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A winter tale of woe has put the AFL to the sauce

Giant Jeremy Cameron grabs Hawthorn's Ryan Schoenmakers, who handballs under pressure on Sunday.

Giant Jeremy Cameron grabs Hawthorn's Ryan Schoenmakers, who handballs under pressure on Sunday. Photo: Getty Images

The AFL has spent much of this year nodding empathetically about the awful impost on fans of steepling prices for pies, chips and beer at games.

It was an easy target for the league. It would be certain of unanimous support, could gnash their teeth but ultimately have virtually no capacity to do anything about it.

So the message was ''we hear you, we agree with you, we want to do something about it but well we can't. But aren't we good sports for feeling your pain?''

The reason 17,000 people turned out to see the reigning premier play on Sunday at the MCG had only a little bit to do with over-priced washed-out mid-strength beer and more to do with the arrogantly inhospitable scheduling of the game and, of course, the fact no one follows the other team nor gives a tinker's cuss about it.

Hawthorn played GWS at 4.40pm on a Sunday - and yes it was a cold wet first day of winter. A 2.20pm start time on a Sunday for parents of school-aged kids is a potential day at the footy (albeit an expensive one). A 4.40pm start time pushes it into the realm of school night outing. Getting home still meant for most people after 8pm. And then, if you haven't spent your last dollars on a pie and chips at the footy, getting dinner sorted and showers and getting to bed ahead of the first day of school for the week.

This then begs the question of whether the league was driven by getting people to games. The AFL has always furiously insisted it is primarily driven by increasing crowd attendance. But then schedules games at times unappealing to anyone but the TV broadcaster.

No season has ever fixtured so many games so hostile to the fan attending: Monday nights; Saturday twilight; Sunday twilight; Thursday nights. It is little wonder attendance is down.

Granted the league is sampling new time slots because there are now nine games a weekend and staggering them seems a better idea than clustering them. But hosting a game at 4.40pm that could have started an hour or two earlier comes at a cost and the cost is the fan who schleps to the game.

Yes the TV rights holders pay exorbitantly for the chance to show the game. They also pay for a game that has atmosphere because people attend. When you stop putting the games on when people want to go suddenly all games on TV will look and sound like, well, like GWS games.

Availability of a product is a far more significant deterrent to purchasing or consuming than price. If the game is not on when you want to go, then how much it costs is less relevant, not irrelevant, but certainly less relevant. Cost becomes just another reason not to go.

The AFL has accepted the Monday night experiment was a disaster and will not be proceeding with them. It should also do so with the wretched 4.40pm slot. The only logic in a 4.40pm game at the MCG on a Saturday afternoon is the broadcaster's desire to have three games segue into one another throughout the day - not the fans' preference for when to attend a game. So the insistence crowds are foremost in AFL thinking sounds disingenuous and patronising.

The other turn-off factor that should trouble the AFL is that typically games involving the big clubs would draw a large crowd irrespective of whether they were the home or the away team. That appears to be less obviously the case this year.

On Friday night St Kilda hosted Collingwood and fewer than 35,000 turned up. The result was presumed to be a foregone conclusion so they didn't bother. Plainly even the big clubs rusted-on, go-anywhere go-anytime fans want to see a contest.

The AFL presidents will meet on Wednesday. Clubs, large and small, might want to raise not just their share of the pie, nor even the price, but what times people want to go to a game to buy their over-priced pie.

51 comments so far

  • Good article. It would help too if the holding-the-ball/holding-the-man rules were judged in the way of the 70s and 80s. Far too many "stoppages" result from that massive change in interpretation, where instead a free-kick would've been given in the 80s, quickly opening up the play, and making the boring and predictable primary-school style rolling maul less effective.

    Watch a game which doesn't involve your own team, and see how many times you call "BALL!" and instead a "stoppage" is decided. Or watch an old game, and count the frees paid, and the "stoppages", and compare - the frees are now fewer, the stoppages about double.

    The idea of "let it go, let 'em scrag, let 'em hold onto the ball longer, then ball it up" was always going to result in mobile wrestling. I'd love to know who were part of the Brains Trust behind that brilliant idea. Still, at least the change of rule-interpretation has so revolutionized the game it gave us the beautiful (and telling) term "stoppage".

    Commenter
    Lee
    Location
    Melbourne
    Date and time
    June 03, 2014, 8:51AM
    • @Lee this article is about scheduling, not rules, please dont change the topic. There are plenty of articles to comment on about rules, even some published today.

