King of the AFL: Andrew Demetriou could find himself confronting a players' revolt. Photo: Paul Rovere
The players want a bigger say in how the AFL is run.
THERE is no room at football's top level for a dictatorship and Andrew Demetriou must stop governing the AFL without the involvement of the players.
At present the AFL is controlled by a small group of people who feel it is necessary to keep power to themselves. Like any government or organisation that operates with such superiority, they run the risk of rebellion, and several key football figures are tired of their style.
Players and coaches are starting to win the struggle for power within the AFL. The players are supported by the AFL Players Association and want their voice heard. They are concerned by constant rule changes, the length of the AFL season and the monopoly the AFL has on the use of their image for marketing purposes.
Cast your mind back to last season when the AFLPA and its players met at Crown Casino. It was more than just a union meeting - it was a statement, a reminder. The message was clear: the players together are a powerful alliance and without them the AFL is nothing.
There is a concern that the AFL is too dictatorial in its approach and it has to stop. It is clear the AFL has made a mistake with the interchange, but won't fix it. The players were happy with the state of the game and asked for a shorter season that contained two byes. As a result, the standard of play would have not dropped away and players would be able to maintain a better level of performance. This was ignored.
The rules committee has a lot to answer for and the AFL has confused many. Last week committee member Kevin Bartlett called for the abolition of the interchange bench. These comments highlighted the detachment some on the rules committee have from the state of play. Players as a collective are concerned with the direction the game is heading and fear that natural evolution in our game will not occur.
Further problems surround the match review panel and the lack of understanding. Players are frustrated by the inconsistent findings and believe similar incidents can carry different penalties each week. To the players it can feel like the AFL responds to trends rather than having an effective system based on actual findings.
The AFL must listen to the players and a good start would be to act on the findings provided to them by the AFLPA. The players' association does a wonderful job to allow the players a voice and gathers information through surveys. It is staggering to think that with all these resources the AFL continues to act on its own and not consult the people who are at the coalface.
For too long the AFL has ruled with an iron fist and the time has come to stop. If it continues to ignore the players it will come to a head. Players, coaches and administrators are starting to get restless. Last year the AFLPA threatened to strike and the possibility of that happening wasn't too far away. The question to the AFL is why risk such an occurrence? The players are important and if they are confused I can only imagine what the average fan must think.
As Mikhail Gorbachev said: ''The world will not accept dictatorship or domination.''
How true that is - the AFL better start listening.
The Secret Agent is one of the AFL's 72 accredited player agents.