In 2012, the AFL averaged the fourth highest sporting attendances in the world, putting it in the same breath as the NFL, EPL and MLB. It’s a category that ten years ago the AFL could only dream about. But when we look at some of the amateurish procedures that lurk within our sport, we have to wonder – does the competition deserve to be in this bracket?
As a spectacle, our game is brilliant. Few sports around the world boast the entertainment factor the AFL gives its fans and Saturday night at ANZ Stadium was no exception. The fourth-placed Swans flexed their muscles in a dominant performance against a Carlton side that aren’t at their level just yet. However, the game was hampered by a few things which will continue to keep the AFL from being taken seriously on the world stage.
Firstly, and more importantly, the score review system. In theory, it seems like a straightforward idea for which you wouldn’t bat an eyelid at its implementation. Sadly, as seen on Saturday night, it was ineffectual and simply a waste of time.
A goal was kicked by Sydney where the ball bounced in the goal square and a diving Kade Simpson leaped across the square and got a hand to it. The umpire in best position, Chelsea Roffey, declared it had crossed the line but – as she is more than entitled to – asked to have it reviewed. So when the host broadcasters flick to a multi-screen showing the four angles available to judge the incident, all you can do is shake your head.
You cannot judge depth perception from down the ground vision or a camera in the stands; you must have cameras either on the goal umpire herself or inside the goal post. In fairness, during Fox Footy televised games, the goal umpires are equipped with cameras attached to their hats and games at the MCG do have the goal-post embedded cameras, but it should not be the job of the host broadcasters to look after the basics of the game.
It’s one thing to complain about these things but it’s another to propose a solution and the solution is simple enough – high quality cameras on the goal umpires or cameras embedded in the posts of every AFL venue in the country. Would Hawkeye or Hot Spot be more effective? These are things the AFL should be pondering. The expense is irrelevant. Getting the fundamentals of the game right supersedes the cost. The AFL has a lot of work to do before the 2014 season to fix this up because, as seen by the reaction of commentators and social media, this system has become a laughing stock. Gerard Whateley put it simple enough, stating “LBWs are not adjudicated from mid-wicket,” a statement so blatantly obvious it makes you wonder how the AFL can allow such a homogeneous system to be used in a cut-throat semi-final.
Finally, there is the issue of ANZ Stadium itself, a much more straightforward than the goal line technology. To put it bluntly, elite sports should not be played at this venue until the surface is brought up to scratch. Let’s just be thankful that there were no metal rods in the ground this time.
It was the laughing stock of social media on Saturday night with jokes about the surface trending nationwide. The surface of ANZ Stadium retains too much water and as a result the grass is slippery and gives the players no traction. On countless occasions players had to come to complete stops to change directions and players slipped over at basically any attempt to accelerate.
What is more damning for the AFL is the moment when Eddie Betts went to kick the ball and slipped over sideways. A slow motion replay shows he could very easily have sustained an ankle injury. Thankfully, he avoided injury, but had he been injured it would have been entirely the fault of the surface. Above everything else, this is a clear occupational health and safety issue and it’s just not good enough for a multi-billion dollar sporting organisation.
The issue of the host broadcasters interviewing Redfoo minutes before a semi-final is fairly self-explanatory. Let’s not dissect how Sydney will bounce back or if Carlton stands a chance, no, let’s talk to a reality TV show personality and try on his glasses. We are blessed to have the best sport in the world, but as it attempts to knock on the door of the bigger leagues, these things must be sorted out because they all border on embarrassing for our code.