Tag Archives: AFL

The link between Goodes’ dance and soccer

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As a long-suffering Carlton supporter here I was watching my team being demolished again.  As  I do when I watch a game at home I was on tweeter.  Goodes scores a goal and to be truthful I didn’t pay lots of attention to his celebrations or the commentary.  Was yet another goal against us.

But then twitter exploded about his post goal celebrations.  Some thought it provocative.  Some thought it as a great way to celebrate his heritage in a round which is supposed to celebrate aboriginal heritage and tradition in Australian Rules Football.

For the record I thought that it was great what he did.  And I would say as a Carlton supporter that it was great he involved us in an indigenous celebration (I mean, we were getting slaughtered anyway).

But as I was reading the reactions on twitter something immediately came to my mind.

Many have written about why Goodes was singled out.  One of the main issues is because Goodes refuses to play the game of being the good aboriginal who is part of the mainstream.  He refuses to be part of those outsiders (such as Andrew Bolt and Rita Panahi) that desperately seek acceptance by verifying the most bigoted and right wing views in Australia.  He confronts the fact that he  comes from a culture which was invaded and almost wiped out by colonisation.  This in an environment (Aussie Rules) which has strong assimilation sentiment.

One of the things that attracted me to VFL in the 1970’s was that there was lots of Non English Speaking Background (NESB) players, and this sort of made me feel welcome.  But later I realised that underneath that there was a strong undercurrent of assimilationist thinking. “you are in Australia now. You follow our sport”.

This was not uncommon.  Even included the current National Team coach, Ange Postecoglou.

Postecoglou’s family arrived in Melbourne in 1970 as migrants from Greece when Postecoglou was five. “All I wanted to do was fit in,” he says as we settle in and prepare for our protein. “So I rejected all the Greek culture . . . and I didn’t want people to know I was Greek. I wanted to play Aussie Rules and I remember the hatred Dad had for it and I didn’t understand why.”

But the little boy didn’t want anything to do with football (soccer)  at first, grappling with the vexed issue of assimilation, as many migrants do….

I’ve discussed what I think is the relationship between Australian Rules Football and multiculturalism before, so I won’t reiterate those arguments.  But the Goodes incident has implications about Australia views real diversity.

The same way Aussie Rules culture demands assimilation in what is perceived to be mainstream Australian culture from migrants, it showed that it demands that from indigenous Australians as well.

However here is where the AFL narrative comes unstuck.  While assimilationist culture can pinpoint at migrants as outsiders, this cannot be done to indigenous Australians.  The roles are now reversed.  The white mainstream culture becomes the outsider in this context, and this creates all sorts of conflicting emotions.  Especially when the AFL uses indigenous culture to affirm its ‘Australian uniqueness‘ against other codes.  When you have Goodes, an AFL champion, who has not been backwards in telling Australia about its racist attitudes towards Aborigines, expressing his culture during a match – especially during a round who is supposed to celebrate the indigenous tradition in the game – then some assimilationist chickens come home to roost.

In past decades, both migrants and aboriginal Australians were outsiders and Association Football was an ‘outsider’ game.  One of the most known activists for Aboriginal rights, Charlie Perkins,  (Kumantjayi Perkins) one of the most influential activist for aboriginal rights, he’s quoted on why he was attracted to the game.

“soccer brought me into the migrant community where I found great satisfaction, no prejudice, no history of bad relations, no embarrassing comments or derogatory remarks, they welcomed me into the fold and I’ve been there ever since”.

It is not inconceivable that in the 1950’s attitudes towards Aborigines would not have been much different in Victoria.  What the statement above demonstrates is at that time, an Aboriginal Australian felt as an outsider, and as an outsider found a home in what was considered by most then as the ‘wog game’

But things have changed since then and the AFL is to be commended to celebrate its Aboriginal players and traditions.  However the reactions to Goodes dance do highlight how much of a real insider someone who does not fit the mould can be even now.

Is things like an indigenous round another exercise of absorbing a culture into the mainstream Anglo/Celtic one and it is ultimately a way to make non-Aboriginal Australians feel good about themselves, papering over the actions of the past.  The way some fans and commentators have reacted it seems that there is tension on this area.  In today’s Offsiders on the ABC Waleed Aly made a very pertinent point that  Australian is a tolerant society until minorities demonstrate that they don’t know their place.

