Gil McLachlan has been on the hustings this week with his promise of a fairer fixture via his 17-5 model.
The 17-5 model of playing each of the other 17 teams and then breaking into groups of top 6, middle 6 and bottom 6 for a further 5 games is an interesting concept and would break from a tradition of having all matches fixtured prior to the season starting.
Already AFL clubs have raised concerns about travel arrangments.
Personally I think AFL clubs need to stop sooking and be more flexible. As long as Dean Wallis isn’t doing the travel bookings (ie a light plane to Wangaratta) everything will be fine. It is this sort of pettiness and winging by AFL clubs that killed the NAB Cup.
The idea that 5 rounds of AFL could be fixtured in a short timeframe by AFL General Manager – Broadcasting, Scheduling and Major Projects Simon Lethlean, contradicts previous statements on how complex the AFL fixture is and how hard it is to do. You would think to be fair to the clubs, players, fans and Simon Leathlean the second bye of the season would have to come straight after Round 17 before the final 5 rounds commenced. A weekend in late July completely free of AFL football is an interesting thought.
The other issue is the loss of a guaranteed two Showdowns, Derbies, Q Clashes, and Battles of the Bridge each season. In a way the AFL seem to have already come to terms with this as in 2015 Essendon and Carlton only meet once – the first time this has happened since 1992.
What the AFL could do:
Make the AFL fixture simpler by each team playing each other 5 times over 4 years with a slight variation to appease the games commercial interests.
First play each other team once across the first 17 games. I don’t buy the current fixture set up where some teams play each other twice within eight weeks before they have even played other teams at all. The AFL fixture is not that complicated, so each team plays each other once in the first 17 rounds.
Round 18 would be a nod to money driving football and an absolute blockbuster of a round just 4 weeks out from the finals. Rather than the themed rounds that existed a few years ago like Rivalry Round or Heritage Round, Round 18 would reflect the financial aspects of the game and be called Commercial Reality Round/Revenue Raising Round/ Maximising Profit Round/Cash Grab Round. Whatever it was called it would be an absolute ball tearer with all the non-Victorian rivals playing – the Showdown/Derby/Q Clash/Battle of the Bridge would all be on the same weekend plus whatever Melbourne based rivalries will bring in the most money at the time. At the moment it would be: Essendon v Carlton, Collingwood v Richmond, Hawthorn v Geelong, St Kilda v North Melbourne, Western Bulldogs v Melbourne.
It could be a Festival of the Boot weekend in Melbourne if the games were appropriately timed so people could attend all five games. Special “Weekend Pass” type memberships could even be sold encouraging Melbournians to get to as many games as possible over the weekend – really putting the Cash Grab into the Maximising Profits Round. An App could even be created for the weekend encouraged fans to show their dedication by competing for prizes and competitions like most overpriced merchandise purchased, most player badges bought, most pies consumed at the footy, most money paid for slightly better seats. Now that’s Maximising Profits Round.
After the excitement of Revenue Raising Round the home and away season’s final four rounds would consist of teams playing four teams for the second time. These four teams would change each year until all 16 teams (not including your ‘rival’ from Commercial Reality Round) had been cycled though in a four year period.
For example the fixture for Adelaide would be to play each of the 17 teams once followed by Port Adelaide in Round 18/Maximising Profit Round then cycle through 4 of the remaining clubs each year as per below:
Teams to play twice
Year 1: Brisbane, Carlton, Collingwood, Essendon
Year 2: Fremantle, Geelong, Gold Coast, Greater Western Sydney
Year 3: Hawthorn, Melbourne, North Melbourne, Richmond
Year 4: Sydney, St Kilda, West Coast, Western Bulldogs
Year 5 – back to Year 1: Brisbane, Carlton, Collingwood, Essendon
The beauty of the plan is its simplicity – all games fixtured before the season starts and two Showdowns, Derbies etc remain – and that’s the main reason why it would never be adopted.