The near contempt the AFL has for its fans was once again on display this week in comments from its Chairman Richard Goyder on the subject of a twilight Grand Final. Despite opposition to the idea remaining unchanged at 76%, in spite of near constant attempts from the competition to breathe life into it, this didn’t stop Goyder doubling down once again this week.

It’s not just the fans that the Chairman’s ‘give it a go’ attitude is tone deaf to, but it ignores the players wishes too. The games’ participants are even more opposed to a change to the start time of the Premiership decider with eight out of every ten preferring the traditional afternoon time-slot.

Never mind says Goyder. “I think 15 of the 18 club captains we asked last year said they’d play a Grand Final at any time, some of them said, you know, ‘I’d play at midnight just to play in a Grand Final,’”he told TAB Radio.

His ability to comprehend hyperbole is only matched by his consideration of the games most important stakeholders when weighing up decisions about their game. Not content to just ignore the wishes of those who put on the show and those who pay to watch it, there is no benefit for either group in the reasons why he believes the change should be made.

“To be clear I’d love a twilight Grand Final, I think it would be sensational to attend and, importantly, the television coverage I think would be incredible.” In other words, despite the fact that his ticket to the game is paid for, his preference is worth more than those who pay to attend or who buy the products whose advertisements cover the networks costs for the TV rights.

“And I think our media partners are pretty strongly supportive as well.” In other words, our network partners are pressuring us to play the game at night and we think it’s preferable to ignore our fans than the TV networks. Heaven forbid we and the networks pay attention to the fact that the game has been the most watched program on Australian TV four of the last five years and those watching it want it to stay where it is.

“We’d have to have the best entertainment lined up and we’d also need the support of the clubs because halftime would probably be a bit longer, so there’d be a few adjustments that would need to be made.” In other words, we need to spend the money of those people who want the game played during the day on a half time concert and fire works at night for the corporate types we schmooze on Grand Final Day. I mean only about 30% of the people at the ground care about either team.

It is the entertainment argument that is the most ridiculous in this whole cynical exercise by the AFL to ignore it’s most important stakeholders. For the sake of the dick swinging excercise of staging a concert that most people will have forgotten by three minutes into the third quarter of the game, if not earlier, they are prepared to tell those funding the game to get stuffed.

While it is true that the AFL Commission is not democratically appointed, so that it can ignore the majority when required, this is meant only for hard decisions in the long term interests of the game and the competition. This is not one of those times. This is nothing more than hubris.Rather than a decision for the long term benefit of the game, this is one to stroke the egos of those who spend the fans money at their expense and against their will.

While the commission is fond of pointing to it being the will of the TV networks or corporate partners and the financial clout that they hold. This posturing conveniently forgets that that this money comes from the fans they are ignoring. It is a dangerous strategy.

The game is a valuable commodity to these companies not because of half time entertainment or twilight Grand Finals, it is because of the vast number of eyeballs that watch the game. Rather than spending their energies on those profiting from these eyeballs, they would be wise to ensure those eyeballs remain fixed on their game because once they are gone, so too are the TV networks and sponsors.

There are some smart operators on the commission, Goyder was the CEO of Wesfarmers for crying out loud, is there any chance they will prove this fact? Or will they gamble that the opportunity to watch a concert at half time with their mates is worth risking alienating the games fans or do they simply think the fans will accept whatever short sighted decision they make?

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