Western Bulldog’s President, Peter Gordon has it right when he suggests that more money should be invested in ‘grass roots’ football by the AFL. He said he feared (his word not mine) for the game’s future if significant (again his word) investment is not made at the grass roots level. He cited pressure on developing the next era of players due to inroads being made at junior level by soccer. He should know as he has recently chaired an AFL working group looking at junior participation rates in the west and north west of Melbourne.
Without those junior players and consequent supporters, the slice of the consumer market for the AFL will shrink and its ability to attract big dollars in media rights will be hampered.
Compare Gordon’s thoughts with those of AFLPA CEO Paul Marsh. Marsh thinks it is amazing that only one AFL player, Gary Ablett, made the top 50 of Business Review Weekly top sports earners. He has called for urgent attention to AFL player remuneration to remedy that situation.
Of course, an increase to player wages will reduce any ability for the AFL to invest in grass roots football.
Sportzfan Radio has long argued that professional sports people are well remunerated and gain an equitable portion of the pie already. Consider that the average AFL player receives at least $250,000 per year. In 2014, the average wage in Australia was almost $79,000.00 meaning AFL players, as a rule, are very well remunerated compared to the average Australian. That average wage increased by 2.3% from 2013. I have no argument in sporting people achieving parity with the rest of the Australian full time workforce and receiving the agreed Australian Bureau of Statistics annual increase. However, I perceive that Paul Marsh has a much higher increase in mind.
From where I sit, grass roots football is considerably under resourced and this state of affairs doesn’t look like it will be addressed anytime in the near future. The AFL and the AFLPA would do well to heed the words of Peter Gordon. Failure to do so will invariably lead to a reduction in participation (and supporter) rates and a consequent inability to demand the big figures in future media rights deals. One only needs to look at the NBL as a shining example of a sport that failed to invest at grass roots level and suffered a huge fall from grace with the media.
Perhaps Paul Marsh should should add his voice to those calling for greater investment in the grass roots. That would seem to be the best way for him to ensure he achieves his goal of increased wages for AFL players.