This argument can be carried in the way many commentators (and I suspect some that applaud Goodes action) perceive Association Football.  As long as it behaves within the parameters accepted by Australian mainstream society it can be tolerated.  However if it expresses a way of supporting which is perceived to be foreign is condemned. Even worse if these minorities Aly mentions use soccer, which is a sport that is part of their culture, to express their traditions.

That is why when the Football Federation of Australia (FFA) was formed, it deliberately created an A League cleansed with any reference to the non-English speaking cultural influences that nurtured Association Football especially after the Second World War.  It felt necessary to rid itself of any perceptions of being ‘ethnic’ that of being an outsider.  Perhaps that was a price to pay for becoming mainstream.  But the fear of being a ‘foreign sport’ remains. A couple of years ago the FFA initiated the  FFA Cup a competition which included A-League teams as well as teams whose origins were from diverse cultural background. The FFA felt it necessary to enact a National Club Identity Policy to ensure clubs do not  “carry any ethnic, national, political, racial or religious connotations either in isolation or combination.’

Goodes action on Friday did carry an ethnic, racial and religious connotations.  It proves that when it comes to sport in Australia you have to act within a certain set of parameters.  Parameters that seems to be set by a ‘white picket fence’ set of values.
As this set of values may approve the unique atmosphere a soccer crowd can produce without taking into account its cultural connections, they also like the image of Australian Rules being ‘our Australian game’ with its perceived aboriginal origins and having indigenous players.  However, when these values are challenged the criticism comes thick and fast.
Because sport is such a central part of Australia’s culture and as a vehicle to define its identity, reactions to what happens in a stadium can be very revealing.  And unfortunately not all of what it is revealed is encouraging.


Filed under Football

Kevin Sheedy and Western Sydney: Not racist. Not xenophobic. Just ignorant.




Jock: You did some nice things last week. Not one of your best games but you did some nice things. Glorious mark you took in the second quarter. You just seemed to go up and up.

Geoff: I felt like Achilles.

Jock: Who’s he?

Geoff: A Greek guy who could really jump.

Jock: [nods] Some of our new Australians could be champions if they’d stop playing soccer and assimilate.

The Club, Act 1. David Williamson – 1977


I’ve used this quote before, it is one of my favourites because it encapsulate very well a lot of the attitudes towards migrants, who the 1960’s were termed ‘New Australians’.  A term that was implicitly  assimilationist.  You come to Australia, leave your culture behind and become assimilated in our culture.  And of course Australian Rules Football was part of that.  Especially in Australia Rules Football states, where the game was an expression of ‘Australianness’.

If you haven’t seen the play this scene is between Jock, the vice-president of the football club, who I would guess is in his 60’s representing the ‘Old Australia’ of post war picket fences and white bread, and Geoff a young star recruit who goes to University and is questioning the ‘old traditional’ values of the Club and football in general.

The play uses the football club to expose the changes occurring in Australia at the time.  The late 60’s early 70’s were a great moment of change in Australia.  The Vietnam war radicalised many young people. The Whitlam government reflected the change after years of conservative government with progressive policies.

The exchange between Jock and Geoff has a comical dimension when Jock doesn’t know who Achilles really was, but I thought of the last sentence in this passage when I heard Kevin Sheedy’s comments linking the immigration department to the success of the Western Sydney Wanderers.

I suspect that Sheedy is more read and knowledgeable than poor old Jock, and would know who Achilles was, but ultimately share the same opinion about football and the place of migration in Australia.

Sheedy was born in 1947, and would have experienced in his childhood the first wave of post-war migration.  He went to de La Salle College in Malvern, Melbourne which I don’t know would have had many students of Non English Speaking Background (NESB) in those days.   I think he has a strong sense of fairness from his Catholic background, and this has influenced his efforts in being inclusive with Aborigines and also NESB players.

Therefore, unlike some twitters, I don’t believe that Kevin Sheedy’s statement is in any way racist or even xenophobic.  What it does show however, is that his world view hasn’t kept up with the developments in Australia over the past 20 years.

I think the main source of anger is that Sheedy again has slotted football in the ‘foreign game for migrants’ category.  I can understand why football fans in general, but Western Sydney Wanders ones in particular object to this view.  Sheedy explained his comment with this tweet.


