The AFL must hate the game’s fans

The start of the AFL year is upon us and it’s hard to remember a more low-key start to the season. And I say this as a Swans fan whose team is playing tonight.

As ever the AFL, thinking themselves the smartest people in the room, reveal themselves to be the dumbest. In reaching for the gimmick, they again ignore the fans.

There was general relief when the Gillon McLachlan era came to an end. Despite his many Melbourne-based boosters, McLachlan was a terrible chief executive. He had a particular talent for being late on all the big issues. Is handling of racism and concussion scandals was inept. There were plainly stupid ideas such as AFLX. The pre-finals bye. The cost of going to the footy. The constant rule changes. McLachlan came across as a bloke so far out of his depth, he needed water wings to make it to the office.

But now we have opening round. Or round zero as it’s being called. A genuinely dumb concept that could only have been dreamt up by marketing types with no real thought about the fans. It doesn’t give any faith that new AFL boss Andrew Dillon will be an improvement on McLachlan.

For footy fans, it’s been a long summer. It always is. The start of a new season is awaited with great enthusiasm. It’s time to see the team play again. So what do the AFL do? Invent a concept nobody asked for or wants. There are only four games this weekend. The fans of the other 10 clubs are told to wait another week before seeing their team.

All the games are in Sydney and Brisbane. So no game in Adelaide. No game in Melbourne. No game in Perth. That is not a way to start a season. That’s a way to alienate the majority of the game’s fans.

I’ve said this before but AFL is a game that survives in spite of, not because of, those charged with looking after it. It survives because it is basically a great game. It survives on the tribal loyalties of the fans who love the game and have handed that love down the generations.

The AFL is not alone when it comes to bewildering sport administration.

Last week, the National Rugby League opened its season in Las Vegas. Yes, the one in America. Maybe it’s something about Australia’s geographic isolation, but Australian sport administrators are always trying to foist our essentially regional games on the rest of the world.

The AFL tried it for years with games in London and the US. Port Adelaide had its always doomed experiment in China. Apart from providing a good day out for some expats who haven’t seen a game in a while, it’s hard to see what the point is.

No one outside Australia cares about footy. And that’s fine. It’s our game, let’s celebrate it as such. No one outside NSW, Queensland and some pockets of England cares about rugby league.

It points to an inferiority complex among our sport administrators. Or maybe it’s an ego thing. They all also tend to go on the same expensive ‘educational’ trips to the US. They go to the Super Bowl and marvel at the marketing and the glitz and the glamour think ‘we have to get some of that’.

They ignore the fact that American sports need all that glitz and glamour because the underlying game is so dull. I mean, have you tried to watch American football? Four hours of committee meetings, with the occasional outbreak of physical activity for 10 or 20 seconds.

Of course, the world game of football has no such excuses in Australia. It is already an international sport, it’s just that it’s been run for decades by a long line of charlatans, crooks and incompetents. But that’s another column.

The only optimism that can be found in the AFL’s round zero, ground zero concept is that it will surely never happen again. Even the AFL can’t be that stupid.

The reading is still Lanark. About two-thirds through it. Still enjoying it. Into book four now and Duncan Thaw has become Lanark again. Maybe by this time next week, I will have completed it.

Listened to TJ Newman’s Drowning this week. As someone who has delved into the world of aircraft disaster novels in Flight Risk, I was interested to see another take.

I am something of a plane nuffy so that helped as well. It was good fun. All cliffhangers and big revelations. A diverting listen. Still, if you are into this and have Spotify you could always just listen to Flight Risk.