We’re into April. We’d otherwise be summasing the fallout and headlines from three completed rounds by now, alas, our world looks very different. But the sporting news, whilst spluttering a bit, keeps coming..
1. AFL players got a decent deal, but in reality it’s a nil-all draw for mine. Yes, they got full pay for this year (AFL financial year is November to October) up until the league was suspended, but they’re staring down if we don’t get back barely anything from here until October 31. If we get some footy back that’ll help, but otherwise its basically 50% for the year give or take, decent whack.
2. Let’s address the getting back bit up front quickly. State of play? Australian cases are now starting to decline, but we’re still stuck deep in the woods let’s not kid ourselves. Plus, China, who went first in all this and are the benchmark for how we get back to normal, tried to lessen restrictions and saw an immediate re-spike. But, if we are in lockdown or close to throughout the rest of Autumn and all of Winter, to use easy, large periods of time to measure, surely by September 1 we can get back to something similar that allowed Round One to happen. Therefore, that’d be the best part of 13 weeks if we keen to get it done in the calendar year to play 16 more games each and maybe four ‘weeks’ of finals. Doable. So optimistically, I think we see footy again in 2020.
3. Line of credit might be the best thing the game has ever done. Or second best actually. Buy Marvel Stadium outright early was the best. Because that $1 billion asset in the equity pocket meant the NAB and ANZ, in simplistic terms, were easy credit partners here. So the game is assured because of that, no question, and all 18 clubs will survive, which we’ll come back to.
4. So we hear a lot of chatter about this causing radical changes to the game and how clubs are run. List sizes as low as 30, totally minimal football departments, etc. Lets be clear here, if the 2021 football year is relatively BAU, then revenue next year will as near as makes no different unimpacted. The only negative will be the game is carrying a lot more debt than it would like. A lot more. But then its two paths – one that sees significant cutbacks in order to repay that debt quickly, or for mine a more sensible approach balancing driving growth by keeping the game as progressive and typical as possible, but through a lens of cutting costs here and there to dig into that debt. All well and good cutting right back to get rid of that debt, but I think if we allow the game to flourish, but sensibly, it’ll probably earn enough to pay that debt back just as quickly.
5. Otherwise we have decisions to make about AFLW and state-based comps and things like underage footy. But again, whilst the AFL is a non for profit, the majority of clubs turn profits and the game as a whole is highly profitable. Let’s trim some fat, sure, let’s be sensible, but then allow the game’s general profitability to repay the debt we’re accruing.
6. As for underage footy, I think this is the perfect time to skip a year and get the draft age to 19. Why oh why do we combine the most important school year with the most important year for junior football (thankyou Dermott Brereton)? We now have a clear and obvious window to skip a year, and then next year draft kids one-year removed from high school. The kids that would have been drafted in 2021, get the clear air of it being the year after now, and that at worst, if they’re any good, they’ll be down 80 grand by the end of their career – big whoop. That’s a lock for me.
7. Best of three grand Finals? Spare me. We’re already in a race against time, and if we’re staring down 10 days left in December, surely we just play the one, like we have for I don’t know, a million years, and just be done with it? If you want to generate more revenue there’ll be better ways, and plenty of time for that. Patience will be key here.
8. Send players off to isolated camps and play games there. Yeah nah. In essence we’re all doing a pretty good job of that anyway, self-isolating at home regardless. How about we just do this properly as a society and worry about playing the remainder of the games when it suits. If every team plays their final 16 games each, that’s still money from the broadcaster whether the first few were played in regional NT or if they were two months later but all at Marvel. They’ll be the same cheque from Seven and Foxtel and that’s what matters most.
9. Gotta bump the NRL in here for comparison. Let’s summise the chatter in Melbourne, we might lose clubs, we might need to move North to Tassie, the game would be doomed without borrowing against Marvel (in essence), etc, etc. The NRL, ran nowhere near as well, nowhere. It does not have equity like Marvel to say ‘hey Comm Bank, hey Westpac, help us out’. So if we were so doomsdayer down here about the AFL, are they all delirious or just playing ignorant to their game’s plight up there? Say they get no public money, the best they can get from the banks would be half the AFL, they don’t have ‘a Marvel’. And their clubs run insolvent, whereas North, the ‘weak one’ down here, actually runs a profit. They currently have 16 clubs, right, for mine if they have a 2021 season they have 8 or 10. If I’m the AFL, and this sounds morbid, I’m making sure Sydney and the GWS are strong as, because that market up there is about to get properly volatile
10. A-League’s in big strife too. Fox Sports wants to pull out halfway through a deal, now that’s shocking. Sure, don’t renew, that’s one thing. But to break the lease, that’s seismic. The cruel irony is the fear that state-based clubs were too far off the current top-flight to envoke a second-division, well the big boys are coming back to the pack, that you know what, South Melbourne or Sydney Olympic as a business are basically going to be on par with Perth Glory or Brisbane Roar anyway. I see soccer and rugby union drifting off into their own barely relevant, almost niche worlds out of this sadly.
