of that.

We are Football.

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