WORLD CUP RENEWS DEBATE
There is no doubt the World Cup of soccer every four years (yes we will call it soccer) generates great debate in Australia about the merits of both codes and which game is deemed the best and why?
Newspaper articles and editorials together with radio talk back shows deliver polarised views, debate and sometimes arguments. Australia is an interesting place when it comes to football codes, being one of only a handful of countries to have four codes in Australian Rules, soccer, Rugby League and Rugby Union with all four having either a strong share or a respectable share of the market. Actually there are two other codes played but at a very minimal level and they are Grid Iron and Gaelic football.
Critics and the punters at large are entitled to their opinions but I’m sure 99% of people throughout the WorkSafe VCFL would clearly recognise Australian Rules (AFL) as the leading code and best code in Australia by quite a long way. Conversely with a population base of some 22 million we cannot control what people do in another 200 countries.
Soccer may be ranked number one by the high majority of other countries and the soccer aficionados in Australia but it is not the best or most popular game within our shores. Let me tell you why.
· At the national level AFL dominates attendances, media ratings, memberships, revenues and community standards against all other codes.
· Soccer at the equivalent level has conducted an on again – off again national league over many years and in the past four to five years are working hard to establish the new A League.
By comparison the A League is not on free to air TV and fights for exposure on Pay TV up against the traditional TV summer sports in cricket, tennis, golf and racing.
The Melbourne Victory clearly underpin the A League in crowds, memberships and profitability with the other clubs (probably with the exception of Sydney FC) battling profitability, low memberships, and playing before crowds of 4000 – 5000 is not uncommon.
· At the grassroots, or club level, Australian Rules dominates throughout regional, rural and metro Victoria, Southern NSW, regional SA, WA, NT and Tasmania. Well over a hundred VCFL clubs have been around between 100 and 150 years and all clubs boast a strong club culture that has also been strengthened over the past 20 – 30 years with netball becoming and integral part of the country football scene.
We don’t dispute that soccer does exist with reasonable numbers in some parts of the State and good luck to them, particular in the junior areas, as if our youngsters are not involved in Auskick or junior footy or netball, then it’s important they are playing some sport.
· I doubt soccer in regional and rural Victoria, and our adjoining borders would have 80,000 registered players in 2900 registered teams and in over 800 registered clubs in 81 WorkSafe VCFL Affiliated Leagues.
· I also doubt that 2.4 million people would attend soccer in regional and rural areas during their season or over 300,000 attend their Grand Finals. I’m also not sure whether $95 million in revenue goes through soccer in regional and rural areas as it does in the VCFL each year.
Country football and netball are widely acknowledged in most areas as the glue that keeps communities together along with providing outstanding leadership through a range of community programs.
Most Australians respect and barrack for their national sporting teams or sports people on the international stage as we fight above our weight in most sports but having said that there is no getting away from our great “home-grown” game. At just about every Aussie Rules game at all levels you can walk away with a range of highlights and generally plenty of scoring. In soccer there is low scoring or no scoring.
I often wonder what is soccer’s equivalent of “tooting the horn” after a goal is scored, a long time tradition in country footy or keeping our hands warm by clapping the goals in netball – there must be many soccer games where the “car horn” just wouldn’t get a run.
We are unapologetic about our passion for Australian Rules and AFL footy and I smile every time I hear fanatical soccer fans try and take credit for what is played in other parts of the world – it is also a great game in Australia but it is clearly not the best game within our shores. Our small country of 22 million people cannot effect or influence what happens in 200 other countries where in well over 180 of these countries soccer is their only game – they know nothing else.
We will stick to our free flowing, high marking, great goals, terrific tackling and fair dinkum competition any day against great foot skills, diving for free kicks, doing anything to win and dubious refereeing. They may have the biggest game in the world but we have the biggest game in Australia.
Keep up the passion and love for our game and enjoy your football and netball this weekend.
I had better go – I think I can hear the horns tooting again as someone’s threaded another one through the big sticks.
Chief Executive Officer
WorkSafe Victorian Country Football League