What he has shown is that he fundamentally completely unaware of the person who supports the Wanderers and the links towards the team.  He is ignorant of the social make up of the area that his team is representing in the AFL.  I haven’t done a survey, but I would venture that most fans did not go anywhere near any  ‘Immigration Department’ having been born and bred in the Western Suburbs of Sydney.  They may not have an Anglo or Celtic background, but does that makes them less of an Australian?

Sheedy seems to have this idea that Western Sydney is full of fresh arrived migrants that are unaware of the game of Australian Rules Football.  He should have been informed that that Western Sydney has a large proportion of Australian born, who are probably very aware of the AFL, but it is not part of their tradition which is football and rugby league.  As a Victorian I know that there seems to be this messianic urge about Australian Rules football, that it is such a good game so why anyone wouldn’t want to play it or watch it?  I love footy, but you can’t ignore the culture of the area which was founded on generations playing other codes.

Sheedy should also be aware that as a Victorian, he’s also an outsider in Western Sydney.  In the parlance of headline sub-editors everywhere when they deal with football, Sheedy did a spectacular own goal.  Mis-representing the potential fans for your team is not a good strategy.




Filed under Football

The World Game….really?

Jock: You did some nice things last week. Not one of your best games but you did some nice things. Glorious mark you took in the second quarter. You just seemed to go up and up.

Geoff: I felt like Achilles.

Jock: Who’s he?

Geoff: A Greek guy who could really jump.

Jock: [nods] Some of our new Australians could be champions if they’d stop playing soccer and assimilate.

The Club, Act 1. David Williamson – 1977

It is not everyday that I get an unsolicited tweet response from a newspaper editor (as I am sure they have more pressing things than reading and responding to my tweets) but I am always chuffed when it happens. I got one yesterday from Andrew Tate, editor of the Sport section of the Sunday Age in response of my questioning of two articles in the paper.

One was titled ‘The World Game‘ and was about introducing Australian Rules overseas.   The other was about exporting the game to China.

Other tweeters like Athas Zafiris picked up on the story.

Then Ezequiel Trumper continued:

Even Michael Lynch, who writes for the Sunday Age got into the fray.

The fact that the article was titled ‘The World Game’ was a probably a bit of a light hearted reference that that term is used when we talk about Association Football.  Interesting considering that some Aussie Football fans get a bit agitated when we use ‘football’ instead of ‘soccer’. But this is a minor point really.

The article in question then quotes the AFL’s international development manager Tony Woods:

There is almost a paradox that we all share in the belief that it is the best game in the world and most spectacular, yet sometimes we are a little bit slow in opening our arms to letting other people play it.

I would not berate Mr. Woods stating that Aussie Rules is ‘the best game in the world and most spectacular’, but I don’t know if everyone in the world would share his belief.  In my opinion there is no ‘best game in the world’.  I say that to Association Football fans as well if they say soccer is the best game.
I remember when I went to Italy and as a Blues fans I asked a friend to send me a tape of one of the finals that I missed.  It was a great game as those Carlton-Essendon finals in the 90’s were. Close contests, athletic and skillful.  However when I showed the tape to my Italian friends, who were into soccer and basketball, they were unimpressed. All they could see were bodies clashing with each other and they laughed when players were scrambling for the ball on the ground, they found it messy and chaotic.
Maybe the AFL realises that it missed the boat with the more recent Asian immigration and it is now trying to make connections, which is good strategy – for Australia – but I fail to understand why we see in the media pieces about the AFL ‘going overseas’ what’s the point?
Despite Australian Rules being by far the most popular code in Australia it seems to be irked by the fact that they don’t have international status.  The comments of Mr. Woods seems to betray this fact. And the regular ‘Soccer is not really an Australian game’ that tend to appear before the World Cup tend to confirm this, Examples here and here ) which really I can’t understand.
And the mindset of the ever conquering AFL is shown in this statement:

“At junior and grassroots level kids are really looking for an alternative to rugby. That has basically allowed soccer in New Zealand to get a foothold.”

Apart from the fact that soccer was ‘allowed’ a foothold (heavens forbid) what escaped may have Mr. Woods, but more importantly the journalist Jared Lynch,  is that  in New Zealand soccer was there yonks before any kiwis even knew the existence of the Aussie game.  As Ian Syson states in a tweet:

Maybe the fact that a New Zealand team was able to represent (very honourably) their nation in the most popular sport event in the world (something that Aussie Rules can’t do) in South Africa may also have something to do with it.

