Footy and soccer fans alike have come together to blast the AFL’s decision to release the fixtures for round 1 of the 2023 season – at the same time as Australia’s round of 16 game against Argentina at the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
Despite usually enjoying 5 times the total average spectatorship than soccer in this country, the AFL decided to release their first 2023 fixtures just as the country was gearing up to watch the Socceroos in a move that’s left sports nuts scratching their heads.
“Literally 6am on the dot. On a Sunday. Weird enough in normal circumstances but a piss take given the kickoff this morning,” ESPN’s Matt Walsh wrote at the time, with other sports journalists joining the chorus of criticism against the AFL.
“It’s really interesting to watch the response from the other codes,” veteran sports journo Caroline Wilson said on the ABC’s Offsiders.
“10, 20 years ago when Australia failed in World Cups, [the] AFL and NRL broke out the champagne… I thought the response this morning to release the round one fixture of the AFL 2023 season was just lame of the AFL… I would have just given them a bit of clean air today.”Caroline Wilson
Daniel Garb agreed with her on the program, adding that “the AFL has made itself look petty and insecure with its move here… Read the situation terribly.”
Much of the criticism has been levelled at AFL’s CEO Gillon McLachlan, who had previously announced back in April that he would be stepping down from the role at the end of the 2022 AFL season. The prevailing feeling is that this snafu is an inglorious way to leave the top job.
“The sooner Gill leaves, the better. No Victorian team travels round 1, releasing round 1 while the Socceroos are playing their biggest game ever, same old Richmond v Carlton opener. The AFL needs some freshness. It’s time for Gill to leave now,” one fan pointedly commented on Twitter.
It does smack a bit of desperation. Not only does it make no sense to announce the fixtures at such an odd time, so far out from the start of the season, but to try and steal soccer’s thunder – at the highest point for the sport in Australia – is truly petulant.
In a weird way though, it should give Football Australia, the A-League and soccer fans alike almost a sense of satisfaction: that soccer is gaining enough traction in Australia to have the big dogs like the AFL nervous…