Saturday, December 12, 2009

What is wrong with playing hardball on the round ball?

Gather 'round children, for the gospel of the great sphere. I, like other great historical figures and heralds of new dawns, have a dream. I have a dream of watching scores of men who are paid obscene amounts of money run around a field chasing a ball with all the desire jingoism inspires. I dream of uniting this country through the greatest game ever played, the synthesis of artistic endeavour. I dream of the round ball revolution that will grip the hearts of all across this red land.

Okay, enough of that bullshit.

The way advocates of a World Cup in Australia talk about the prospect of the event being held down here, you'd think they were trying to push of the recalling of Jesus...or Johnny Warren. I'm a fan of the world game and will stay up until 2AM to watch games but I'm not going to push that old bull.

Instead, I want to talk from a practical standpoint on a few of the issues surrounding our bid for the World Cup in either 2018 or 2022. For all of our foreign listeners, you may or may not be aware that Australia may actually be in the mix to host one of these events. That's right, the gospel will come to the dark land of egg-ball heathens. That's if we can actually stop our squawking and squabbling and get our codes to play nicely.

You see, if we were to win an event rival codes such as Rugby League and Australian Rules Football may be put out for a whole eight weeks while the World Cup bandwagon comes to a rest. Their stadiums would be co-opted to be football destinations, and FIFA insist that no other rival codes operate during the World Cup as to focus the sporting attention of the country on their event.

That looks to be in danger as the CEO of the AFL Andrew Demetriou has grave reservations and misconceptions about exactly what the event would do to their code and has even gone as far as deny access to the Etihad Stadium (for which the AFL has a contract with during the event) which would be a key stadium for any potential World Cup bid. It holds more than the minimum 40 000 FIFA needs and can be transformed into a rectangular stadium which would improve viewing and atmosphere for fans.

To say the least, it's a pretty dick move. But the guy has a point, and has to look after the best interests of his code and being put out of action for eight weeks in the middle of a season may prove to be an insurmountable. Can you imagine what would happen to the clubs without a full eight weeks of gate takings? The way Demetriou describes it, it could very well spell the death of financially unstable clubs.


The fact of the matter is that some of the poorer performing AFL clubs such as North Melbourne and Melbourne have been getting assistance from the AFL for quite some time and here's the dirty little secret. They haven't been getting the numbers to their home games to make a profit from the gate anyhow. That's why you get teams playing home games in Darwin, Perth and Canberra. The AFL tries to put a happy face on it by saying they're spreading the AFL word, but it's largely an exercise in financial survival. The AFL pays the clubs to play in the outposts and the clubs take the gate.

To turn around and say that the AFL would not be able to absorb the costs of being out of action for eight weeks is fooling only the most ardent supporters of the egg-ball game. The fact of the matter is, in the long run, the money coming into the country from the World Cup via increases in tourism may actually help rival codes.

Huh? How is that possible? Well, you see, when people go to a major event such as the Sydney 2000 Olympics, tourists have this crazy little idea that they've enjoyed themselves so much that they want to come back after all the tourists have left. There was a major lift in tourism after the Olympics, and there would be one after a possible World Cup.

Post-2000, tourists visiting for leisure increased from about 1.8 million to 2.9 million in 2005. That's 900 000 people coming to our shores and spending their money, which in turn greases the wheels of business and distributes a lot more wealth across this great land. Let me ask this then - What would happen if we had a lot more people with more money in this country due to increased tourism?

Perhaps the most apt question is the one the AFL clubs ask when conducting ticketing surveys. How is the cost?

That's right folks, for a lot of people the price of match tickets is a great consideration. If a lot more people are going to have a lot more money for years after the event, then hosting a World Cup should be a no-brainer to rival codes.

It's a short term loss for a long-term cumulative gain in crowd numbers. Herein lies the true nature of the opposition from rival codes to a football World Cup in Australia.

What if these cashed-up people decide to take in an A-League game instead?

'Till next time

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