      I do agree however.

      Re scheduling and lower attendance, lets hope this is the start of the AFL realising the people they cr@p on each week are the same ones that pay all their wages.

      Commenter
      matty
      Location
      melb
      Date and time
      June 03, 2014, 9:36AM
    • I completely agree...or just apply the throwing rule effectively.

      Players are for some reason allowed to simply just let go of the ball now and it is termed "dispossession" instead! No it is not, it is a throw! Go back to pure and simple, was the prior opportunity? Yes, free kick or No, ball up. If the answer is No, did they dispose of it correctly or was it held in? So much simpler then did he dive on it, drag it in? etc.

      Players are penalised for having no time at all to get rid of it, then not penalised when they take people on have all the time in the world!

      And dw bout the fixture...the current AFL administration is a slave to the broadcast rights and doesn't care about the fans.

      Commenter
      Jez
      Location
      Melb
      Date and time
      June 03, 2014, 10:54AM
    • You have hit the nail right on the head. You only have to look at the Freo Bulldogs game to see where that interpretation has led to. It's still hard to believe that Freo only got 4 free kicks for the whole game.

      Commenter
      Phil
      Date and time
      June 03, 2014, 12:30PM
  • Completely agree. We need to remember that we aren't actually America when it comes to sport. America has a population more than 10 times larger than Australia; of course Monday and Thursday night games are going to work - they've got the population to fill stadiums, no matter what time the game is on.

    This year's scheduling has been the most antisocial, by far.

    Commenter
    Carlton guy
    Location
    Lygon Street
    Date and time
    June 03, 2014, 10:08AM
    • Too many people I know are ditching their seated club memberships (still a non attending member) and I am close enough myself to predict I won't renew next year either. Take out the Sunday games I don't attend and it is way too expensive and I can just stay home and watch it on TV like everyone else is doing. Just play some crowd sound effects over the game if it is going to be a TV only spectacle for some atmosphere.

      I'm a long time club member and I don't attend Sunday afternoon games. Friday night, Saturday afternoon and Saturday night and now I am forced to try a Thursday night (probably won't go as it will be too much to go straight after work & go to work the next morning) but Sunday is family time. The reality is there should be multiple games played at the same time across the country but now that TV is given the most consideration this won't happen. The AFL just stumbles along from one problem to another and it is so frustrating from rigged draws to changing rules. I wish we could have a National competition that doesn't have so may clubs in one city, every club plays each other twice, rules don't keep chaining and games are played when fans want to see them at fair prices for tickets and food & drinks.

      Commenter
      Peter
      Date and time
      June 03, 2014, 10:37AM
      • Absolutely agree. I looked at a membership this year, but after last year when I had to pay for a seat any way AND my membership I blew that thought away. Yeah, I could have gone a reserved seat but the scheduling of the games did not suit me or my family.

        Commenter
        Frustrated
        Date and time
        June 04, 2014, 7:35AM
    • Spot on Lee. I agree with your comments 100%.

      Commenter
      Stefy
      Location
      act
      Date and time
      June 03, 2014, 11:04AM
      • Great article. But if you were the CEO of the AFL and your remuneration was predominately linked to the growth in the broadcast deal, what would you do? Don't blame anyone except the Commission for choosing a pay structure for key executives that gives them exactly zero incentive to look after the fan. Link their pay to the number of people who attend the footy and you'll see a BIG change in scheduling.....

        Commenter
        Howard
        Location
        Melbourne
        Date and time
        June 03, 2014, 2:05PM
    • Why are people surprised about the scheduling of games to suit the broadcaster? Wasn't the AFL CEO's bonus attached to broadcasting rights? Every decision he made would have an influence on his income. Attach the bonus to average attendance and increasing "real" memberships and we might get the game back to the people. This isn't the US, there isn't a limited supply of product being sold to an over abundant audience. Currently there is an over supply of product in a very competitive market and a very limited and underfunded audience.

      Why do we have two new teams? Two extra games a week increases the value of the broadcasting rights and thus the bonus the CEO received. I don't this much of the legacy Andrew Demetriou has left. CEO's and bonuses attached to financial turnover are a recipe for short term gain and long term pain.

