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TOPIC: Aussie Rules Super League

Morgan Aussie Rules Super League 1 month 3 weeks ago #1

Morgan
There probably aren’t many roundball enthusiasts on here (I only have a passing interest), but I have been following the European Super League kerfuffle pretty closely. It’s been a bit like watching a documentary about greed in sport, but on fast forward.

The TLDR version: A group of extremely wealthy European soccer clubs colluded to attempt to create their own European Super League that existed outside the domestic and UEFA competitions in an attempt to consolidate their power and wealth, and so they could dodge having to actually win their way into the European Champions League (what has been to date the most lucrative league, but required clubs to earn their spot based on their domestic league performance).

There is an excellent piece about it here.

The writer summarises the issue well: “The conundrum, in other words, is that European club soccer is being steered by two contradictory imperatives at the same time. There’s an imperative of attention and money, which tells the big clubs to act as though they’re the center of the universe, and there’s an imperative of sentiment, which tells them to act as responsible members of a community. And both those imperatives come from the same source—you and me, and anyone else who loves the current league structure, feel nauseated at the thought of losing promotion and relegation, and yet would rather watch Manchester City–Barcelona inside an active volcano than tune in to Fulham-Burnley in a resort.”

Then it all fell in a heap in the space of 48 hours after fan and political blowback. But it remains an interesting case study nonetheless.

I’ve been thinking a bit about how the AFL balances these tensions. Certainly on the fixturing / TV side the AFL gives priority to the big clubs. Carlton, who have been terrible for the better part of a decade, don’t need to ‘win’ their way onto Friday night games; they are granted them on the basis of their ability to draw an audience. Victorian blockbusters are prioritised because they can draw bigger crowds in Melbourne. And yet, when North and Footscray are given a blockbuster Good Friday Game, which seems fair, it is met (by me) with a bit of a yawn.

The AFL attempts to balance giving commercial benefits to the big clubs (eg, TV and sponsorship exposure, and game day revenue) by keeping ‘equity’ in the league through the draft and spending caps, and ensures the poorer clubs remain financially viable through financial distributions. So while the AFL doesn’t face the tensions to the degree of as European soccer, those tensions still exists. Big clubs, like Collingwood, seem to think there is benefit in keeping the smaller clubs along for the ride, but the system as currently constituted seems to be heading slowly in one direction: big clubs who generate the revenue, and mendicant clubs who make up the numbers in a TV rights deal. It’s hard for the smaller clubs to grow while they are denied primetime slots and fixtures, and they can’t catch up financially. Decades of success or failure could see some shift in the landscape, but it feels like power imbalances are pretty entrenched.

Is it so inconceivable that a group of big clubs might form the view that given they are responsible for the largest share of the TV rights and revenue that they would rather not share it evenly with their small cousins? If in 5 years, say, Amazon reached out to West Coast, Collingwood, Richmond, Carlton, Essendon, Sydney, Adelaide, Brisbane, Geelong and Fremantle to start a new Super League, who says yes and who says no? Wouldn’t an 18 round home and away fixture among the 10 biggest clubs hold appeal to some? Could a version of a 10 team Premier League and a 10 team second division (including Darwin and Tassie) with relegation and promotion also hold some appeal?

The AFL holds a few licences, so that could rule out some clubs like Sydney and Adelaide joining a breakaway league. The WAFC holds the WA licences, so I’m not sure what would happen with them (if both clubs were going to be in Super League, and would derive more income, then might they not be tempted to say yes?).

Would a club like Carlton or Essendon throw teams like North and Footscray under the bus for more money and less competition? Maybe.

Are clubs skewing towards acting like the centre of the universe rather than as responsible members of the community? I’m not sure. Big clubs didn’t like the tax on footy department spending, but also stood with the smaller clubs during COVID.

Is the AFL better at managing the competing interests of clubs better than UEFA? Probably, but it’s definitely an easier gig.

Should the Super League have been the model for starting the AFL (rather than teams joining the VFL)? Maybe. It probably would have been better for the WA teams.

A breakaway AFL league seems a very remote possibility, but it couldn’t be ruled out in my lifetime.
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Raglan Matt Aussie Rules Super League 1 month 3 weeks ago #2

Raglan Matt
I can see an AFL Super League consisting of the eagles being a goer. They could play every game in Dalkieth, and get Dean, Nathan & Jeff to umpire. Winner for everyone involved in footy.
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Walter the baker Aussie Rules Super League 1 month 3 weeks ago #3

Walter the baker
The AFL already is a the equivalent of the European super league. A self serving competition that contains includes clubs without with no historical reason to be there and no threat of relegation. The competition has succeeded at the cost of grass roots clubs and leagues.
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pollyanna Aussie Rules Super League 1 month 3 weeks ago #4

pollyanna
An epic by Fyodor Dostoevsky, or a post by Morgan?
Tough choice - gotta go with Fyodor, shorter read.
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Morgan Aussie Rules Super League 1 month 3 weeks ago #5

Morgan
The thing is WTB, that fans of the big Victorian clubs think they are the grass roots clubs, and all the interstate teams are the interlopers. The hubris is the same, but the motivation for an ‘elite’ competition is different. The European Super League was going to be bankrolled by a Wall Streep Bank (JP Morgan Chase). If you were writing the elevator pitch for them for an AFL Super League, you’d actually write two.

