The biggest question in football is not who will win the premiership in 2009; it is not who will take
Charlie home on the Monday night after the Prelim final; geez, it’s not even about when Patrick Smith
will finally get off Carlton’s back about the salary cap cheating and subsequent fine that occured in
2002. For crying out loud mate, it was 6 years ago.  Leave it alone!  And it’s not as if your mob was any less complicit in its rorting of the rules either – they just had someone in power who allowed them to get away with it.

No, the biggest question floating around football circles in 2009 is this. “Just WHO is running the

You may be surprised at the answer.  Most would say Andrew Demetriou, some would suggest Andrian
Anderson, Mike Fitzpatrick or even the ghost of Ron Evans who are lauding over the brand in the
current world.

However, after witnessing the slow death of footy over the past few years, I can only suggest that
there is a small group of high-powered businessmen who have infiltrated AFL House over the past few
years and are working as a cancer to bring the sport down from the inside.  I speak, of course, of
Ben Buckley, Frank Lowry and the Football Federation of Australia.

Fair dinkum, the sport of Australian Rules Football (footy to the unitiated) is now a laughing stock
compared to what it used to be like in the good old days.  The game itself is a hybrid version of
something that doesn’t quite equate to what many footy lovers grew up with.  It is a feminised game
designed to do what? – to maximise participation at the lower levels because the AFL itself is scared
to death that soccer will infiltrate its heartland and take over in popularity.

In essence, what the AFL is doing in terms of changing rules every year, and sanitising the sport to
the extent that we no longer recognise it, is a sad over-reaction to this ‘soccer threat’, and in
reality, the AFL itself is doing more and more to ensure the health of soccer in the Australia psyche
than Guus Hiddink, Pim Verbeek, Harry Kewell, Mark Viduka and the 2006 Socceroos have done in their
collective rights.

Demetriou and his cronies at Docklands Stadium (I wonder if they still have ‘Telstra Dome’ as the
address on the official letterhead by the way) have given soccer a heads up and a huge boost by
destroying the ethose of the game we grew up loving and playing.
I hear many people reading this rant thinking that I am out of my tree and that AFL Footy is in
better health than ever.  On the outside, this may well look true.  More club memberships than ever,
more TV views, bigger attendances, and more corporate sponsors all point to a healthy competition,
but I would suggest that the way the game has been changed, and is being run from the top is doing
more to anger and frustrate the heartland supporters all over the country that it will only take
another one or two significant alterations to the ethos of the code, and supporters will drop off in

What did we love about our game as we grew up playing and supporting our clubs?  We adored the
challenge of a one-to-one contest, we thrived on the competition, we craved the toughness, both
mental and physical, of the players.  We loved our traditional colours, we identified with our
players, we worshipped the sport because it was hard and tough.  It was the game for all Australians,
even those who lived north of the Murray River.  We had reserves and under 19’s who wore our colours,
where talented youngsters could follow their club from juniors to senior footy.

There was no diving and play-acting as in soccer, there was no padding and stop=start methodology as
in America football.  It was a  pure, unviolated and unabashed sport in which we lost ourselves every
Saturday afternoon as the greatest sportsmen in the world pitted themselves agains their enemies in a
1-1 battle, all which thrived within a contest between two proud and passionate clubs.

What have we got in footy now.  We have a game where the one-to-one contest has been removed.  The
excitement of a high mark (speccie) and a hard but fair hit has disappeared.  We have a game that is
played by sportsmen who can run fast rather than footballers who can use the ball effectively.  We
have a sanitised journey from under 16’s through under 18 – the coaching of which is all very similar
and where those who aren’t exceptional footy players at 15 invariably get left out of the system.

Where is the next Tim Watson who was able to acquit himself well against grown men at 15 years of
age?  He will never make it because the system won’t allow it.

2009 sees a game that is so soft, sanitised and one-dimensional that many of it’s greatest supporters
over the years are becoming disenchanted, disenfranchised and are turning off in droves.. In much the same way that the AFL over the years has not done enough to look after the footy heartland, it has also done very little look after the common man – the supporter who gave rise to the great game we used to have.  Unfortunately we no longer have the great sport.

We have soft rules, where a minimal touch after a mark will incur a 50m penalty.  We have a stupid
rule where you are unable to place a hand anywhere near an opponents back, less you incur a free kick
against you.  We have a ridiculous rule that no longer allows for a good old-fashioned shirtfront,
yet the contradictions that come from AFL House about this rule do more to confuse umpires, players,
the medja and supporters alike than they do to look after the players.  We have colours and jumpers
that have been altered so that we don’t recognise our true colours.  We no longer have home grounds
where tread ‘enmasse’to barrack for our heroes.  We have two grounds in Melbourne that have lost the common touch.

We have to pay an exhorbitant amount of money to go to the footy – that in itself can be acceptable given the current climate, however to pander to the caterers by agreeing to overpriced crap food and watered down beer is way beyond the paul!

Many of these issues are off the field, and it’s understandable that they exist given the current global corporate climate.  What beggars belief however are the problems that exist ON-FIELD.  Wher is the competition?  Where is the toughness?  Where is the one-on-one contest?  Where are the speccies?  Where are the big hits?  These are questions that members of an older generation are asking.  WHERE IS OUR SPORT???

Other questions we are asking include : – Where are Where is the justifcation for stupid rules?  Where is the rationalisation for such a soft, mamby-pamby “don’t you touch him’ sport?  Why has the AFL ruined OUR game? Why can’t three umpires get it right??  Where is the consistency??? There are no answers to these questions, and yet, the myriad complaints about these ridiculous rules that we hear every game we go to these days.

The AFL has obviously directed the umpires to be tough on stupid little indiscretions – things that any normal person would laugh at, and yet the AFL seems to think that little things are a hanging offence.  The way the game is officated will be the subject of another Explosive Rant in the coming weeks so I will not go into it all now, suffice to say that the modern game is going to be the death of footy, and the AFL only has itself to blame.

Given that all most of these problems with todays game exist, the FFA would be laughing at the waft of panic that permeates out over Melbourne from the front doors at AFL House.


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