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Mother's Day is an opportunity for AFL

THE AFL prides itself on being a brave and bold organisation. In recent years, it has gone to war with governments and stadiums, it has brutally crunched record-breaking broadcast agreements with the country's most powerful media moguls and taken calculated but costly risks on two of the best-known rugby league players in the land.

Casting aside potential loss of face and bank balance, it has launched two football clubs off the back of Karmichael Hunt and Israel Folau in two of Australia's toughest sporting markets. This week's indigenous fixtures are another reminder that the AFL can rightly claim to be a pioneer.

Which makes the league's decision to run away from Mother's Day all the more perplexing. Particularly given the AFL's constant claim that it must continue to embrace women in the code as clubs and their increasingly desperate bottom lines demand membership, sponsorship and attendances.

As ''fan experience'' goes, the scene at Etihad Stadium on Sunday afternoon about 12.30pm could not have been more uninspiring. Some 7000 North Melbourne and Bulldogs supporters had trickled in to witness a handful of North officials egging on a handful of women dressed in club colours kicking for goal. In fairness, the Kangaroos tried their hardest.

On the big screen, North players spoke about their mothers. At the Medallion Club mothers were handed roses. Commentators spoke about getting home early for family dinners. Just over 20,000 fans turned up to watch the Bulldogs cause an upset. And that was about it.

Then Fremantle defeated Port Adelaide in front of a healthy 30,000 over at Subiaco and football heaved a collective sigh of relief. The day the AFL claims clubs shy away from was finished for another year.

This columnist would argue that Mother's Day as a fixture has only become that way due to the AFL's lack of imagination. That applies to clubs as well. Those clubs who lobby each year for new stand-alone attractions in the hope they become blockbusters should use their imagination and embrace Mother's Day.

Given what the AFL and its clubs have done with Anzac Day, the Dreamtime game, the season-opening round and others makes it all the more strange that it has turned its back on what has become around Australia, and certainly in Melbourne, a massive occasion. Restaurants and cafes now burst at the seams at breakfast, lunch and dinner. So do those cinemas that schedule special Mother's Day features with add-ons.

The Mother's Day Classic run/walk around the Tan attracts thousands raising funds for the National Breast Cancer Foundation. It seems more astonishing that the AFL, having embraced with the Melbourne Football Club the Breast Cancer Network Australia's famous pink lady in the middle of the MCG, has not used its imagination to create something special for its legion of women fans on Mother's Day.

The AFL says attendances are always poor on Mother's Day, having created a climate of non-interest and in fact removing one of the three games usually played on a Sunday to the following Monday night. This year's games were never going to attract big audiences given the teams involved.

Last season, Essendon played West Coast at Etihad and Melbourne played Adelaide at the MCG. In 2009 and 2010, there were no games at all in Melbourne and in 2008 there were no games at all on Mother's Day due to a weekend off for a special 150th-anniversary state-of-origin game.

Women's Round has failed to become a meaningful punctuation mark in the AFL's fixture having been shifted around and sometimes ignored altogether. It's to be held over round 17 this season.

Here's a thought. Schedule it over the Mother's Day weekend and pitch Collingwood against Hawthorn/Essendon/Carlton/Geelong/Richmond at the MCG on Sunday afternoon. Join forces with the Tan classic. Play a VWFL game as a curtain-raiser. Line up Deborah Conway or Clare Bowditch to perform a couple of songs. Offer an incentive for mothers and their children to come along. We think the crowds would come.

The AFL is the game that welcomes everyone. Women embrace it in proportions not seen in any other code. And yet two days ago, for the AFL and its clubs, Mother's Day was an opportunity lost.

14 comments so far

  • Yeah, nah.

    Tyler Durden
    Date and time
    May 15, 2012, 9:43AM
    • Isn't the highest form of respect to women and mothers treating them as 'normal' supporters? Seeing them as the week-in, week-out loyalists that they are and recognising that they are in the stands every week. The whole concept of somehow having to bribe them or patronise them to get them through the gates actually seems a bit insulting.

      Really do wish Caro would occasionally stick to footy and stop using it merely as a vehicle to promote her social agenda.

      Date and time
      May 15, 2012, 10:48AM
      • Well it had to be brought up Kris. Didn't it?. We've all seen how much effort the AFL and the media put into Father's Day. It's only fair that the Mum's of the players get treated the same. Oh Hang on.....

        Date and time
        May 15, 2012, 1:02PM
      • Respect has nothing to do with it. Mothers day crowds are always terrible and its not because women supporters don't go. Its because sons, daughters, etc who would normally go to the footy go over to mums place for lunch instead.

        Date and time
        May 15, 2012, 3:46PM
    • Mother's day should be marked no more or lass than Father's day or men's round. If you are a mother who likes to go to the football, you will go. If you aren't already a fan, marking the day as a special opportunity to become one when the day is supposed to be about doing things that will make Mum's happy doesn't make sense to me.

      I am female and it irks me when female football fans are seperated from their male counterparts. We go to the football every week. Our clubs know we're there from our memberships or, oddly enough, a quick glance at the crowd. I certainly don't need my club or the AFL pointing out or suggesting that just because I have two x chromosomes I am somehow representing something different to my heterozygous fellowship.

      I don't like women's round. Just because it's called that doesn't make it any different to any other round. Every week is women's round and every week is men's round and kid's round. Take away the number of female attendees from the total attendance and it would look like a rugby crowd.

      If you want to raise the profile of women's participation in the sport, write about the things they do as people rather than women. Pick the match of the round from the VWFL and report it. Write about people, not just women who work at clubs and tell us what they do. Make it a point of similarity rather than difference.

      Professor Bollocks
      Date and time
      May 15, 2012, 11:22AM
      • Ah Caro you are as imaginative as the AFL buffoons you are castigating. Your solution after paragraph upon paragraph of whingeing? Play Collingwood against someone, that will bring the crowds. Why bother? 2 years down the track you and everyone else will moan about the fact that Collingwood has been handed another "blockbuster" fixture.
        Here's a thought. Play North versus the Bulldogs on Anzac Day and the Pies versus the Bombers on Mothers Day. Guess which day will be bigger in 2-5 years time. Do you see now?

        Date and time
        May 15, 2012, 11:48AM
        • "Here's a thought. Schedule it over the Mother's Day weekend and pitch Collingwood against..."

          HELL no. I wont go - mother's day is to be spent with mum and bub. Not the footy.

          Get real, Carro.

          btw, Go Pies !

          Mt waverley
          Date and time
          May 15, 2012, 1:24PM
      • They should have the games played on that day as appreciation to mothers game, I watch the Port V Freo game and that was a nice gesture to give flowers to the mothers at the ground before going and signing there song in the club rooms. One thing that I noticed is a higher female participation rate to the games over in the west from watching games on TV from WA.

        Date and time
        May 15, 2012, 12:31PM
        • two options - leave Mothers day footy free all together and dot the games for that round around the nation on the saturday OR put the so called "big 4" melbourne clubs on Mothers day and draw a bigger crowd.
          You cant play 2 of the lowest drawing games on the least supported day of the season and expect any different.
          However if you compare the crowd at the the north doggies game to ANY NRL game for that week, it was effectively double.

          Date and time
          May 15, 2012, 1:00PM
          • The AFL owe women - nothing!

            Date and time
            May 15, 2012, 1:35PM

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