Anyway, this banter must have attracted the attention of the Sunday Age Sports editor who tweeted:

I didn’t respond to this, because discussing issues on tweeter with a 140 character limit is very difficult. The article Andrew refers is about Lucas Neil and his perfect footballer. Which was interesting enough, but I think he missed the point.   One is a ‘AFL is the best thing ever’ story, while the other is about Neil idea of the perfect footballer.  They are not the same.  And again I have no problem with the article in itself.  The issue I have is that we hardly have any pieces which place soccer/football in the same cultural level.  Have we read about soccer/football importance in Australia’s history?  or that soccer/football has been part and parcel of Australia’s sport landscape long before post war migration?  And it doesn’t stop there.  On Saturday we learned that apparently AFL is going to solve the Israel  – Palestinian conflict. The power of the AFL knows no bounds.

What these articles show is not only the fact that the AFL, despite its hegemony in the mainstream media is strangely feeling anxious of not been international, but also ignores the fact that soccer/football is the international sport par excellence and the fact that the media, in general, doesn’t give it much credit.  Football doesn’t need to push to become international. It’s already there.  The worldwide audience for the recent Australia – Japan match dwarfed anything that the AFL or NRL could achieve, and Adelaide United is in the quarter finals of the Asian Champions League.  We don’t read much about that, and how that promotes the image of Australia overseas. And sorry, but playing in one of the major FIFA tournaments is a bit  more significant than a few kids playing footy in a paddock somewhere in China or India, in a sport that despite being a great game – will be probably as popular as lacrosse is here in Australia.  As an example we only have to read the FFA ‘s  submission to the Australia in the Asian Century White Paper. That is the reality of the game.

And by the way.  It may have escaped the editors of the Sunday Age, but in the picture of the article the kids are playing with the footy are wearing  AC Milan, Tibet National Football Team and Chelsea shirts.  World Game indeed.


Filed under Football

Back to the AFL…but only on certain days.

Anyone who had a passing interest in my humble blog would know that a major passion is football.  But I also like Australian Rules, quite a lot actually.  It’s a shame that there some Aussie Rules types (in the media usually) that tend to disparage football, and when happens I feel a little cut.  Despite this there are heaps of Association Football fans in Melbourne that are bi-codal and also follow Australian Rules Football.  You just have to look at the Melbourne Victory fans forum in the ‘other sports’ section to see that each AFL team has a thread where Melbourne Victory fans discuss how their AFL teams have fared.

Also personally, Australian Rules has given me some of the best memories of my sporting watching life.  It was one of the things that made me bind to Melbourne.  That was in the late 70’s when the competition was solely a Melbourne one, and each team had its own ground which enabled me to know the different parts of the city.  The strange mix of suburbia and working class housing at Windy Hill.  The industrial surroundings of the Western Oval. The intimacy of Arden Street.  The passion of Victoria Park.  The sparse suburban landscape of Moorabbin and the long trip to Kardinia Park.  And of course my own home ground of Princes Park where I could walk to from home.

Then it was only Saturdays.  After a branch of porridge and toast my father and I would go to the game, followed by take home pizza, and watching ‘The Winners’ on ABC TV on my black and white portable Healing TV in my bedroom (my parents would watch something else on the colour telly downstairs).

I loved those winter Saturdays.  But then life changed.  I moved out of home and even though I still went to some matches it wasn’t the same.  The advent of interstate teams (which I always thought was a logical inclusion) and the shutting down of the local grounds in favour of an Etihad/MCG duopoly (Yes we still have Kardinia Park, but it is a long way) changed the feel for it.

Also this coincided with partnering with someone who absolutely hated football and the birth of a child which took a lot of family time.  A child that now at 13 has absolutely no interest in football (or any game really) whatsoever.

Then there was the advent of the A-League.  As an Association Football supporter I was waiting for such a competition, and I felt (as I do now) that it had to be supported as much as possible.  The AFL with all its resources and popularity will be alright without me.  Even in the darkest days of the Carlton Football Club I always thought that with its wealthy supporters and members it would have come out of it, which it did.

I always thought that one day I would go back to watch a game or two, maybe when my son was grown up and didn’t need to be attended to all the time.  Then I was looking about news on Carlton a few weeks ago and I saw that the Club was offering a membership that would entitle you to three matches a year and wasn’t that expensive.  This was perfect for me as I wouldn’t want to go more than three matches anyway, but at the same time I would regain my membership of the Club.

