ANZAC Day football is denied to sixteen teams in our competition. Bruce McAvaney said the ANZAC Day game was iconic. Matthew Richardson said that Collingwood and Essendon were lucky as every other AFL footballer would be sitting on their couches wishing they could be playing in this particular match on this particular day. And they are correct. It is iconic and Collingwood and Essendon are lucky that the AFL has accepted their arguments to award them the exclusive rights to this iconic match. It’s not fair on all the other teams and every other AFL footballer and it’s not right.
The AFL has a responsibility to be fair and endeavour to make the competition as even as possible. Andrew Demetriou confirmed that The AFL is socialistic with completely unashamed socialistic equalisation and distribution policies. Unlike American professional sports or European soccer whose obscene salaries enable wealthy clubs to maintain competition domination of their leagues, our egalitarian culture is represented in our sports with salary caps, priority draft picks and other equalisation measures. What Collingwood and Essendon’s monopoly on the ANZAC Day match does is entrench fan base and financial domination of the league by two of the strongest clubs by exclusively providing the greatest exposure outside of the Grand Final. This is not the intended outcome of socialism.
Eddie McGuire may be one we all love to hate. It’s that unfortunate tall poppy syndrome we probably inherited from our Irish background. We can appreciate why all Collingwood supporters love him. He has been great for their club and good for the game, and he has the right to promote his club and get them the very best deal he can. However, the AFL has the self-declared socialist responsibility to not drink Eddie’s kool-aid. Rather, they have the responsibility to arrive at the best and equal outcome for all clubs. Certainly the best outcome for all clubs would be that every club and every AFL footballer has the equal opportunity to play in this particular match and not be satisfied with a conciliatory medal offered for Best on Ground and an envelope full of cash.
Under The AFL’s socialistic equalization policy argument, Collingwood and Essendon have argued that they will bring in the crowds and provide the spectacle and The AFL can distribute some funds to the poorer clubs as compensation. This argument should not be accepted by The AFL as it is simply erroneous. Other clubs can also pull massive crowds. Monday night ANZAC Day eve match 2017 between Richmond and Melbourne with 85,657 in attendance proved that.
The other argument against financial compensation to other clubs is that it simply shuts them up and does nothing toward building up their membership and fan base. This is the worst of socialism. It is short sighted and only weakens a club.
The biggest argument to break the Collingwood and Essendon monopoly of the ANZAC Day game is fairness and equity of outcomes to all players and clubs. Just because Collingwood and Essendon were persistent enough to pursue a game on ANZAC Day does not give them the right to maintain a monopoly over this match. Eddie’s mantra of ‘Collingwood and Essendon tradition’ is simply insufficient and the AFL should not buy it.
So too is John Worsfold’s argument that it would be (only) a little bit insulting and a disservice to Kevin Sheedy for his vision. While Sheedy might like this argument, I believe that in his heart of hearts, if the game was opened up to all other clubs, he would probably smile inwardly and say to himself, “We had a darn good run.”
The teams to face each other in the prime game on ANZAC Day should be rotated in a way that is earned. Teams can fight for the right to participate in this game. As it is so close to the start of the season, what better spectacle and what better way to earn the right to play in this match than to award it to last year’s grand finalists. In this way, every team has equal right and opportunity to play in this iconic match.
If Collingwood and Essendon were not last year’s grand finalists, they can still play each other on this weekend, but not on this day. How can they honestly complain against that?
Eddie won’t go down fighting though. His endless promotional mantra of Collingwood and Essendon tradition is simply insufficient. So would be the argument that they were the first two teams and that they pioneered this very popular match and therefor deserve the exclusive rights to it. This is not the Collingwood and Essendon Football League. They do not have the right to demand exclusive rights to this very popular match.
Collingwood especially receive more favourable concessions in the form of big games than any other team. They get exclusive exposure to the Queen’s Birthday public holiday. They invariably get the opening round Friday night match and more Friday night matches than most other teams. For a socialistic football league, it obviously sees money as the means of distributing equality rather than exposure. While Friday nights are limited and are an earned privilege, lower performing teams like Carlton have satisfied the argument that Friday night games should be awarded to better teams. This is fair. Western Bulldogs have earned the right for Friday night football and so too have Greater Western Sydney. What Gold Coast, GWS, Brisbane and other clubs with struggling membership need is exposure, not a financial incentive to give up fighting for the right for big games.
If the 2017 ANZAC Day game was between the Bulldogs and Swans, they would still have achieved an attendance of 87,000 but those clubs would have received what they really need; valuable TV exposure. GWS are not far away from a Grand Final birth. Win or lose, what a simple yet fair and effective way to capitalise on that success by them also playing in the following year’s ANZAC Day game. This would also be far more economically efficient way of supporting a club as opposed to massive financial incentives to keep them financially viable. What GWS and other struggling clubs need more than financial support is membership and fan base support. This is the Australian Football League and Collingwood and Essendon do not have the right to monopolise this match. For the sake of fairness and equity, all teams should have the right to play on this day.