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Auskick putting Sydney kids off

An Auskick game in progress.

An Auskick game in progress.

THE AFL's boast of vast increases in participation numbers in western Sydney is a sham, according to a report commissioned by one of its key stakeholders.

This month's report, prepared by a Melbourne University academic at the request of AFL NSW/ACT, confirms the AFL is using Auskick registrations to disguise actual playing numbers.

A senior official with AFL NSW said last month that participation numbers in the western Sydney region had grown by 27 per cent, or 10,000 players, in a single year.

But the report's author, David Lawson, says: ''The reality is that junior club maturity and participation numbers appear to have stalled. There are 6 per cent less junior/youth players in 2012 than in 2009. The perception, however, is that the game is growing well. This perception is supported by masking low junior club numbers with Auskick numbers (Club, School and Community Auskick) and school program numbers.

''This optimistic, bullish perception is needed to market the game. However, this perception urgently needs to be underpinned by committed junior club participants.''

Government officials at federal, state and local levels, who have poured millions of dollars into Auskick programs believing it encourages children to play regular sport, might also be alarmed to learn it can undermine actual playing numbers in Australian football.

The report says: ''In the chase for participant numbers in NSW and ACT, a shortened and often subsidised version of Auskick has been aggressively rolled out in primary schools (In-School Auskick) and after-school centres (Community Auskick) … Junior club feedback has indicated that the In-School and Community versions have, at times, harmed Club Auskick.''

It appears Sydney kids, brought up on modified versions of other codes, might be different to children from other capitals, preferring competitive games to skill practices.

The report says, ''Soccer, rugby league and rugby union introductory programs essentially comprise modified games whereas Auskick centres concentrate on skill acquisition drills. Interviews and surveys have suggested that in Sydney there is a preference for more game-based activities to complement skill-based content.''

The report is at odds with a media report on September 14, quoting AFL NSW's Dean Connors, that Australian football participation in western Sydney had risen 27 per cent this year from 28,306 in 2011 to 36,000 to 37,000 participants.

Both AFL surveys and Connors define a participant as a ''no-less-than-six-weeks paying customer'' but, according to the AFL NSW/ACT report, playing numbers in junior Australian football across all of Sydney last year was 7694.

Nor is there any reason to boast about Sydney's senior numbers.

The report says: ''With the growth of senior numbers halving (from 8 per cent to 4 per cent), under-18s growth dropping from 12 per cent to 4 per cent and significantly more 100-point victories in 2012 in U18 division 1 and premier divisions, there appears good reason to maintain a watching brief.''

9 comments so far

  • Roy - you're like a hair dryer, constantly blowing hot air.

    Report all the facts, including Tom Harley's statement regarding numbers and you get a more balanced argument.

    Keep putting the boot into the AFL, while you have a leg to stand on.

    Roy from the beaches
    Northern Beaches
    Date and time
    October 24, 2012, 11:01AM
    • Wow, a negative AFL article from a Rugby League journo, how original, Roy!

      Who would have thought
      Date and time
      October 24, 2012, 11:17AM
      • So we have a rugby journo bagging the AFL stats. The AFL with their own numbers which we know they would manipulate as they want to let us believe they are making inroads for all their wasted money.
        What about a real journo does a real story and get some facts in to the equation. I am sure it is in the middle and nowhere near what the AFL want us to believe.
        But they will keep putting good money in top bad. It will eventually affect the viability of the whole comp ie other teams who do not get the same financial support. If we had a level playing field, ie no subsidies we would very quickly end up with a national comp with about 12-14 teams and no fixturing issues.

        hawker of hobart
        Date and time
        October 24, 2012, 11:38AM
        • Dear Hawker, you may wish to know that eight of the top ten clubs in terms of distributions from the AFL are Victorian clubs, but I doubt it. In top place is Prot Adelaide who receive just over $11 million, followed by Collingwood on just under $10.5 million, followed by Western Bulldogs, North Melbourne and Carlton, all on over $10 million the Essendon and Geelong just under $10 million. Sydney comes in in 11th position, two ahead of Hawthorn. Funds for the development of the game in NSW and QLD are included in the distributions to all clubs since Eddy Macguire had the allocations changed after the Lions beat them twice in Grand Finals. No Victorian clubs do any development activities in NSW of Qld anymore, but they still get the funds.

          Date and time
          October 24, 2012, 2:21PM
      • Roy, you need to get over the AFL. You are a rugby league writer after all. I'm yet to see any AFL journalist that has writtern a single article re league. How many times now for the year have you chosen this topic?

        Date and time
        October 24, 2012, 12:28PM
        • Get off the Grass Roy, I was at Bernie Mulane about a month ago and there were a 100 kids playing AFL. Never thought I would see afl having such an impact in the NRL heartland. I can understand it thou. Anyone with a half decent IQ would play AFL while the rest play Rugby League.

          Mornington Peninsula
          Date and time
          October 24, 2012, 1:40PM
          • Haha, AFL got caught out! They are so self-righteous and paranoid that they would lie to State and Federal governments just to get extra funding to not do any damage to the NRL at all.

            Fail game, fail competition, fail administrators. Imagine how much worse the AFL is in QLD hahahahahahaahhaah! RUGBY LEAGUE WINNING WOOOT

            Date and time
            October 24, 2012, 2:10PM
            • Still on that crusade Roy? Why not write an article about the way the NRL and Fox manipulate the TV figures for Rugby League - how much of that audience is actually based on dodgy formula that conts screens in pubs? If I go for a drink on a Saturday night I get counted as a viewer for the pay TV numbers. That's a joke.

              Date and time
              October 24, 2012, 2:13PM
              • At last the truth!

                Participation numbers have been fudged for a decade.
                Any kid who even looked at a football was counted as an Auskick participant.

                Whilst clinics in schools is not a bad idea, the problem is that the kids are left with the perception that that's all there is. It is seen as simple and boring.

                Kids from 7 years of age ( and probaably younger) know what a game is and how to keep score. They know what is a win and what is a loss. They want to win and they hate to lose.
                They know when they are being pandered too and being told "Isn't this fun"

                But AFL Football and Australian Rules are too separate entities. AFL is a business that uses Australian Rules. It is about money, and so long as fans come to the games and television is prepared to pay for broadcast rights, then it will succeed. Junior and community participation is irrelevant. Just watch the elite. Plenty of sports operate this way. Motor sports, horse-racing, boxing, and anything that is somewhat dangerous.

                But if one wants junior (and community-based) football you have to tackle it at club level. It doesn't need a lot of money. Most clubs run on volunteers and they love the game. For the kids, there needs to be something special about belonging to the club. The history, the values, etc. Other clubs are seen as different and inferior, and even if they beat you it is because they use unfair tactics (like training 2 nights/week). Games must be real games, but at the same time if you lose - who cares. Did you get a kick? If I can get one this week, I can probably try for 2 next week.

                Date and time
                October 24, 2012, 2:43PM

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