Carlton Membership

So three matches, but which ones?  I thought that they had to honour those good memories of the past.  So this is the criteria:

They have to be on a Saturday afternoon

No Friday nights, Sundays or whatever.  The time for footy is Saturday afternoons. Shame that you can’t watch World of Sport, Sunday morning to watch comments on the game and players being offered Tesco suitcases or Patra Orange juice.  But the Saturday football time is hallowed.  It is perfect timing, sandwiched almost perfectly in the middle of the weekend.  Saturday morning to do whatever and Saturday night to wind down.

It has to be in the middle of winter

Footy is winter.  I reckon that today’s fans have gone soft!  I used to stand all the time, no roofs etc.  with my hooded raincoat so it case it rained I would just pull it up, as anyone with an umbrella would attract the ire of those behind “get a f$#ken coat will ya!”.  You want to come back from the match yearning a nice heater and a nice cup of hot tea.  Or if lucky to a pub with an open fire or a pot belly heater.

They have to be with Melbourne teams

As I said, I always sustained that including teams from other Aussie Rules states was a good idea (not so sure about Sydney, Western Sydney, and Gold Coast).  But when I’ll go to a match it will be with fair dinkum Melbourne teams.  The atmosphere when going to a match with a Melbourne team is very different than if the team is from interstate.

The MCG?

All the suburban grounds have gone.  The only one which remains is the MGC, which since my initial contact with football has been renovated beyond recognition.  Gone is the members area with it’s cement painted in a cream colour and the clock in the middle and those rather aesthetically pleasing side glass partitions.  And gone are the cavernous entrails of the old Southern Stand and the Ponsford Stand.  Of course it is a great ground.  But I think I may have to bend and accept Etihad.  Which will be strange as except one AFL match I have been there only for Melbourne Victory matches.

Believe it or not these parameters don’t leave me with many matches.  Some candidates would be against Richmond on the 28th of July at the MCG, or August the 18th against Essendon again at the ‘G.   We are playing Collingwood on Friday July 6th mmmm…..I may have to bend the rules there!

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Filed under Football, Musings

AAMI Park. A place of our own.

OK.  I always have to preface posts like the one I am going to write now with this.  I like Australian Rules Football.  I went to almost every Carlton match between 1978 and 1989.  Life changes have precluded me to attend both Association Football and Australian Football matches.  But when the situation allows me again I will renew my Carlton FC membership and go to aussie rules matches again.

Melbourne and Australian Rules Football are interwoven.  The game began here and is an intrinsic part of Melbourne culture.  However it reminds me of someone (I can’t locate who) who said something like “Wagner music is great, but why did he had to write so much of it?”.  We love footy, but sometimes it is so overpowering over everything else that we need a break and some space.  We hear it on the radio, we see it on the front pages of our newspapers and media websites, in the discussions amongst friends and colleagues that even if our team is in them,  by the finals some of us do look forward to a few of (relatively) footy free months.  So another week of football is stretching it a bit, and I can feel there isn’t the same buzz around town that there was last week.

This is especially true for those who are also interested in other sports.  An example is the UCI Road World Championship which is being held in Geelong, which was most likely scheduled on the weekend after the Grand Final to have some free air, but alas the draw means that there is a clash, not that many will be bothered .  Australians may have a cultural cringe when it comes to things like the arts or fashion, but when it comes to sport Australians believe that no foreigner can hold a candle to what we have here.  So while Steve Bracks, the chairman of the organising committee, for the UCI Road World Championship  is right in saying: ‘‘Four hundred million minimum will be watching it worldwide, watching Melbourne and Geelong showcasing a major world championships of world cycling. There’s hardly anyone in Europe who would know the AFL grand final’s on,” (and I can confirm that when I hear the news from Italy by satellite the cycling in Geelong does feature, but not a mention of Clint Jones’ broken foot, or the psychological situation of Dale Thomas) many Melbournians couldn’t give a hoot.  Footy is the main game.

