The AFL needs fixing. Despite what the spin doctors at league headquarters might tell you there are a few big issues that our great game is facing. Rather than throw rocks, as many people are prone to doing, I have decided to become pro active and offer my simple five point plan on how to fix the AFL and get it right for the fans. So Andrew if youâ€™re reading this, take it on board, and do something for the fans for a change.
Fix the Hands in the Back Rule and Then Scrap the Rules Committee
Clearly this rule is causing far too much controversy amongst fans and players alike. The answer is simple, get rid of it. The new rule should read as follows:
Any player that makes contact with an opposing playerâ€™s back and thus has a detrimental effect on his ability to compete for the ball shall be penalised with a free kick being awarded to the infringed player.
Now I am no lawyer but I think the wording is clear enough and we can all understand both the spirit and the objective of the rule if it were worded in this manner. Hopefully I am not in the minority on this front.
Once the Rules Committee has made this simple change it should be disbanded. Then at the end of each season the game’s stake holders, its players, coaches, umpires and medical staff, can submit a list of rule changes they would like considered. If more than 50% of the groups submit a wish to explore the same rule change it can be introduced to the pre season competition for a period of two seasons or one season if it is a medical based rule change such as the larger centre circle before it is then put to a final vote before being introduced to the AFL season proper.
This would mean no more knee jerk reactions and rule changes that are not wanted by players, fans, coaches and whoever else. The league clearly needs to take a leaf out of soccerâ€™s book and keep changes to the game to an absolute minimum.
Introduce Free Agency & Draft Changes
This is an area that is a particular passion for me. I have already written at length just how I think the system should be changed and I still believe that these changes need to be introduced.
I would like to see the following changes made. Free agency introduced for players that have served a certain amount of time in the league, the draft televised, the trade period extended, player salaries released to the public and the trading of future draft picks allowed. To read the reasons behind my wish for these changes check out this article.
Fix the Draw
This canâ€™t be that hard. Yes I know everyone wants to play Collingwood and I know there is conflicting wishes for every team but it just isnâ€™t that hard. I am led to believe that the AFL pays a Canadian firm a ridiculous amount to do the fixture. I will volunteer my services for $50,000 and have it done inside a month. Itâ€™s just not that hard.
The league desperately seeks out parity by introducing a salary cap and a draft but it seems they still compromise themselves when it comes to doing the fixture.
I will again go to an American model that surprise, surprise works. Rivalry games need to be kept in place. But if teams only play each other once in a season from time to time I donâ€™t think itâ€™s going to be life and death. Game like ANZAC day should never change but the return game could be given a miss from time to time in a bid to even out the fixture.
Also any team that chooses to sell a game away from their home ground shall not have travel considerations taken into account. If Melbourne sells a game to Brisbane and because of it have a six day turn around on a trip back from Perth itâ€™s just too bad. They have no one to blame but themselves and should keep home games at home if they donâ€™t want travel issues.
Improve TV Coverage
Footy needs to be available to fans live against the gate. All eight games should be available live. I have no problem paying for the privilege but it needs to happen. Free to Air TV should still have its four or five games a week but if they are not showing them live they should be available on Foxtel. The live package should cost extra. Maybe $30 or $40 dollars a month but it needs to be available.
As a footy fan nothing annoys me more than watching a delayed telecast of a game, especially on a Friday night. The fact remains that I am not usually going to go to a Friday night game as it is a pain in the bum to try and drive into the ground, park, watch the game, and then get home and still have cooked dinner for my wife and spent time doing whatever else it is that I do on a Friday night. Instead I make do by listening to the 1st half of the game on SEN and then watching the delayed telecast when it finally starts around 9pm.
The league gets a ridiculous amount from TV rights so why not actually put the damn games live on TV? People say gate takings may suffer but going live against the gate has proven to be a major winner in the US and it would also generate additional income for teams via increased exposure for sponsors. Hopefully when the next TV rights deal roles around the league will consider this option.
Bring Back State of Origin
Itâ€™s an oldie but a goody I know, but the fact remains that the fans and players love State of Origin and it is only the clubs holding it back. The State of Origin teams should be picked at the conclusion of each season with a thirty to forty man squad named for each team. Then each preseason the matches should be played in the two or three weeks leading up to AFL season proper depending on how many teams the league wants to use. Teams are normally playing games at this time anyway and if the matches are played at night heat issues can be avoided.
Increasingly the pre season competition is becoming an event where draftees and rookie listed players are tried. The competition can still remain in its current structure but players selected for state squads would be available only for those matches not the preseason games.
If it was a four team comp the first two games could be played on the same weekend as the night grand final and then the final match between the two winners would be played in the dead week between the preseason competition and the season proper. This would give fans a nice run into the season and State pride can be restored.
This concept only works if it is supported by the players. Otherwise it will be dead in the water. The indications are that it does have their support and if this is the case the league needs to bring it back as soon as is feasibly possible. The major detraction is injuries to players but no matter what form of the game is being played these are going to be a disappointing reality of a contact sport. I say bring back the SA, WA, TAS and Vic teams and then should the series proves successful look at deciding what to do with players from NSW, QLD, NT, ACT and Ireland.
So there it is. Five steps that will help bring the AFL back to the fans and make it a spectacle we can all enjoy. I know it is probably a pipe dream but I really donâ€™t think it is too much to ask.
Article written by Luke Mather from oneweekatatime.com.au