The AFL’s Future: What to Expect

With the end of Andrew Demetriou’s reign in June this year, and the rise of Gillon McLachlan the AFL may be undertaking some serious change over the next few years.

While many have suggested that Gillon won’t be making his mark and stamping his authority, he has a great opportunity to make some more brave changes for the AFL’s future.

The cost of attending football matches

Pricing has become a major topic for football supporters this year. Attendances are down – despite what the AFL insists. The AFL has continued to assert that overall attendances are up over however many years – but this doesn’t take into account that there is one more game than previous years due to the expanded competition.

One of the great features of AFL, is that there is a real atmosphere at the game. People want to attend matches because it’s great the camaraderie and the competitiveness – even sitting in the crowd.

But this is being hurt by the high cost of the ticket prices, exorbitant food prices and this is proving too much for many supporters. Some talkback callers have indicated that they can no longer attend, with prices for their family well over $120.

Personally I have found the ticket prices to be too much. Having attended the Essendon vs North Melbourne match several weeks ago, I was hit with a ticket for $36 at the very back of the stadium! If I was to buy and food and drink in the stadium, then I wouldn’t have any change from a $50.

Even with cinema ticket prices of about $20 these days, it makes for an expensive day out.

Expansion

Everyone loves a good expansion – that’s what keeps private equity in business half the time.

In recent days, there has been a renewed focus on a Tasmanian team. While Gillon McLachlan has indicated that a Tasmanian team won’t be introduced in the next five to ten years, it may be worthwhile having a look at putting together a team sooner than that. Of course, for it to be successful, the famous Tasmanian North v South mentality may need to be investigated more thoroughly. To have a team for only 500,000 people (the entire state of Tasmania) everyone needs to be on board.

There are two options that may also be worth considering. Firstly, a “Northern” team, consisting predominantly of the Northern Territory. This would mean that the entire of Australia is covered and would provide greater resources to the NT – which has produced some of the finest AFL players.

Secondly, the AFL could go international and place a team in New Zealand. While this seems like a very strange idea indeed, it will be the necessary first step for the AFL when expanding overseas.

In turn, more teams means more revenue. Having 20 teams would be a nice even number which would make things more competitive

To make the draw easier, teams may only play each other once – 19 games per team each year. While clearly this would be controversial, it would make things much more interesting. Teams will only have one chance at defeating an opponent, and there would be less issues regarding an “unfair draw”.

Increasing AFL’s own media department

With the Essendon saga last season, the AFL simply had no chance to offer a rebuff (besides Carolyn Wilson’s persistent pro-AFL stance). The AFL will continue to keep much of its media in house and reduce its reliance on outside media sources. This is likely to reduce transparency of the code – especially when undesirable things happen (and they always do).

Clearly a continuation of the AFL’s own media presence is financially desirable, but this should not come at the cost of transparency and the different perspectives and opinions offered by a range of journalists from across the country.

One benefit for the footballing public, may be the creation of the AFL’s own free to air channel – or digital viewing. This would give the AFL the chance to be in the front of the public’s mind all day every day of the year. It would give it a great leg up over rival codes and would be a very brave move considering that it would lose over $1billion of revenue each year. Still, it’s a big idea worth considering.

Gillon McLachlan has a big job ahead of him. While he has had a privileged upbringing, it will take a lot of courage and balls to make the AFL’s future bright and reflective of his vision. But let’s hope he can do it!

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