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AFL…where to from here?

AFL Season 2020 – where to?

AFL, COVID-19 and a trip back to the early 2000’s

The AFL, as is all sports in Australia and around the world, is hurting badly.  The COVID-19 pandemic has created havoc across all walks of life and sport has not been missed. There will be changes in sport that will take it back 20 years across all levels.

AFL, again as has most ball sports around the world, has been on a massive trajectory of growth. This has been fuelled by profile which has led to big revenues, primarily from TV rights. Also record crowd numbers, sponsorship and merchandise sales have seen AFL revenue grow to stratospheric levels. Given it is a non for profit the AFL disburses these funds to its clubs and this has led to growth in player payments and high levels of coaching and support staff. This has been great when the cash is flowing in but the bucks are about to stop and that will see dramatic changes in player payments and support staff numbers.

The AFL players have accepted a 50% pay cut and 70% if the season does not get away. AFL football departments are now operating on skeleton staff numbers including the Senior Coach, Head of High Performance, Doctor, Physio, Welfare and Psychologist all on reduced pay. Everyone else has been stood down, made redundant or taken leave in some capacity.

AFL…what does it look like going forward

In 2004 Port Adelaide won its first and only AFL premiership. It’s coaching team was a Senior Coach, midfield, forward and defensive coach and a Fitness Coach. Those names were Mark Williams, Phil Walsh (Crows coach), Alistair Clarkson (4x Hawthorn premiership coach), Dean Bailey (Melbourne coach) and Jack Russell (4x Hawthorn premiership head of high performance).

In 2005 the Sydney Swans won the AFL premiership. It did so with Paul Roos as Senior Coach (1x Swans premiership) and his support coaches were Ross Lyon (2x St Kilda Grand Final Coach and Fremantle Grand Final Coach 2015) and John Longmire (Swans premiership Coach 2012).

It is doubtful that there has been a finer group of coaches ever assembled.

Last year one AFL Coaches Box had 16…yes that’s right 16 coaches in its box.

Senior coach, line coaches, assistants to the line coaches, assistants to the assistants, game strategy coach, opposition game strategy coach, development coaches, ball movement coaches,

Question is would 16 coaches have any greater ability to coach, see game trends, communicate with its players as the 2004 Port and 2005 Swans coaching teams. The answer is no, except if you think looking for a needle in a haystack or more information or over coaching is better!

The AFL will not want coaching and support staff teams to go back to early 2000’s levels. They will likely want to retain broader support staff levels in the games best interests and that’s fair enough. However at the same time, the calibre of coaches boxes in 2004 and 2005 clearly demonstrates that a cut back  in numbers in a coaching box will have no material effect on the game.

It will certainly go a long way to reducing costs and bring back a more simplistic structure to coaching boxes. With the AFL soft cap (AFL football Dept excluding players) around the $10 million mark, we believe AFL teams can get this number down to $3 million under a revised arrangement. Whether the dilution satisfies the AFL and it’s desire to have “big is good” approach only time will tell.

So less revenue requires an outcome of decreased costs and this has to mean smaller AFL football departments. It likely also means a heavily reduced AFL player salary cap along with a reduced AFL player list.

AFL 2020…will they play

The answer to this question is complex given todays world with health and economic issues. At the moment the AFL have planned to recommence games on May 31 2020. This would have players back at training about 1 month prior say May 1.  We think there is very little chance of this happening.

We do think however, that a recommenced season could happen about July- August 2020 and this would allow for the 16 games plus finals to be completed in November-December 2020.

It would certainly be a morale boost for the community to be able to turn the TV on to watch their side or the radio to listen. We assume at this point there will not be crowds attending but of course hope there will be.

Some of the ideas thrown forward are interesting.  A wildcard round ie a final 10 rather than a final 8, a 3 game Grand Final series, multiple block buster games for certain teams etc etc. However we think for the games credibility a completion of the 17 round season should be had and a revamp of the 2021 with some new innovations to grow the game again.

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