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AFL: Anzac Day AFL preview

Michael Gleeson, Greg Baum and Martin Blake preview the Anzac Day blockbuster game between Essendon and Collingwood.

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MICK Malthouse is not the only one who believes the Anzac Day game should be shared around the clubs, rather than giving Essendon and Collingwood a duopoly on the second-biggest day of the season.

Board members of rival AFL clubs, key administrators and players have been discussing whether a performance-based strategy rewarding two clubs with the right to represent the AFL on the historic day would be more appropriate. It is a cash bonanza and there is widespread feeling that the AFL should share the wealth of opportunity among its clubs equally and that Anzac Day would be a good place to start. The Age revealed last week that the AFL had increased costs to clubs across the board in areas as diverse as iPad apps, Brownlow tables and talent pathway fees at a cost of up to $150,000. Clubs are now employing, on average, an extra six people a year, with more resources being spent in development, welfare and player recruitment areas.

But some clubs cannot afford the luxury of spending extra money on development, nor do they command the sponsorship dollars of the big clubs such as Essendon and Collingwood. There is a feeling other clubs would benefit hugely with exposure in the Anzac Day game.

The occasion has escalated considerably from an idea by Kevin Sheedy in his garden during the mid-1990s. Today, both Essendon and Collingwood use this match to increase the value of their sponsorships and corporate packages.

Anzac Day is now a commercial commodity. The event and the occasion are both so grand there is a feeling that 80,000 to 90,000 people would attend the MCG regardless of the two teams participating.

The Community Shield in English soccer, where the winners of the Premier League and FA Cup do battle at Wembley, always draws 90,000 people.

There have been suggestions that the two grand finalists from the previous year do battle, or the premier from the previous year and the winner of the NAB preseason cup. That way the NAB Cup would mean more, increasing crowd numbers, growing the level of interest and encouraging clubs to field stronger sides.

The evolution of the Australian sponsorship market has changed dramatically and there are plenty of players who feel the occasion is now too grand for two clubs to have a duopoly on "owning" the day.

No sport has two clubs that either own a time slot or have an opportunity to hoard major profits like this.

The Secret Agent is one of the AFL's 72 accredited player agents.