      Commenter
      Tony
      Location
      Glenburn
      Date and time
      June 03, 2014, 11:14AM

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      AFL 2015

      Round 1
      Thu, 02 AprTimes shown AEDT
      CAR vs RIC 19:20MCG
      Sat, 04 AprTimes shown AEDT
      MEL vs GCF 13:40MCG
      SYD vs ESS 16:35ANZ
      BRI vs COL 19:20G
      WBU vs WCE 19:20ES
      Sun, 05 AprTimes shown AEST
      STK vs GWS 13:10ES
      ADE vs NTH 15:20Adelaide Oval
      FRE vs PTA 18:40Domain Stadium
      Mon, 06 AprTimes shown AEST
      HAW vs GEE 15:20MCG
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      Round 2
      Fri, 10 AprTimes shown AEST
      WCE vs CAR 20:10Domain Stadium
      Sat, 11 AprTimes shown AEST
      RIC vs WBU 13:45MCG
      GWS vs MEL 14:10SO
      COL vs ADE 16:35ES
      GCF vs STK 19:20MS
      PTA vs SYD 19:40Adelaide Oval
      Sun, 12 AprTimes shown AEST
      GEE vs FRE 13:10SS
      ESS vs HAW 15:20MCG
      NTH vs BRI 16:40ES
      View All Fixtures
      Round 3
      Fri, 17 AprTimes shown AEST
      COL vs STK 19:50MCG
      Sat, 18 AprTimes shown AEST
      CAR vs ESS 13:45MCG
      ADE vs MEL 14:10Adelaide Oval
      SYD vs GWS 16:35SCG
      NTH vs PTA 19:20ES
      BRI vs RIC 19:20G
      Sun, 19 AprTimes shown AEST
      HAW vs WBU 13:10AS
      GEE vs GCF 15:20SS
      WCE vs FRE 16:40Domain Stadium
      View All Fixtures
      Round 4
      Fri, 24 AprTimes shown AEST
      RIC vs MEL 19:50MCG
      Sat, 25 AprTimes shown AEST
      STK vs CAR 11:10NZ
      ESS vs COL 14:40MCG
      GWS vs GCF 17:40SO
      PTA vs HAW 19:40Adelaide Oval
      FRE vs SYD 20:40Domain Stadium
      Sun, 26 AprTimes shown AEST
      BRI vs WCE 13:10G
      GEE vs NTH 15:20SS
      WBU vs ADE 16:40ES
      View All Fixtures
      Round 5
      Fri, 01 MayTimes shown AEST
      CAR vs COL 19:50MCG
      Sat, 02 MayTimes shown AEST
      RIC vs GEE 13:45MCG
      SYD vs WBU 14:10SCG
      GCF vs BRI 16:35MS
      NTH vs HAW 19:20ES
      WCE vs GWS 19:40Domain Stadium
      Sun, 03 MayTimes shown AEST
      MEL vs FRE 13:10MCG
      STK vs ESS 15:20ES
      ADE vs PTA 16:40Adelaide Oval
      View All Fixtures
      Round 6
      Fri, 08 MayTimes shown AEST
      COL vs GEE 19:50MCG
      Sat, 09 MayTimes shown AEST
      NTH vs RIC 13:45BA
      WBU vs STK 14:10ES
      GWS vs HAW 16:35Spotless Stadium
      GCF vs ADE 17:10MS
      MEL vs SYD 19:20MCG
      FRE vs ESS 20:10Domain Stadium
      Sun, 10 MayTimes shown AEST
      CAR vs BRI 15:20ES
      PTA vs WCE 16:40Adelaide Oval
      View All Fixtures
      Round 7
      Fri, 15 MayTimes shown AEST
      ESS vs NTH 19:50ES
      Sat, 16 MayTimes shown AEST
      ADE vs STK 13:45Adelaide Oval
      HAW vs MEL 14:10MCG
      CAR vs GWS 16:35ES
      SYD vs GEE 19:20ANZ
      WCE vs GCF 19:40Domain Stadium
      Sun, 17 MayTimes shown AEST
      WBU vs FRE 13:10ES
      RIC vs COL 15:20MCG
      BRI vs PTA 16:40G
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      Round 8
      Fri, 22 MayTimes shown AEST
      GEE vs CAR 19:50ES
      Sat, 23 MayTimes shown AEST
      STK vs WCE 13:45ES
      GWS vs ADE 14:10Spotless Stadium
      GCF vs COL 16:35MS
      HAW vs SYD 19:20MCG
