162 – What if local government was an Australian Rules football game?

Posted by Whistler                                                                          1100 words

AFL game

Concerns are periodically expressed about the rules in AFL football and their impact on the flow of the game and its popularity as a sporting spectacle. I understand the concern. I have some suggestions for the AFL Commission. What about changing the rules so that Australian Rules football operates the same way as local government? I think it could bring the same interest and fascination for football onlookers.

Just what sort of spectacle would it be?

For a start, the rules would need to change about the goals. Having fixed goals might enable incredible skill to be developed and displayed by players kicking from the boundary line in pockets or beyond the 50m mark, but what if the goals moved randomly?

Picture it. The player has the ball on the boundary, they have carefully taken aim, and as they run in to kick the goals start moving. They could quickly move sidewards five metres or the posts could stay where they are and sway quickly in an arc. Maybe they start a random pattern of movement as the player lines them up – that would increase the dramatic tension. Giving people clear, fixed and large goals takes a lot of the challenge from the game.

Next we could have multiple coaches for each team. Why leave all the decision making to one coach? The coaches would have to operate without communication with each other for maximum effect. There could be a special round each season when everyone on the sidelines is able to make coaching calls – it could be called the ‘spectator engagement’ round and coaches would be expected to listen carefully to what everyone has to say before making any decisions.

I can hear people saying, ‘but wouldn’t this slow down the game?’ Of course it would, but wouldn’t the quality of coaching decisions improve? All those experts in the crowd would finally be able to influence the coach.

Imagine the game with multiple coaches and ‘spectator engagement’. Players would be shifted around the field by each coach. Substitutions would be made without consultation. Game plans would be changed and only communicated to some players. The current approach with every player using the same game plan and coaching decisions being coordinated surely restricts the potential for spectator pleasure. We already like giving the coach a serve, imagine if we had several of them to have a go at?

The current situation where umpires award free kicks against one side and to another based on their judgement of infringements is definitely old fashioned. Why leave it to the one set of umpires to judge compliance with the rules? What if they made a mistake? What if they are impaired with only one eye?

Instead, imagine a ‘whistleblower’ system where players could tell the umpire about free kicks that they think should be awarded against their team mates. Why wait for the umpires to call it. Better still, there could be opportunities for anyone with some umpiring skills to make calls and challenge the field umpire. They could ring in from home if they are watching the broadcast. There are already field umpires, goal umpires and ‘third’ umpires checking on goal shots, why not fourth, fifth and sixth umpires?

You might say that this would delay the game and take away from the purpose of playing football. Maybe. But watching multiple umpires deliberating and the process to finally make a decision could be more enthralling than the game, especially if the Blues and Demons are playing.

Finally, I think that everyone on a team wearing the same uniform has reduced the drama and the potential of the game to provide further thrills. Why can’t each playing group have a different strip? The backline could have one uniform, the half backs, centre, centre half forwards and forwards could all wear something that suits their role in the game. This would reflect the strong affiliation between people in each unit within departments in local government and the role of organisational leadership.

Picture the full forward dressed as a God – perhaps Zeus (God of the sky) or Athena (Goddess of skill – men and women will be playing this form of the game) or Eros (the God of love and attraction). Resplendent in flowing robes and a Crown or Leaf Circlet they would lead the team onto the ground. Of course, at the Geelong football club the full forward will simply pull on the No. 5 jumper.

The backline could all be dressed in black like hangmen with hoods. The wing players could wear superhero suits to reinforce their fleetness of foot with lots of spandex like the Flash or Superman and Wonder-Woman. It would be like AFL meets World Championship Wrestling (without the wrestling!) Both are big spectator sports, it’s got to be a winner

Each playing group would only be able to kick to each other. Any movement of the ball between playing groups would need the Captain or other member of the team’s leadership to make the kick or handpass. In the true spirit of local government, only the leadership group would be able to kick goals. I can hear you saying that this would eliminate the thrill of the ball travelling quickly from end-to-end of the ground for conversion to a goal.

True. But wouldn’t the time the ball spends going across and backwards in each section of the ground give spectators at that part of the ground more time to see the action? Getting the Captain to take the ball between teams would make them feel much more important and raise their profile for recruitment to a better team next season. Those spectators demanding faster movement of the ball in end-to-end processes that convert to a score can put their complaints in writing.

What do you think? In the end, if AFL football operated like local government there would be more action, less scoring, greater amusement in the general confusion that would reign, and any amount of fascination with the off-field machinations of the game. But there would be a score.

Sometimes I think that it could work the other way around.

Captain councilWhat does Captain Council say?

When I was a young bloke playing football, everyone wanted to be full forward and take the big mark, the screamer that electrified the crowd. It was the way to get into the Firsts and earn a few dollars more from the club. The effort players who made the tackles, got the hard balls and passed to the full forward in an easy spot to kick a goal went unnoticed.

I noticed the same behaviour working at the council. There were always people looking to take a ‘speccy’ and get noticed – and it worked. Make a big deal about fixing a problem (often one that you should have avoided) and you were on the pathway to promotion.

I can’t say that running AFL games like local government would enhance the sport, but it would give supporters a lot more to talk about!