A couple of days ago news transpired that the AFL has been secretly trialling AFL X, a new, modified brand of football with just seven players on the ground per side, and played on a soccer pitch. Why that is the case? According to Sam Duncan in a article he wrote for the Fairfax press:
Strategically the AFL has just about every state and demographic covered. They are the King of the Sporting Castle.
But is the reality is, the AFL cannot afford to kick back and crack open a celebratory bottle of Grange when the season finally ends. Instead they must continue to grow the game.
The AFL, it seems, still harbours an ambition to take on the world.
Someone, somewhere within the AFL is imagining a world where the red Sherrin is kicked around every day and every night in every month of the year.
They are imagining a game called AFL X that’s played over the summer at the same time of the year and on the same pitches as the A-League…….
The game has the backing of Australia’s number one commercial broadcaster, Channel 7. There’s a men’s and women’s competition. You can play or watch some kind of AFL footy all year round.
If Duncan is right the AFL seems to be developing into the Rupert Murdoch of Australian sports seeking and sucking out any air where other sports find space. For some Association Football supporters this development is another demonstration of how the AFL wants to stifle the A-League. Western Sydney is growing and soccer is a major sport there? Let’s set up a team, spend huge amount of money to support it and giving it favourable terms to become a winning one.
Women soccer has been an established sport for some time, and has huge participation numbers amongst girls? Let’s set set up an AFL competition with lots of marketing behind it.
This AFL X shows again to some that the AFL is going the next step wanting to basically use the same pitches as soccer, and play in summer, when the A-League plays precisely to avoid being swamped by the huge media juggernaut that the AFL can produce.
Duncan continues with his article:
But here’s the clincher.
They are imagining the world embracing this new game of Australian football, too, because after all, it can be played in any town across the globe that has a soccer pitch…..
To me it sounds a little like Twenty20 cricket. And just look at that game now.
I’ve written before about my views about the ‘internationalisation’ of Australian Rules Football. This desire of making Australian Rules football known overseas and even making a version playable on the pitch of the most played code in the world, shows that despite being, as Sam Duncan said “the King of the Sporting Castle”, the AFL has this inexplicable sense on inferiority and fear, as it was expressed by Mick Malthouse in an article recently.
I HAVE have been shocked by some disturbing numbers that I came across recently.
In at least three elite Victorian colleges, more students are playing soccer than Aussie Rules football.
If that’s not alarming for the AFL, then I don’t know what is………..
But here we are decades later and, suddenly, soccer is a genuine threat to football.
Soccer is an international sport with some very promotable role models in Australia — think Tim Cahill.
Victoria’s population is increasing by 100,000 people a year and many of them are either from overseas or have a strong connection to a country where soccer is the main sport. The Socceroos can play in the World Cup and at the Olympics, and Australians litter the English Premier League and Champions League.
This fear of the round ball is baffling. We have seen with the advent of womens’ AFL the amount of media that the AFL can muster. While the National Team won a difficult match in the United Arab Emirates, something that in most other parts of the world would have been on the back page (if not in the front) of newspapers, in Australia it was hidden in the back after pages and pages of final footy reports.
And that’s what irks some soccer followers. That despite the huge attention the AFL gets in the media, the free to air TV its has, and the subsequent amount of publicity it can generate, it is still not enough. It is prepared to use its considerable financial might to stifle areas where the A-League has tried to create a niche for itself. Why? Because of this irrational fear it is ‘taking over’? The fact that Australian Football is not an international sport not only must irk the AFL, but also it makes it fearful of this ‘international force’.
The AFL most likely hasn’t heard the saying by Julius Caesar: “Malo hic esse primus quam Romae secundus” which translates as “Better be first in a village than second in Rome”.
I think the AFL should be content to be the ‘King of the Australian Sporting Castle’, something that it will not change, rather than acting like an imperialist power trying to suffocate all and sundry. It should enjoy its prominence in the big village of Australia, rather than delude itself it can be anything outside it.