Crowded house: The scene at Etihad Stadium earlier this year.

Crowded house: The scene at Etihad Stadium earlier this year. Photo: Sebastian Costanzo

THE last time ''congestion'' was this big a football buzzword was just on 40 years ago. Then it involved centre bounces and the amount of players flocking around them.

The VFL had a quick and effective response. It introduced for the 1973 season a diamond, and two seasons after that, a square, into which at centre bounces only four players from either side were allowed. Problem solved.

Four decades on, the congestion is not just confined to the centre square. It is all over the ground, and the subject of plenty of angst from Laws of the Game Committee member Kevin Bartlett, peeved that the AFL is not immediately adopting a cap on spiralling interchange numbers, allegedly the cause of much of the traffic.

AFL chief executive Andrew Demetriou wants more data taken, analysed and games monitored further before that happens.

We will doubtless see plenty more numbers trotted out next season to support a variety of arguments. But does it really need to be this hard?

Here's a not-so-radical suggestion that could go much of the way to clearing the congestion before it occurs, and does not require endless studies, number-crunching, or even need to bring the interchange into the equation. How about just getting the umpires to blow their whistle and throw the bloody ball up quicker? Not rocket science, is it?

One of the three rule changes to be implemented for next season, throwing up rather than bouncing the ball, is a positive step in the right direction, one that will save an estimated four to nine seconds.

But isn't that only half a solution? Think about some of the rugby-like scrums we saw evolve in games this year, mauls that dragged on so long all they were missing were some props, hookers and cauliflower ears.

Players were drawn to the moveable feasts like bees to a honeypot, the umpires having been guided by their bosses after direction from the lawmakers to let play continue as long as possible in the hope someone will prise the ball free, the chief consideration seemingly avoiding time-consuming secondary ball-ups.

Here's a thought: Call the first ball-up well before there's half a team clustered around the contest, then throw it up. That avoids the secondary stoppage, saves those four to nine seconds with the throw instead of bounce, plus another five or six spent watching an army of on-ballers grapple each other for next to no result.

Watch for a few minutes any YouTube footage of a game from the '80s, even '90s, and see what happens. The umpires are not mucking around when the ball is not coming out. They are whistling and quickly starting again, while the two or three players concerned are still picking themselves up. There is no time for their teammates to get there, and because of the lack of traffic, no need for the umpires to indicate a clear path for their exit from the scene of the ball-up. Genius, huh? Not really. But it works.

I'm not necessarily convinced like most that the rising interchange numbers correlate so definitively with the extra clutter these days. But even if they do, wouldn't quicker ball-ups make the job of even fresher players getting to contests that much harder than it is now?

Already, I can see the Laws of the Game people rolling their eyes and chanting: ''Simplistic solution.'' But it is one plenty of learned fans who watch arguably as much if not more football than those in official positions have been in agreement on for long enough.

And on this one, when it comes to football officialdom, not being able to see the forest for the trees is a phrase that springs to mind.

There is enough evidence to support their regular claims, not just that too much tinkering goes on (next year will give us our 50th rule change since 1994) but that the lawmakers don't always accurately predict the full consequences of the tampering. Such as Adrian Anderson's prediction when the substitute was introduced prior to the 2011 season that ''it will have the effect of limiting the interchange … It's about preventing it going to a new level, which would have created more congestion.'' A comment he would probably rather he had qualified, seeing average rotations went from 117.4 in 2010 to 118.6 last year to 131 this year.

Or the decision to supposedly shorten game times in 2006 by reducing quarters from 25 minutes to 20 minutes, but changing time-on measurements. Game lengths were an average 117.3 minutes in 2006. By last year, far from shortened, they had continued to blow out to 123.5 minutes.

Demetriou might be dismissive of scepticism about rule changes, but they are not the sort of examples that should prompt complete faith in the AFL game analysts and rule makers to get it right.