Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Is a lack of controversy good for football?

It's been12 months since the St Kilda school girl saga exploded on social media and then spread like a virus to all forms of media.

I doubt the AFL has ever experienced a bigger off field controversy that would tarnish not just a player, but a club and even the whole competition. The photos of various players in dubious poses published by an alleged under age girl who had sex with the footballers must have given AFL CEO Andrew Demetriou a few sleepless nights.

Demetriou knows Australian football is a family game attended by all ages, both sexes, the haves and have nots; a true demographic profile of Melbourne.

On one hand it appeared that the whole episode was damaging to the AFL competition brand.

On the other, it kept the AFL in the news right through summer on the back of the Ablett, bomber Thompson 'on field' controversies, in fact it felt like there was little break between seasons 2010 and 2011.

So far we've only had the odd driving offence and Ben Cousins in rehab. The worst Fev had got up to was coming off second best with an arachnid. It's all been a very low key AFL off season.

The cricket with India has been intriguing, it seems to have brought a lot of devotees back who had drifted.  Of course it's always more enjoyable when Australia are winning, helped by a lean patch of late. Overall the summer feeling is that cricket is back especially with the success of the Big Bash T20 League (BBL).

The crowd at the BBL games in Melbourne appears to mirror an AFL crowd as described above, perhaps a little younger but certainly dominated by families.

Thus we've had a good break from football. With one test to go and the odd bit of tennis the bounce of the sherrin is not too far away.

Will the arrival of the 2012 AFL season be met with huge crowds and TV ratings. The first game is in Sydney a full week before any other matches I wonder if this non traditional start will be met with widespread enthusiasm?

It's more likely the season will have two starts, a cautious one in Sydney (Swans v GWS) and the real stuff in Melbourne, Perth & Adelaide a week later.

 Now don't get me wrong I am expansionist proponent of our great game but I wonder if a one sided thrashing is fit to start the season. Oh hang on, Carlton v Richmond games started the season previously (insert smilie).

Still, starting the season in Sydney is a gamble but one perhaps saved by the interest in Izzy Folau and the Giant's debut. Regardless, it certainly won;t feel like the start of the season in the traditional home of the game. The media's treatment will be interesting to watch.

Of probably greater importance to the 2012 season and the interest in it is the emergence of new powers. Forget controversy, Richmond downing Collingwood in front of 70,000 at the MCG would get the blood pumping in season '12 and you only have to wait until round 2 to see it.

Disclaimer: the blogger is an Essendon supporter.

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