Rich Victoria teams: “The AFL is a self-serving competition that props up interstate clubs with no historical reason to be there, and you’re bankrolling the whole thing. The competition has succeeded despite at the cost of grass roots clubs like yours in the heartland. It’s time to put the clubs and their fans at the centre of the sport.”

Rich non-Victoria teams: “The AFL is a self-serving Victorian competition that props up small suburban Melbourne teams with no right to be in a national competition, and you’re bankrolling the whole thing. The competition has succeeded despite that, but it’s time to make it a truly national competition.”

You could probably add some mayo about elite sport being the biggest driver of growth, or smaller (ie, non Super League) clubs being able to do more as true suburban clubs, but it’s not hard to imagine a circumstance where resentments between clubs would give this sort of idea legs. There is already some debate about how much expansion is good for the league.
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shane Aussie Rules Super League 1 month 3 weeks ago #6

shane
The main issue is that its a huge deviation from the league structures. In theory, you can start at the bottom and work your way up into the top league in a country.

The super league would be more like the AFL, a closed system that feeds off other league systems but offers no path to join in. It would make the rich clubs indefinitely richer, at the expense of everyone else.

A super league in the AFL wouldn't change anything, it might just make players realise how unsustainable their pay packets are.
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Morgan Aussie Rules Super League 1 month 3 weeks ago #7

Morgan
I mostly agree on the closed system, except the AFL keeps adding teams. But if there is a driver for powerful EPL clubs to pursue a closed system they (sort of) designed in order to entrench their positions at the expense of other clubs, then it stands to reason that powerful clubs in a (mostly) closed system like AFL might want to set up their own even more closed system of their choosing for the same reasons. It wouldn’t even take a fundamental shift of changing the promotion / relegation structure.

Or, put another way, does someone like Jeff Kennett think he and a few select fellow Presidents could run a league better than the AFL? I’m sure he does.

Does Mark LoGiudice see a competition with reduced numbers but the same number of games as a better chance of Carlton to make money and win a flag. I’m sure he does.

It’s not a comment on the structure so much as an open question of where club greed takes the AFL over the next couple of decades. The status quo seems very stable, and there’s a lot to militate against radical change, but the AFL Grand Final is at the MCG forever on account of a backroom deal that benefits a select few, so I wouldn’t rule out that deciding the shape of the league at some point in the future.
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Noddy Aussie Rules Super League 1 month 3 weeks ago #8

Noddy
Good work Morgan.

Normally the first paragraph has to grab me to continue on, I got to the second but then wondered what was for dinner and it was gornski for me after that.
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pollyanna Aussie Rules Super League 1 month 3 weeks ago #9

pollyanna
Good effort Noddy - after dinner try the Brothers Karamazov. Initially Dostoevsky was going to give each brother their own novel but he slapped them together in one and kept it under 800 pages.
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Drubbing Aussie Rules Super League 1 month 3 weeks ago #10

Drubbing
The AFL don't need a Super League. They're already masters of self serving.
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Morgan Aussie Rules Super League 1 month 3 weeks ago #11

Morgan
So Noddy, what I'm hearing is that next time you want me to post as one large paragraph.

Feedback received.
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goodie Aussie Rules Super League 1 month 3 weeks ago #12

goodie
I am trying to figure out how Spurs got an invite.

Enjoyed your post Morgan. If I was smarter I would add something deep, other than I can't think of anything worse than an Americanized version of the AFL where only the 'big' exist in some kind of watered down, soulless competition. If I was in charge I would bring Fitzroy back, probably even University.
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jezzaargh Aussie Rules Super League 1 month 3 weeks ago #13

jezzaargh
anything that happens in this space will be driven by broadcasting rights and media companies, a la the 1997 Super League rugby debacle

Maybe reaching out to the local state comps and having a promotion/relegation approach? bring back the Foxtel Cup, for a start but give it a better name
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Corporal Agarn Aussie Rules Super League 1 month 3 weeks ago #14

Corporal Agarn
Bring back that preseason comp that was so bad that it only lasted for two years and I can't even remember what it was called.
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