At the time of writing, it looks very much like Lance “Buddy” Franklin is going to accept a 9-year, $10million offer to play for the Sydney Swans.
This has, predictably, caused an outrage to seep through 17 other AFL clubs and their fans. We could have accepted Buddy leaving for Greater Western Sydney. That would have been OK since he would have toiled for a few unsuccessful years before having a chance at more success. Instead, he’s gone to the Swans and given them a new lease on life and a ridiculous level of talent on the books, marking them as consistent genuine contenders for the next half decade.
Not only is Buddy clearly considering Sydney’s lifestyle and social scene a massive factor in this decision.
Not only is Buddy ignoring the ‘loyalty’ factor that AFL supporters hold dear (even if I personally think it’s a non-factor in modern footy).
Not only is Buddy leaving Hawthorn for the club that defeated them in the 2012 Grand Final.
Not only is Buddy leaving immediately after winning another freakin’ Grand Final medallion.
But, worst of all, he’s making Melbourne-based clubs and their fans take a good, hard look at themselves and where they sit in the AFL world.
This is Buddy’s greatest crime.
He’s making all the Melbourne-based clubs and their supporters face a harsh reality – the AFL Head Office cares about them only enough as long as they keep the AFL Head Office happy… and they’re losing the ability to do so.
For Collingwood, Carlton, Essendon, Hawthorn, Richmond supporters, it’s not really all that big a deal in 2013. Big clubs, big support base, solid finances, no major threats to existence in the foreseeable future.
But for Melbourne, St Kilda, North Melbourne, and (even despite their tremendously talented young list) the Western Bulldogs??
Buddy’s defection casts a harsh, bright light upon the priorities of the AFL Head Office.
From the AFL Head Office, the message is loud and clear – “We’ve siphoned just about as much money as we can from Melbourne clubs and their supporters. You’re a finite resource. We need to tap the Sydney market.”
It would have been shattering for those fans to pick up the Herald Sun today and read that a survey of Sydney-siders yesterday showed that the overwhelming majority have no clue about Buddy Franklin and couldn’t even name him when shown a photo. Possibly the most recognisable face in modern footy, and Sydney residents have no idea who they’re looking at!
It would be shattering to read that the Swans still have AFL concessions despite playing finals 9 years in the last 10 and winning two premierships.
(Hang on a sec, we’ll just wait for Demons, Bulldogs and Saints fans to finish slamming their foreheads into the closest solid object due to their collective ONE-HUNDRED-AND-FIFTY-SIX-YEAR PREMIERSHIP DROUGHT.)
It would be shattering to read all this because it shows that, despite all their protestations, the AFL Head Office cares more about expanding the game and their own bank accounts than they care about fostering a competitive and fair competition.
I don’t have an answer for all this. I would be extremely surprised if the AFL blocks the move. In all likelihood they will “investigate” and then accept the move. As you read this article there are probably blokes in suits high-fiving each other at Docklands, salivating at the Swans membership boost that Buddy may bring. In their heart-of-hearts they know that Buddy-to-GWS was probably better for the league in the long run… but the Buddy-to-Swans move pays off immediately. Instant Gratification, AFL style.
Perhaps, if other clubs complain enough, the AFL may end the financial concessions enjoyed by the Swans, but I doubt it.
No, this is just another chapter in something we at Mike or The Don have been saying for some time now… the AFL is changing rapidly and not always for the better. There are tough times ahead for some Melbourne clubs. Loyalty and inherited support are no longer enough. The AFL Head Office has made damn sure of that fact.
Adapt or perish… or be prepared to keep adding years to that drought.