Michael McGuire: AFL’s a world-class spectacle, but why is world validation of such importance?

This is an article that was published by the Advertiser and it is now behind a paywall.  I post it here for future reference.


Michael McGuire, The Advertiser
May 15, 2018 6:32pm

PORT Adelaide is in China this week for its second Shanghai game. Which means there are only three years to go before this slightly ludicrous exercise comes to a halt.

It’s easy to see why Port is there. They are chasing the same thing multitudes of other Australian companies have chased — bundles of cash.

For Port, this is particularly important. It’s looking for a way to achieve some form of financial independence from the overbearing and all-knowing masters at the Australian Football League.

Given Port’s financial history, it’s understandable they would reach out to grab any passing rainbow with a pot of gold at the end of it.

And they have had some success. But still, the chances of them playing there again after 2022 seem remote at best.

Port’s foray into China also fits into this ongoing weird narrative pushed by the AFL that Australian rules football needs to have some sort of global presence to be truly successful. Australia is clearly too small a market to sell Australian rules football in.

The AFL must be the most insecure sporting organisation in Australia. If it didn’t have chips on its shoulders it would have no shoulders at all.

Its constant desire to dominate the sporting news cycle, to try to eclipse any sports that it considers to be a rival, suggests an internal attitude of born-to-rule supremacy where all opponents must be crushed.

As an organisation, it has an arrogance that is neither justified not pretty to watch.

It occasionally likes to mix this arrogance with a dose of incompetence and a remarkable tin ear to public sentiment.

Then there are the seemingly weekly debates on the state of the game. At what point did the word “rules” become the most important component of the sport of Australian rules football?

What other sport is so dedicated to tweaking and changing and second-guessing the rules by which the game is played, sometimes on a week-to-week-basis?

If footy was a medical condition it would be attention-deficit disorder.

And yet, football is a game that seems to flourish despite the people who run it. That’s because when all the hoopla and hype is stripped away it’s a wonderful game.

Just watch Sydney against Hawthorn last Friday or the weekend Showdown and you appreciate the magnificence this game can produce.

Although when Freo and St Kilda popped up on Saturday night, there was an unusual urge to check out the Eurovision Song Contest over on SBS.

But generally, it’s a world-class spectacle, played by world-class athletes. However, it doesn’t necessarily follow that the rest of the world will have any interest in the game. But who cares? Why is the validation of our indigenous game by the rest of the world of any importance?

The suspicion is that it’s only to stroke the egos of those trying to run the game.

This grasping of straws is evident in concepts such as AFLX, which seems to be only another sad attempt to make the game internationally relevant. The X in this case standing for expediency. All of which means we should all brace ourselves for ever-dafter ideas from the AFL in the future.

Port’s China game will be played in front of around 10,000 people in Shanghai. Not a great deal in a city of 24 million. Last year, 5000 of them were Port supporters — presumably a lot of the remainder were Australian expats just there to enjoy a game of footy and a beer.

Which makes you wonder how much exposure the game is getting to actual Chinese people. The state government chucked in $350,000 to the enterprise last year, with then premier Jay Weatherill saying “this represents a very powerful new push by SA to internationalise its economy through the medium of sport.”

Yet, last year, Adelaide United played a Champions League game in China in front of more than 41,000 people, mostly locals, and received no government assistance.

If the new State Government want to continue down the “sport diplomacy” route it may be better off concentrating on soccer or even the 36ers, given the popularity of basketball in China. It seems a long shot to think footy is going to make much of a mark.

Original Article: www.adelaidenow.com.au/news/opinion/michael-mcguire-afls-a-worldclass-spectacle-but-why-is-world-validation-of-such-importance/news-story/131e52cabd05b0a59f097551edd041eb

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