andrews
Team sports such as football and politics are more similar than we would like to acknowledge.

Both generally involve two sides: the one you support and the opposition, who your side must do everything possible to beat.

Both fields are also important enough and have enough public interest to command permanent – sometimes excessive – coverage in the mainstream media, and you’ll have a hard time trying to avoid either topic if they aren’t your personal interests.

But what happens when the two worlds collide? Are we happy to let football become, well, a political football?

This is something the football world has to consider, in light of Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews meddling in the affairs of the AFL by scheduling a new public holiday for the Friday before the Grand Final.

This has prompted the AFL to reconsider holding the Grand Final parade in the Melbourne CBD, while the Andrews government is being criticised for not instead scheduling the extra public holiday for either the Friday or Monday of this Anzac Day weekend.

Andrews followed this up the morning these revelations were made public, weighing into the St. Kilda home ground debate by saying Moorabbin was the “logical place” for the club to be based.

Politicians inserting themselves into sport conversations is nothing new: as a ‘pollie’, showing your love of sport is now a tried and true way to endear yourself to the voting public.

But, when political decisions start to impact on the way a sport is governed (as Andrews has), it’s worth fleshing out how much influence we want politics to have.

For example, regarding the St Kilda home ground issue, is it appropriate the political class weigh in?

The reason Andrews did so – on SEN on Wednesday morning – is because the Saints are entertaining the idea of returning to their pre-1965 home, the Junction Oval. Andrews has recently done a deal with Cricket Victoria to make Junction Oval the second “first class venue” in the state, telling SEN he was “not going to ask cricket to share” the ground with AFL.

Call me a biased Saints supporter, but to me, it seems fairer that the club decides where it trains.

In the Saints’ case, returning to the suburb that bears the club name is a romantic notion that would help consolidate member numbers during a period of poor form and, dare I say it, rebuilding.

Regardless of where the Saints ultimately end up preparing for their matches, the state government has become a stakeholder with an influence over the final outcome.

It proves Gillon McLachlan and the AFL commission no longer have total autonomy from the state government in running the league.

This means we now have to draw up appropriate boundaries for how much politicians should be allowed to influence the decisions made by the AFL hierarchy.

Would we be okay with it if games had to be fixtured in regional centres such as Ballarat to justify a state political party upgrading a sports oval as part of an election promise?

Andrews’ Labor Party promised this before Victoria’s state election last year, though in this case the Bulldogs willingly signed on to playing matches at Eureka Stadium following the revamp.

But now we know that politics and politicians can influence the outcomes of debates over how the game is run, it’s in the interests of footy and us supporters that we let the AFL’s powers-that-be know when we want them to push back against government interference in the game.