the unstoppable power of football

Australia’s women cricketers recently won another championship. This was noted and welcomed, but more media energy was focused on footballer injuries, leaks and observations of pending matches. The focus on footy has also meant that big questions in men’s cricket have received too little attention. Such as: Is it appropriate for Marnus Labuschagne to start an innings popping pink bubbles?


While Australia’s admirable women’s and men’s football teams fly under the radar outside of the World Cups, the AFL heavyweights still harbor delusions about global expansion, though they haven’t managed to take on Tassie just yet. But it’s the changing media landscape that is most responsible for the uninterrupted football coverage.

In those innocent days when we were covering a Saturday game for the Monday morning newspaper, there were no 24-hour sports radio stations or specialized football TV channels. These hungry beasts need constant feeding.

If there are no actual matches to preview or analyze, things other than fodder will have to suffice. The scan layout for example. It’s now impossible for an injured player to hobble into a medical imaging clinic without running the gauntlet of cameras and microphones. And clubs regularly have to nominate a player or team official to say something about not much. Perhaps an update on the start of the season, which is generally as irrelevant as launching a political party a fortnight before Election Day.

All of this could be filed under “G” for good publicity, except that any unfortunate incident also attracts attention out of proportion to its actual importance. Here’s the test. How interested would there be in someone being blasted with a mysterious white powder in a toilet stall or casino, or being rude to a reporter, or involved in a traffic accident when there is no walking connection? Answer: not much.


But there is no turning back. No return to the days when players wore high-cut boots with long stops and Moorabbin meant mud rather than a likely spot for an Ed Sheeran sighting. No return to a three-month football embargo followed by a one-page synopsis with all the necessary news tucked under succinct headings: Ins; exits; injuries; fixtures.

Plus, while other sports and athletes languish in the shadows, Footy keeps rolling. Recent reports suggest the AFL is on track to break attendance records in 2023. Some marquee games are already heading towards sold-out status.

So buckle up. It only gets bigger. Just like Ed, who names his recordings after arithmetic symbols. Plus. Minus. Multiply. Split. But in football, less is never more.

Alan Attwood is a former Old Sports journalist, correspondent and section editor.

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