Can We Handle A Footy And Cricket Season That Never Ends?
It seems our biggest sports want to take over the entire sporting calendar.
While the final siren of the AFL Grand Final signalled the end of the season more than two weeks ago, the conversation about the game has continued to dominate the media landscape.
Both mainstream and social media have been abuzz over the last two weeks with frantic, frenetic discussions about trades, contracts, free agents and draft picks.
Some of it’s factual, much of it’s speculative, but to many, all of it is exciting. This is the business of sport and it seems in many instances it’s just as big as the sport itself.
While the subject of trade speculation are the players, the stars of the show seem to be list managers, player agents and trade whisperers, searching for the inside mail to deliver breaking stories about players touring facilities, having coffees with club officials and doing ‘medicals’ with potential suitors.
Of course the fact that the AFL continues to dominate the media discussion well past the end of the season is no fluke. It’s a very deliberate manoeuvre by the biggest sport in town to ensure that while the game is only played for six months of the year, there’s always something to talk about.
And this is only the beginning.
The AFL already has plans in place to lift the profile of the AFL’s under 18s competition next year and beyond. In doing so, it will help make the young stars of tomorrow more recognisable and marketable. This will only ensure the fanfare and hype around the National Draft in November escalates, giving the footy fans and the media even more to obsess over.
By February, the AFL Women’s competition will be in full swing and not long after that, AFLX, the AFL’s newest and most controversial form of the game, will be back for its second year.
Then comes the pre-season competition before the AFL season kicks off in March.
And so, in the blink of an eye, the AFL’s brand now stretches well beyond the six months of the footy season. It’s now front and centre for up to ten months of the year.
Of course the AFL is not the only sporting organisation seeking to extend its dominance of the sporting calendar. This year, cricket’s Big Bash League has been extended to a 59 game season, up from 43 games last year. The Women’s Big Bash competition also contains 59 games.
Ten years ago, these competitions didn’t exist. That’s 118 new games of cricket introduced into an already cluttered sports market over the last decade.
All of this means that two of our biggest sports are becoming bigger every year. In a fiercely competitive Australian market, they are increasingly dominating the sporting conversation.
This raises questions of whether or not all sports can flourish, or even survive.
It seems that while sports such as tennis, basketball, soccer and horse racing will have their moments, the giants of Australian sport are actively trying to squeeze their competitors out.
They know that the longer people talk about them, the more interest there will be in their sport. They trust this will translate into more fans and, importantly, more people watching on TV. Thus, they can keep going back to their primary media partners to ask for more money for a sport that continues to grow in value.
Just whether or not the Australian sporting market is big enough to support the increasing amount of sports we have to choose from remains to be seen. But our biggest sports have made it clear they only intend to get bigger and therefore, if something has to give, it won’t be them.