      FRE vs NTH 19:40Domain Stadium
      Sun, 24 MayTimes shown AEST
      ESS vs BRI 13:10ES
      MEL vs WBU 15:20MCG
      PTA vs RIC 16:40Adelaide Oval
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      Round 9
      Fri, 29 MayTimes shown AEST
      SYD vs CAR 19:50SCG
      Sat, 30 MayTimes shown AEST
      HAW vs GCF 13:45AS
      MEL vs PTA 14:10TIO Traeger Park
      WBU vs GWS 16:35ES
      RIC vs ESS 19:20MCG
      ADE vs FRE 19:40Adelaide Oval
      Sun, 31 MayTimes shown AEST
      BRI vs STK 13:10G
      COL vs NTH 15:20MCG
      WCE vs GEE 16:40Domain Stadium
      View All Fixtures
      Round 10
      Fri, 05 JunTimes shown AEST
      FRE vs RIC 20:10Domain Stadium
      Sat, 06 JunTimes shown AEST
      CAR vs ADE 13:40MCG
      GCF vs SYD 16:35MS
      ESS vs GEE 19:20ES
      PTA vs WBU 19:40Adelaide Oval
      Sun, 07 JunTimes shown AEST
      GWS vs BRI 13:10Spotless Stadium
      NTH vs WCE 15:20BA
      STK vs HAW 16:40ES
      Mon, 08 JunTimes shown AEST
      MEL vs COL 15:20MCG
      View All Fixtures
      Round 11
      Fri, 12 JunTimes shown AEST
      PTA vs GEE 19:50Adelaide Oval
      Sat, 13 JunTimes shown AEST
      GCF vs FRE 13:40MS
      WCE vs ESS 16:35Domain Stadium
      NTH vs SYD 19:20ES
      Sun, 14 JunTimes shown AEST
      COL vs GWS 13:10MCG
      STK vs MEL 16:40ES
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      Round 12
      Thu, 18 JunTimes shown AEST
      ADE vs HAW 19:50Adelaide Oval
      Fri, 19 JunTimes shown AEST
      RIC vs WCE 19:50MCG
      Sat, 20 JunTimes shown AEST
      CAR vs PTA 13:40MCG
      GWS vs NTH 16:35Spotless Stadium
      WBU vs BRI 19:20ES
      Sun, 21 JunTimes shown AEST
      GEE vs MEL 15:20SS
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      Round 13
      Thu, 25 JunTimes shown AEST
      FRE vs COL 20:10Domain Stadium
      Fri, 26 JunTimes shown AEST
      SYD vs RIC 19:50SCG
      Sat, 27 JunTimes shown AEST
      HAW vs ESS 13:40MCG
      BRI vs ADE 16:35G
      STK vs WBU 19:20ES
      Sun, 28 JunTimes shown AEST
      CAR vs GCF 15:20ES
      View All Fixtures
      Round 14
      Thu, 02 JulTimes shown AEST
      SYD vs PTA 19:20SCG
      Fri, 03 JulTimes shown AEST
      COL vs HAW 19:50MCG
      Sat, 04 JulTimes shown AEST
      RIC vs GWS 13:40MCG
      GCF vs NTH 16:35MS
      WBU vs CAR 19:20ES
      MEL vs WCE 19:40TIO
      Sun, 05 JulTimes shown AEST
      ESS vs STK 13:10ES
      ADE vs GEE 15:20Adelaide Oval
      FRE vs BRI 16:40Domain Stadium
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      Round 15
      Thu, 09 JulTimes shown AEST
      PTA vs COL 19:50Adelaide Oval
      Fri, 10 JulTimes shown AEST
      RIC vs CAR 19:50MCG
      Sat, 11 JulTimes shown AEST
      ESS vs MEL 13:40MCG
      WBU vs GCF 16:35CAZ
      NTH vs GEE 19:20ES
      WCE vs ADE 19:40Domain Stadium
      Sun, 12 JulTimes shown AEST
      GWS vs STK 13:10Spotless Stadium
      HAW vs FRE 15:20AS
      BRI vs SYD 16:40G
      View All Fixtures
      Round 16
      Fri, 17 JulTimes shown AEST
      NTH vs ESS 19:50ES
      Sat, 18 JulTimes shown AEST
      GEE vs WBU 13:45SS
      GCF vs GWS 14:10MS
      COL vs WCE 16:35ES
      SYD vs HAW 19:20ANZ
      FRE vs CAR 19:40Domain Stadium