Of course this is especially true for other football codes that have to fight for recognition in the AFL obsessed media.  And there has been plenty of debate about the FFA postponing the first ever Melbourne Derby between Melbourne Heart and Melbourne Victory from Saturday night to Friday the 8th of October.  Was this kowtowing to the ever powerful AFL?  Could have Association Football stood its ground?  But to add ‘insult to injury’ not only the match is to be postponed, but AFL  fans without a ticket to the AFL Grand Final replay will be able to watch the match on giant screens at a special free live site at AAMI Park.  Some Association Fans were outraged.  However not everyone thinks that way.  Association Football journalist Micheal Lynch gently scolds those who are angry about these turn of events.

THE blogosphere – that chaotic galaxy where conspiracy theorists, zealots, the one eyed, the merely partisan and the odd even-handed contributor exist in uneasy collusion – was rife with opinion on the FFA’s move to shift the Melbourne A-League derby.

It became especially virulent when it emerged that the state government was making AAMI Park available as a live site for those AFL supporters who couldn’t get a ticket to the grand-final replay across the road at the MCG.

A sell-out, screamed some. The real reason the game was moved, opined others. The FFA should have stood firm and taken on the AFL and played the game as originally scheduled, argued a few.

The more paranoid might have pointed to FFA supremo Ben Buckley’s AFL background and concluded that this was the reason the first derby had been moved – to deny soccer its place in the sun.

It’s entertaining, as it goes, but please, get a grip. Soccer is the world game, by far the most popular sport on the planet. But Australia is not yet in tune with the rest of the planet.

Like it or lump it, AFL is the No. 1 sporting code in this country.

It is richer, better administered, and it has deeply embedded powerful social, cultural and political roots.

That doesn’t make it a better game, but it gives it a massive market presence, particularly in Victoria, where the replayed grand final will dominate all else for the next six days.

(Click on the link to read the whole article)

I do agree with Lynch.  The AFL is the main code in Australia and stomping and dummy spitting won’t help anyone.  However there is an important factor that should be taken in consideration, why some fans aren’t happy.  The fact is that Association Football has always to play second fiddle to the AFL.  We either had to play in grounds that were glorified municipal parks, or go to AFL grounds like Etihad (which was originally sold to us as a ‘multi-code stadium…ha!) where the configuration was wrong and it re-enforced to Association Football fans that we didn’t have a place of our own.

But lo and behold Premier Bracks decides to build a purpose rectangular stadium for Association Football and Rugby.  At last a place where the omnipresent influence of the AFL couldn’t penetrate.  The ground would be rectangular, not an oval to be seen (except Rugby balls of course).  Again I have nothing against Australian Rules Football, quite the contrary, but it was nice to have a place of our own AFL free somewhere in town.   But even a relatively small rectangle of grass which wasn”t beholden to Australian Rules upset some AFL people. Collingwood president Eddie McGuire wrote in the Herald Sun:

Its one remaining premiership trophy can be put into a cabinet at its purpose-built stadium, referred to alternately as the “Rectangular stadium”, “the Bubble” or “AAMI stadium”, but more than likely “the White Elephant”……

It’s a lesson again that in this town the economic, cultural and strategic infrastructure, investment should be focused on the sport that makes this city tick – AFL football and, in particular, its clubs. Is it too late to lengthen the ground and smooth off the edges?

So it is true as a Victory fan wrote in the fan’s forum earlier this week that “It’s a government owned stadium built with government money, it will be used by whoever pays for it.” but it is understandable that some Association Football fans are pissed off that ‘their’ ground that they thought was to be free from the clutches of the AFL will be used for Saints and Magpies fans next Saturday.

Childish and irrational?  Perhaps.  But then following men kicking a leather ball is anyway.


Filed under Football

AFL snookers FFA beautifully (or why we will not get the World Cup)

Outrage this morning amongst Association Football supporters in Australia about an article in today’s Age.

AUSTRALIA’S bid to host the World Cup finals in 2018 or 2022 was almost abandoned 12 days before the bid book was due to be submitted in Switzerland because of ”outrageous” demands by the AFL, a source close to the bid has told The Age.

As talks continued ahead of the May 14 deadline for confirming the application, the source, who asked not to be named, said that Football Federation Australia and the federal government had virtually given up on getting an agreement and were prepared to shelve the bid.

”It got to the point where it didn’t seem there was much point, and the federal government had agreed with the FFA that we might not go on with the bid,” he said. ”There were some outrageous demands from left field by the AFL.”

