Friday, 15 May 2015


Proposals for reviewing the AFL Fixture were put to the AFL club executives Thursday, in an apparent attempt to find some progress toward making the fixture more even... or more appealing... or more of a money spinner for the league...

Not that anyone can be sure, because the article never quite clearly states the intent of why the fixture review was put to clubs. Other than this line tucked away neatly in the middle of the story:
"However such a system would also ensure the supporters of all clubs – as well as players – remain engaged from the start to the finish of a season."
So football needs to 'engage supporters - and players - to the logical conclusion of the season.
Because the sport itself is not and has not been entertaining in and of itself for almost 140 years.

Key point mentioned by the media release was about the proposal for a 17 week / 5 week split to the season with the first 17 games to be for each team to play others only once, with the last 5 games to be drawn up after the 17th round and to be played only among groups of 6 teams.
The 17-5 proposal was also one of "at least five options being canvassed".

But, other than that, there was little other detail out and about, bar a few suggestions and scenarios.

And before the day was out, it was rejected by the clubs and the story ended.

Well, at least for 2016.
And there was no mention of the other proposals either.
So you can read from that thread, that there will again be another run at making the fixture more 'engaging' to the fans some time down the track. Maybe for 2017, maybe with one of the other proposals.

Or possibly the next time the AFL industry is riven with bad news, such as when that raven WADA comes-a gently rapping, rapping at the AFL chamber door.

Yes, of course its just coincidental timing that on the eve of the seventh round of the season, where tipsters and pundits are struggling to get 8 right from the 9 games, and upsets and up-and-coming teams have created an even season, it suddenly becomes time to review the fixture.

A pure co-incidence. Never a 'post-WADA appeal' distraction for Joe Meatball and Sally Housecoat.
Nup, never.

What are those dark clouds forming over north Windy Hill, you ask?
No idea what your talking about..

Oh look - shiny things! (more 'distractions' from Wednesday).

So if we are looking to 'engage' the fans further, we need to think about how the fans are engaged now.
Attendances are up from last year and 2013 (average to round 6: 34,177, vs 33,693 from all of 2014, and 33,484 over 2013 - says Wiki). But the real revenue maker for the AFL, the key 'engagement platform', is via television and broadcast media.  

And some of those in the media liked the 17-5 fixture idea:

And why wouldn't they. This proposal 'adds spice' to the remaining matches, making them more marketable. As journalists, they can see the upside of 'stories' and 'angles' they can use to write up some great content.

The average Joe Six-Pack and Eddie Punch-clock on the street can then sit back and be fed a whole five week fiesta of fottball, where the top 6 play a mini finals series before the finals, to earn the double chance for the finals.
Also the remaining 12 teams also battle for the last 2 finals spots (from the mid-range six) and the rights to the first draft pick (the bottom six).

All good in theory, all likely to end in trouble... and all palpably good meat for the ratings and advertisers mill.

Aside: It could also be argued that once the mini-finals were played out, have you created an irrelevance of the finals? As all these games have just happened. And do we really want to the the same 6 teams playing with each other (fnarr) for 5 weeks, then for another 4 weeks after that?
Well, yes I guess if it is your club involved, but if not then... where is the engagement?

They key to the proposal as stated by the AFL is about 'fan engagement', and if engagement occurs mostly via the broadcast media, then the proposal is about bringing in more viewers to the media outlets, and making the actual games easier to sell to advertisers and corporates.

You know, making more money!

And for the advertisers to get more value for their spend, you can expect more distractions from the actual football.
Distractions such as additional advertisements during broadcasts, 'naming rights' sold to the most innocuous of things, and constant references to the 'sponsor named' AFL Football season.

Be wary of those that promote issues that ultimately are driven by self interest, or the interest of corporates and 'rights holders'.

For those wanting a long read on a fair approach to the fixture, something blogged here long ago is still available via this link.

But for those of the tl:dr generation, it boils down to:

  1. Split the current 18 team ladder down to 3 conferences of  6 teams based solely on ladder position. (i.e. conference A gets 1st, 4th, 7th, 10th, 13th and 16th...etc)
  2. Play inside your conference home and away (10 games).
  3. Play outside your conference once each (2 other conferences of 6 teams each = 2 x 6 = 12 games)
  4. Full season of 22 games (10 + 12).
  5. At seasons end combine the ladder or and re-draw conferences for the following season under the same rules.
Doing this means each team plays a mixture of good and poor teams in equal moderation, and there are no 'fixes' in the schedule, such as traditionally bigger teams getting guarantees to play each other frequently (and therefore create more revenue and split the comp further financially).

It is balanced, fair, and transparent (meaning anyone can look at a ladder and know who their team will play twice next year)

Better fixturing is welcomed, but the 17-5 proposal has inherent problems.
Also welcomed is the AFL's open-mind on proposals, and it would be great if the proposal first blogged here in February of 2013 were part of the mix.
Welcomed too is any contact from AFL HQ to discuss this proposal further.

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