11. Back to footy, North to Tassie. Just no. Tassie was ‘this’ close to their own team, they don’t want North. They could palate Hawthorn maybe, but even so, they are now their own team or bust. And as for North, they knocked back nine figures from the AFL to go the Gold Coast when they were a badly run club. Now they’re fine, they were the first to do away with pokies money and run a profit. Sure, they’re a lean business, but in the 2021 climate that will be a business to savour, because they’re good to go. And lastly, one of the reasons Tassie became viable was that their State Government cheque to the Hawks and Roos would all go to the new team – how much do you want to believe that cheque ain’t going to football anymore? Health and jobs, perhaps?
12. St Kilda is the story they’re not going with. They have the most debt, by far, of any Victorian club. And given the new debt coming, that’s going to be massive. The AFL will either need a tonne of patience with the Saints, or they’ll need to be super agile, lean, and cunning. Otherwise, and I like the Saints and want to see the original VFL clubs live forever, their status would circle around untenable before too long.
13. International Rules is going to go? Good. Good riddance. Just not important enough, sorry. Now, the game will need revenue, the State of Origin thing we almost had looked spry a few months back, last time was for Bushfire Relief, how about we kick that off next year again for Football Relief?
14. Players are saying they’d want up to a month between the all-clear and the resumption of games. Yeah nah. That’s like you coming home from one thing needing to literally change clothes and run out the door again to make a second thing, and there’s your wife or mate pausing to fry off some bacon for an ad-hoc caesar salad. We get your hungry, but have you not seen the time? Two weeks, tops, maybe. But the world ain’t going to deal with a month of match simulation and lane drills boys, sorry.
15. Liverpool. Oh dear. Storied club, one of the greatest sporting brands, ever. One of the biggest EPL clubs who has never won an EPL. Talk about Richmond’s drought three years ago, breaking 37 years of agony, the Reds haven’t saluted since 1990. They were sooooo good this year they almost had the title mathematically in the bag before the virus hit. Finally they were going to do it. But now, as some European leagues consider voiding unfinished seasons, the league-leaders could be left empty-handed again. Chances are, given the UK’s plight with Covid-19, they won’t resume, and even though I have no skin in the English football scene, there’ll be no winner declared and one of the great seasons of all time will not end in a title. Staggering.
16. American sport wants to resume soon, yeah nah, the States remain a shit show. Their President is finding new ways of astonishing us and for mine, even the remote chance of a super-late straight-to-playoffs looks grim. Voided seasons and being totally prepped for the 20/21 seasons looks ominous unfortunately.
17. Geez, the 2021 Tokyo Olympics will be something. By then, you’d suspect, or you’d hope, the world will be able to embrace again. It’ll be, and I hate to make it but you know, it’s close to Easter, the Easter Sunday resurrection moment where the world will come together and have a mighty two week celebration of getting out the other side of this. Will be epic.
18. Talk of Big Bash contracts between the Melbourne Renegades and Marvel might interrupt footy. The footy is run by the AFL, who runs Marvel. It’s like one young kid whinging to his Dad that he can’t help him in the backyard because he has heard his brother has to be driven to cricket practice. The same guy’s in charge of both and can probably work something out.
19. List sizes came up before, I think we see some reductions, but again nothing drastic. We want to get leaner, sure, but not undo decades of progress. So now we have what, 36, 38, with half a dozen rookies? Given clubs average 32 or so players each year playing one game or more, how about we just ditch the rookie list and have 36 senior-listed players? And if need be, keep a mid-season draft we’re your able to top up by up to two players but remain in the salary cap? That’d be fine by me.
20. And let’s undo the rotations cap as well. Let’s go hard. Keep the quarters to 16 minutes each, not just for the remainder of this season but going forward too. I know it’ll deter some of the endurance athletes in our game, but our game is at its visual best when there’s speed and power.