That shouldn’t come much as a surprise.  I think that both the FFA and the Government underestimated the voraciousness of the AFL to protect its patch no matter what.

Maybe the FFA and the Government would have thought that even the AFL would have seen having the World Cup as a good thing for Australia as a whole.  But the AFL didn’t become the most successful code in Australia by accident.  I’m sure there would have been plenty of strategy meetings at AFL house and I think they have been pretty successful.

A World Cup in Australia would have created plenty of headaches in AFL land.  It wouldn’t have dented its popularity by any stretch of the imagination, but undoubtedly would have given Association Football a major boost.

So while publicly the AFL ‘supported’ the bid I am sure that a strategy to minimise its success or at least get most out of it would have been devised, and it seems that it is game set and match to the AFL.

It appears that all the brouhaha about stadia has seriously dented our bid, as stated by this article in The Age.

HE cross-code wrangle over stadiums for the FIFA World Cup has put the boot into Australia’s joint 2018-2022 bid.That is according to a leading football industry website – World Football Insider – which has produced a damning assessment of Football Federation Australia’s recent handling of the bid.

After rating Australia as the second favourite behind England for hosting rights in February, WFI’s latest World Cup survey ranked it seventh due to recent stadium dramas. ”Australia loses marks after a difficult few months during which the bid team has struggled to win domestic support and sort out its stadia plans, raising serious concerns about the country’s ability to deliver a World Cup,” said WFI Editor Mark Bisson.

So ‘well done AFL’.  While my temptation is to immediately label them as a bunch of selfish bastards I would be wrong to do so.  The fact is that to get to present a bid, the government had to give so many gifts to the AFL (massive sums  for upgrades to Adelaide Oval, Skilled Stadium and for the development of a new stadium in Perth) so that in the unlikely case that we host the world cup the AFL will gain as well.  So it’s a win win situation.

As Scoop states in the Melbourne Victory Forum, Demetriou/AFL have played the FFA to a tee.  Showed up the FFA as a pack of rank amateurs.

The AFL did what any self interested organisation in a competitive market would do.  Demetriou is just trying to protect his organisation first and foremost which is his job.  If he bent over to the FFA the AFL clubs and their 1000s of employees would be calling for his head

An agreement with the AFL and the NRL  should have been locked in years ago before the FFA even launched a bid, instead of the FFA naively thinking they could use Etihad Stadium without even asking the AFL first.

When in December the bid fails many Association Football fans will blame the AFL.  But let’s remember that the FFA will have to bear most of the blame.

I hope this will be a wake up call to the FFA.


Filed under Football

Stop Press! Footy saved from evil soccer juggernaut!

Hallelujah! Footy is saved!!!

That headline says a lot about how the Herald Sun, and I expect lots of mainstream media are covering the story. Great outcome for all concerned? This may mean that the FFA can go to FIFA and say that everyone now had come to an agreement and Australia can have a great World Cup?

No. The issue here is that ‘our’ footy is ‘saved’ from an evil external threat. No hiding it really, even the headline on the online version of the article says ‘Footy saved from World Cup threat

This is not an ‘smell the fear’ argument. The AFL is perfectly entitled as a business to ensure that its interests are safeguarded and they would be remiss if they didn’t do so.

What I find annoying is the coverage of the Herald Sun, that instead of looking at the positive aspect of how this arrangement could potentially help the bid, and how great it would be to have the biggest sporting event in the world it went for the ‘world cup as a threat to our footy’ line.

Some of you may dismiss the Herald Sun as a bogon newspaper. However I would say that the HS is still one of the most popular paper in Australia, and the fact that they feel that they have to pander to this ‘football as alien threat’ line is very disappointing.

UPDATE: Chug, analyse what the article actually said on his blog.

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The AFL shows its true colours

The Association Football vs Australian Rules Football war about the World cup bid is certainly hotting up, at least here in Victoria.

Yesterday we had the Herald Sun front page trumpeting the fact that ‘Soccer caves in to footy people power’. Today in the front page of The Age, we have a story which claims that Australia’s bid for the soccer World Cup is in danger of being derailed after AFL chief executive Andrew Demetriou declared Etihad Stadium off limits.

Front Page of The Age 9/12/09

As usual in these things there is lots of heat an little light. Apart from the moronic take of the Herald-Sun, there has been more rational debate in some quarters. One such article was again in today’s Age by Dan Silkstone.

