AFL General Manager clubs and operations Travis Auld (left) and AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan  speak to the media during the 2017 AFL season fixture release. Picture:  Michael Willson/Getty
AFL General Manager clubs and operations Travis Auld (left) and AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan speak to the media during the 2017 AFL season fixture release. Picture: Michael Willson/Getty

AFL’s hiccup with fixture is no surprise

FIXTURES - or the football draw - were easy once.

Every game on Saturday at 2.20pm. Reserves at 11.35am.

Anzac Day would deliver the SANFL grand finalists in a rematch. But no football on Good Friday - and not on Sundays by law in Victoria (where the VFA was protected on this day and the VFL had to run to Sydney for Sunday football).

Every team played its rivals twice - once at home and once away.

There "degree of difficulty" with a draw was about how a group of games lined up on the calendar. If there was a four-week run against the defending premier, the grand final runner-up, the preliminary finalist and another finalist from the previous season, it would be a "tough run".

If there was a sequence against bottom-ranked teams, the draw was "soft" - and not good in August as a lead-up to September's finals.

The biggest debate in this era was which game on the weekly fixture would get the "game of the day" status for a replay on Channel Seven on Saturday night.

This was two generations ago.

The AFL fixture for Season 2019 is released on Thursday - on delay by 24 hours after some clubs took exception to the draft fixtures pushed out to the 18 national league teams on Tuesday.

Such a last-minute setback for a highly anticipated document has not happened for a while for the AFL. But it is far from surprising.

AFL executive Travis Auld and his team have so many potential potholes on the road to delivering a fixture that will never satisfy everyone.

There are two television broadcasters to appease (Seven for free-to-air and Fox Footy for Pay-TV with Foxtel having contributed the most cash in the record $2.5 billion six-year deal).

 

AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan signs documents as executive chairman of Seven Network Kerry Stokes and 21st Century Fox, Rupert Murdoch shake hands after signing the new broadcast rights agreement at AFL House. Picture: Justine Walker/AFL
AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan signs documents as executive chairman of Seven Network Kerry Stokes and 21st Century Fox, Rupert Murdoch shake hands after signing the new broadcast rights agreement at AFL House. Picture: Justine Walker/AFL

 

There are stadium contracts - such as the one that keeps the AFL grand final at the MCG or those contentious deals North Melbourne and Hawthorn have in Tasmania in Hobart and Launceston.

There are club requests - and club adventures, such as Port Adelaide's international game in Shanghai that is moved from May to June next year to ensure the Power players have a shorter "run home" to September.

There are the blockbusters to work into the calendar - and there is much fascination in how the Crows-Port Adelaide Showdowns can be placed in prime-time slots such as Friday night.

There are those mysterious five "double-up" games to get the home-and-away fixture out to the traditional 22 rounds.

Friday night football - even on Good Friday with a double-header next year. Thursday night football. Sunday night football, on another test of the fans' appeal for a new timeslot.

"Australia's Game" also has to spread itself across the nation with Darwin, Ballarat, Cairns and wherever else there is a regional government or tourism agency wanting to promote its city with an AFL game.

It is far from the simple "draw" of the old days of every game on Saturday at 2.20pm.