Monday, December 7, 2009

The Reason Australia Needs the World Cup #1431

AFL-1612AFL211212Ball-1251120764 Ah AFL – not a sport I really dislike. For any readers who are not from Australia, AFL is a football code which “uniquely embodies the Australian spirit”. It’s a sport that was created by Australians and for Australians – hence it must be the greatest sport in the World – If I were to argue against that I must logically be un-Australian, right?

There’s no question that AFL is currently the most popular sport in Australia. For those who run the AFL this is something that must continue to be the case. If it wasn’t the biggest sport in Australia, then it wouldn’t be the biggest sport anywhere and then it would be confined to the history books, and Australia would cease to have a game that we could be proud of. It might even be the end of Australia as we know it – how else can we be proud of ourselves as a people if we don’t have a sport to call our own?


The CEO of the Australian Football League, Andrew Demetriou, has come out today claiming that if Australia’s bid to host either the 2018 or 2022 FIFA World Cups is successful, the AFL may have to take a season off, potentially causing several AFL clubs to fold. His reasoning is that some of the stadia used by the AFL are also earmarked to be used for football games as part of any Australian World Cup, and may be ‘out of action’ for a couple of months.

Let’s ignore the fact that the AFL neither owns or payed for these facilities - while they have on occasion invested in stadium redevelopments and construction the funding for the facilities the AFL uses has come almost exclusively from state and federal governments. The same governments who know and understand the financial benefits a World Cup will bring to Australia.

The simple fact is, Andrew’s not telling the truth. The AFL have plenty of other stadiums and facilities that could easily enable them to have a season in 2018/2022. In 2006 the AFL played for much of the season without the use of the MCG due to the Commonwealth Games, this was relatively painless and the AFL were more than happy to allow this to happen, of course the AFL doesn’t consider Athletics to be one of it’s competitors.

Even if, as suggested today, the MCG could be out of action for several months as it is temporarily converted into a rectangular venue, some creative scheduling would ensure the AFL would be able to continue. Potentially the AFL season may have to take a break of 1-2 months, but there should be no problem with the AFL season extending into late Spring.

mcg1 MCG as a rectangular venue?

Whatever the solution – you can be sure there is one. There are at least 9 years for the AFL to prepare for the World Cup, ample time to work out alternative arrangements. And Demetriou is suggesting that AFL clubs could die because of this? Laughable.

So why did Demetriou come out and make these comments? There are two possible reasons – the first is that he is trying to make the AFL appear hard done by and over exaggerating the financial impact that a World Cup could have on the AFL and AFL clubs – trying to increase the amount of compensation that the AFL will receive.

He could also just be trying to derail Australia’s bid. On reading the headlines many an Australian sports fan will be shocked. They probably had nothing against a World Cup up until now – but now it seems their favourite AFL side will ‘cease to exist’ if the Cup is played on our shores.

Whatever his motivation – you can tell that the media’s on his side as well. Australia’s newspapers are filled with sports journalists who would be without a job if it wasn’t for the AFL. This is the motivation behind many of the sensationalist articles you might have read today. Melbourne’s Herald Sun even ran a poll on it’s website - “Would you accept scrapping the AFL season to ensure Australia hosts the soccer World Cup?” – time to declare your allegiances Australia – it’s either the game we’ve grown up on and the game that identifies us as the greatest nation on earth, or it’s the World Cup – not both.

I was following the results of this poll this afternoon – noticed a pattern – the “Yes” votes seem to occasionally disappear. Could be a technical glitch I guess, but it seems a little suspicious to me:


There are a lot of people in this country who will do whatever it takes to make sure Australia remembers that AFL is the Australian game, and the only game that a ‘true-blue’ Australian can support. We need this world cup, we need it like North Korea needs democracy.