Parts of his article:

Demetriou and Buckley are close. They played together at North Melbourne, they worked side by side at the AFL. Buckley was best man when Demetriou married and sent a congratulatory text message to the AFL chief executive three weeks ago when his child was born.

When Buckley is in Melbourne he almost always catches up with his friend and former boss. They speak on the phone often.

That is what makes the central claim of this week’s storm – that the AFL and its clubs have not been properly consulted about what is needed for the bid – so hard to accept.

For Demetriou, frustration has been growing about the vagueness of the FFA’s requirements and the poor level of communication. The AFL feels disrespected and Demetriou does not like it.

The league’s clubs, rightly, want to know how this World Cup bid might affect them. The FFA’s bid team cannot yet answer those questions. The FFA says it has kept other codes fully informed of the complex venue situation, which continues to unfold. ”They have known everything we knew as soon as we knew it,” Buckley said yesterday.

The AFL says bid leaders have spent more time travelling the world, schmoozing FIFA delegates and foreign journalists than talking to codes and stadiums in their own country. The FFA responded by releasing details from Buckley’s diary that show he met the AFL 14 times since last April to discuss the bid………

The MCG won’t be out of action for 16 weeks as Demetriou suggested but the AFL is deeply suspicious of the four to six-week timeframe the FFA says it needs. One insider yesterday called it ”complete bullshit”. All in all, though, the league would cop a 10-week loss of the MCG without too much complaint. The real issue, and the real battleground, is Etihad Stadium…….

Demetriou says not: ”This is not the AFL beating up on soccer or being unsupportive of the World Cup. We’ve got a great track record with Olympics and Commonwealth Games.”

But soccer hits Australian rules as a direct competitor much harder than the Commonwealth Games or Olympics. Imagine the impact of a winning Australian bid. Eight to 10 years of media attention, an almost irresistible carrot for juniors to take up the sport. A boost for soccer at the very time the AFL is hoping to sell its media rights for a princely $1 billion.

A rival sport continuing to tread the corridors of power while politicians, corporate Australia and junior participants queue up to get involved.

Who wouldn’t protect themselves from that?

I always am wary of the easy tempation of falling into the paranoid ‘the AFL is plotting to get us’ type of argument. But reading above (and Dan Silkstone is not a solely a football writer) I am sort of wondering why Andrew Demetriou has gone all guns blaring about this. He could have approached Buckley privately and make his views known. And it seems that Buckley has tried to keep the AFL up to date about the bid. There is a possibility that the FFA is also not yet sure about the details.

I think that the AFL has every right to protect its product and make sure that they are not disadvantaged in the eventuality (which has to be recognised it is still pretty remote) that Australia does have a World Cup. However this public outburst seems to me gives credit to the Silkstone’s view in his conclusion. That the AFL basically doesn’t want the World Cup, and this is a Howard style wolf whistle strategy to scuttle the bid.

While the AFL makes all the right noises about the ‘AFL not beating up on soccer or being unsupportive of the World Cup’ it unleashes a sentiment about ‘us and them’ that I discussed in my previous post. Who is to say that any of this dissent may sway some FIFA delegate? Or that maybe the new Federal Opposition may not be as enthusiastic about the bid as Malcolm Turnbull was when he was leader?

The ‘Us and Them’ is a well worn card. Demetriou went on radio uttering hyperboles such as that some AFL clubs would not survive due to the AFL season being cancelled due to the unavailability of the MCG and similar venues for 16 weeks, when as we can see from Silkstone’s article this is a furphy.

FFA chief executive Ben Buckley moved quickly to refute Demetriou’s remarks, stating that stadiums like the MCG would be required for up to eight weeks. That’s significantly fewer than 16. This type of scaremongering is nothing new from the AFL, or its mates in the press. As Warwick Hadfield said in the sport segment of this morning’s Radio National Breakfast

What we are really seeing here is just how cosy the relationship between the sport media and the AFL and the NRL is to get all these beat ups on the front pages and how far down the pecking order soccer writers really are in major newspapers. There are quite sensible comment pieces in the last few days and they can be found somewhere near the racing details.

Buckley looked frustrated in that media conference. Welcome to our world Ben.

Update: Ben Buckley letter to all football supporters about the bid (the ad banners on top of the page are because I loaded the page on a free site host – they are not from the FFA).


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