      Sun, 19 JulTimes shown AEST
      MEL vs BRI 13:10MCG
      PTA vs ADE 15:20Adelaide Oval
      STK vs RIC 16:40ES
      View All Fixtures
      Round 17
      Fri, 24 JulTimes shown AEST
      CAR vs HAW 19:50ES
      Sat, 25 JulTimes shown AEST
      GWS vs GEE 13:45SO
      ADE vs GCF 14:10Adelaide Oval
      RIC vs FRE 16:35MCG
      ESS vs PTA 19:20ES
      BRI vs NTH 19:20G
      Sun, 26 JulTimes shown AEST
      WBU vs COL 13:10ES
      MEL vs STK 15:20MCG
      WCE vs SYD 16:40Domain Stadium
      View All Fixtures
      Round 18
      Fri, 31 JulTimes shown AEST
      HAW vs RIC 19:50MCG
      Sat, 01 AugTimes shown AEST
      GEE vs BRI 13:45SS
      COL vs MEL 14:10MCG
      SYD vs ADE 16:35SCG
      CAR vs NTH 19:20ES
      GCF vs WCE 19:20MS
      Sun, 02 AugTimes shown AEST
      PTA vs STK 13:10Adelaide Oval
      ESS vs WBU 15:20ES
      FRE vs GWS 16:40Domain Stadium
      View All Fixtures
      Round 19
      Fri, 07 AugTimes shown AEST
      ADE vs RIC 19:50Adelaide Oval
      Sat, 08 AugTimes shown AEST
      COL vs CAR 13:45MCG
      WBU vs PTA 14:10ES
      BRI vs GCF 16:35G
      GEE vs SYD 19:20SS
      WCE vs HAW 19:40Domain Stadium
      Sun, 09 AugTimes shown AEST
      MEL vs NTH 13:10MCG
      GWS vs ESS 15:20Spotless Stadium
      STK vs FRE 16:40ES
      View All Fixtures
      Round 20
      Fri, 14 AugTimes shown AEST
      SYD vs COL 19:50SCG
      Sat, 15 AugTimes shown AEST
      ESS vs ADE 13:45ES
      NTH vs STK 14:10BA
      PTA vs GWS 16:35Adelaide Oval
      GEE vs HAW 19:20MCG
      BRI vs CAR 19:20G
      Sun, 16 AugTimes shown AEST
      RIC vs GCF 13:10MCG
      WBU vs MEL 15:20ES
      FRE vs WCE 16:40Domain Stadium
      View All Fixtures
      Round 21
      Fri, 21 AugTimes shown AEST
      HAW vs PTA 19:50ES
      Sat, 22 AugTimes shown AEST
      COL vs RIC 13:45MCG
      GWS vs SYD 14:10Spotless Stadium
      GCF vs ESS 16:35MS
      STK vs GEE 19:20ES
      ADE vs BRI 19:40Adelaide Oval
      Sun, 23 AugTimes shown AEST
      NTH vs FRE 13:10ES
      CAR vs MEL 15:20MCG
      WCE vs WBU 16:40Domain Stadium
      View All Fixtures
      Round 22
      Fri, 28 AugTimes shown AEST
      GEE vs COL 19:50MCG
      Sat, 29 AugTimes shown AEST
      GWS vs CAR 13:45Spotless Stadium
      HAW vs BRI 14:10AS
      NTH vs WBU 16:35ES
      ESS vs RIC 19:20MCG
      GCF vs PTA 19:20MS
      Sun, 30 AugTimes shown AEST
      ADE vs WCE 13:10Adelaide Oval
      STK vs SYD 15:20ES
      FRE vs MEL 16:40Domain Stadium
      View All Fixtures
      Round 23
      Fri, 04 SepTimes shown AEST
      COL vs ESS 00:00MCG
      RIC vs NTH 00:00ES
      HAW vs CAR 00:00MCG
      GEE vs ADE 00:00SS
      SYD vs GCF 00:00SCG
      MEL vs GWS 00:00ES
      BRI vs WBU 00:00G
      PTA vs FRE 00:30Adelaide Oval
      WCE vs STK 02:00Domain Stadium
      View All Fixtures
      AFL 2015
      Overall standings
      Team P W L D % Pts
      Adelaide Crows 0 0 0 0 - 0
      Brisbane Lions 0 0 0 0 - 0
      Carlton 0 0 0 0 - 0
      Collingwood 0 0 0 0 - 0
      Essendon 0 0 0 0 - 0
      Fremantle 0 0 0 0 - 0
      Geelong Cats 0 0 0 0 - 0
      Gold Coast Suns 0 0 0 0 - 0
      View all
       
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