A trade with irritation

As published by Australian Football and Sportsbiz Insider, 24 October 2012

By and large the commercialisation of pro sport’s every nook and cranny is a necessary evil to which consumers have grudgingly accepted.

Here in AFL land, new boundaries were crossed in the late 1990’s when Carlton’s sacrosanct navy blue turned baby blue as part of a then bold M&M’s promotion.  This was closely followed by Cat hard nut Garry Hocking briefly renaming himself ‘Whiskas’ via deed poll.

Amid the hilarity and derision, ultimately it was benign fun that creatively delivered a valuable return for both sponsors and their beneficiaries.

However, to my sensibilities, the AFL’s decision to grant Gillette sponsorship of the laborious 26 day cattle trade lacks for cleverness, and whether the game benefits from promoting the exercise with such gusto is questionable.

Whilst trading places can provide fruitful outcomes for player and club, particularly with free agency coming to pass, on the flip side October couldn’t be more stressful for those whose careers and boyhood dreams hang in the balance.

Clubs have never been so impatient for success, or so cut throat in their approach – which is perhaps the only relevant linkage to a razor company sponsoring the whole shebang.  Well over a hundred will be sliced to free up room in salary caps and playing lists for the next influx of new and recycled hopefuls, and many will endure perilously close shaves.

Of course player transfers and delistings have been part of footy since Roy Cazaly was a boy, but never were footballers so obviously reduced to commodities assigned numerical values.  Has the human element been somewhat lost in all this?  Of the latest player churn the majority will hopefully find a rewarding next chapter of their lives.  Unfortunately, before a good deal turn that page, an uncertain future without an immediate source of income awaits, and worse in some cases; battles with depression, alcohol and drug dependency.

The disappointment experienced by diehard supporters seeing accomplished favourites such as Goddard, Lynch, Lake, Tippett and Wellingham sporting new colours pales by comparison, but in terms of this celebrated swap meet, worth noting.

Footy fans who find the process cerebrally invigorating will beg to differ, and the AFL apparently believes there’s bucks to be made from their unquenchable thirst for rumour and speculation.  Indeed, the AFL’s own website fuels the player as emotionless pawn mentality by running an unpopularity poll on who ‘fans’ would most like traded out of their club.

For mere mortals, actually following the ever evolving labyrinth of rules applied to the various draft, pick and player categories, plus the myriad dispensations designed to necessarily deliver glory to the AFL’s new frontiers, is as clear as the old Moorabbin mud heap.  As is special compensation picks for unrestricted free agent departures arbitrarily determined by the AFL, not to mention other picks still to be finalised for the likes of Gary Ablett (who left Geelong in 2009) based on where on the ladder the Cats and Suns’ finish in 2013!

Whilst all the attention given to convulated deals that rarely eventuate (and those for C Graders that do) may hold a modicum of interest for success starved fans and obsessives hooked on quasi fantasy leagues such as Madden NFL and Supercoach, once the flag is won I’m more than happy for other sports to breathe their fair share of oxygen.

I’m sorry @AFL.  The incessant, repetitive online updates had this footy nut hitting the ‘Unfollow’ button.  If only the over hyped trade month was so easy to avoid elsewhere in the media.



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