Two days ago we saw one of the most incredible games in World Cup history, with Germany annihilating Brazil 7-1 in the Semi Final.
The game and its implications will reverberate for years to come. People will remember where they were when the Brazilians were humbled. Hundreds of millions of people around the world watched as a German team with cliche-levels of efficiency completely dismantled the home nation on one of the biggest stages possible.
And yet yesterday I picked up the most-read paper in Australia and was greeted with Gary Ablett’s face on the front page, back page, and three pages inside the paper (including a double page full-colour spread).
So if you’re keeping score at home:
World Cup Semi Final: 1 page of newspaper coverage.
Solitary AFL player’s 5-day-old shoulder injury: 5 page “Special edition.”
“Of course!” says the AFL fan. “There are way more footy fans in Melbourne than soccer fans!”
Which is absolutely true.
But why is that? Of course culture, proximity, and history are huge factors… but the media play a huge role too. The AFL’s insane levels of media coverage represent a bit of a “chicken-or-the-egg” argument.
- Do media outlets promote footy nonstop at the expense of all other sports because the demand is there… OR…
- is the demand there because media outlets promote it nonstop at the expense of all other sports?
The answer is that it’s a combination of the two.
But do you think it’s an accident that the Herald Sun and Channel 7 continue to vastly (VASTLY) exaggerate the problem of soccer hooliganism in Australia?
So why does violence at an A-League game make the nightly news (including interviews with the Police Commissioner and Premier on the issue) but bogans punching the daylights out of each other at the MCG isn’t mentioned?
It’s simply because the two media outlets most closely aligned with the AFL have a vested interest in ensuring the AFL remains the ‘family-friendly’ choice.
In terms of rights deals, advertising and workforce, those two media outlets invest a small fortune to cover the AFL, and they damn sure want to see the return on that investment. A significantly bigger sports story from another sport won’t offer the same return.
Journalistic integrity be-damned. Proportional coverage be-damned.
A billion people (or more) could watch the FIFA World Cup Final, including hundreds of thousands of Australians… and yet there is no way we will be given a proportional level of media coverage.
For instance, this is a breakdown of a Melbourne TV sports report yesterday, a day after the Germany-Brazil Semi Final… the larger the slice the more time dedicated to that topic:
It was THURSDAY. There hadn’t been an AFL match played for nearly a week.
How does this happen?!
How do media outlets justify employing dozens of AFL writers and analysts, yet they often employ only a solitary “other sports” journo, who is expected to cover everything from MMA to golf?
Why on earth did I see Jack Watts’ visit to a primary school lead the nightly news report a day after the A-League Grand Final? (Here’s a clue: the General Manager of Network Ten sits on the Melbourne Demons’ Board of Directors…)
Do you think it’s an accident that NRL players that we’ve never heard of are given media coverage in Melbourne only when a violence/drugs/betting/sex scandal hits?
The AFL use the supposedly independent media to protect their territory better than any other code in the world. It’s not clandestine or secret.
It’s simply that the AFL has fostered a media culture of ignoring (and occasionally denigrating) other sports that threaten AFL’s stranglehold.
As long as the AFL is on the back page (and often the front!) the money keeps rolling. The AFL has cornered the media market through huge investments in media organisations, advertising dollars, ticketing deals, corporate sponsorship.
So for the majority of sports fans who follow multiple sports, there is little hope of your ‘non-AFL’ interests getting a fair slice of the pie any time soon. There is too much money and a too-deeply-entrenched media machine working for the AFL.
I have to begrudgingly admire the way the machine works so seamlessly. And to be fair the AFL aren’t an evil corporation akin to Big Tobacco or anything. I just hope that as the internet and pay TV continue to slowly chip away at the AFL’s media stranglehold, it won’t be generations before I can turn on the nightly news and hear about the World Cup Final first instead of what Gary Ablett had for breakfast.
Eggs Benedict?! STOP THE PRESSES!