We all know that our particular brand of sport carries with it a certain kind of macho image that you either love or hate – or maybe even love to hate. But the fact is that our sport really has to come out of the dark ages in this regard if we’re ever to gain the sort of recognition our sport truly deserves. Otherwise, it’s going to be a case of a gradual downward spiral in popularity as other sports are perceived to belong a little more to the 21st Century than to the kind of 1960s and 70s machismo that other sports have left behind.
This, in turn, will damage the game’s commercial prospects in all sorts of areas from sponsorship to gambling and beyond. TV coverage and gambling on Aussie Rules, for example, go hand-in –hand. You can even play online casino games based on our sport. But all these things change for the worse as a result of negative image based on stereotyping.
And of course, all this kind of thing came to a head recently and made our sport something of a laughing stock in the eyes of the world as the guy in charge laughed at the setting fire to a dwarf’s clothing on “Mad Monday”.
This may be a storm in a teacup and Andrew Demetriou may have been a little unlucky to have laughed at what he said he thought was a joke. But if we put ourselves in the shoes of someone who knows little or nothing about Aussie Rules for a moment – then imagine how this news would have been received. It’s very easy to see how this kind of thing reinforces the negative stereotyping which does so much damage to the sport.
And let’s be honest; a lot of that image is still warranted. And where other sports like soccer, both types of rugby, and cricket have all moved on a great deal in recent years from the kind of white male-dominated sports they used to perceived as – Aussie Rules still has some catching up to do.
Of course, Andrew Demetriou realises this as well as anyone and there’s been some desperate backtracking in the face of the PR disaster that followed the incident, but it’s going to take a major cultural shift to fix the problem.
All references to such change are almost always greeted with derision in their earliest stages – before they become the accepted norm. So we need to change. Let’s face it; over the last few years, we’ve had a player pictured seemingly engaging in sex acts with a dog, another dressing as Adolf Hitler and another player parading through Melbourne’s centre brandishing a sex toy in a woman’s nightie. You can almost hear the guffaws from the “boys” here – but this kind of thing just causes hoots of derision around the world – and our sport as a collective is the loser.