The FIFA World Cup has captured the imagination of Australians, and rightfully so.
It’s a wonderful show; a real must-see. But as with any stage spectacle, once the show leaves town, all that is left are the memories. And with time, those memories will fade gracefully away, like a 90’s summer romance at a New Caledonia Club Med.
But what if they didn’t? What if soccer – fuck, let’s just call it football for the purposes of this article – was a year-round thing? A staple, if you will?
In the corporate world, businesses often look to become leaner in a bid to become more “dynamic”. They do this by culling entire divisions and blithely terming it as a “restructure” to impress shareholders.
So what if we just restructured the Australian sporting landscape to become more dynamic; to tap into the global market, as it were?
Sport is business; I’ve said it before and by Jove I’ll say it again for as long as I have unfettered power over the content on this website.
So I’m going to pretend that I am a CEO acting in the national interest of Australian sport. This is a hypothetical turnaround strategy aimed at boosting Australia’s global profile and tapping our footballing potential. I have, for some weird reason, been given absolute power (which corrupts, obviously) to do whatever I want in the best interests of Australia’s long-term sporting future.
Here’s my strategy: get rid of rugby league.
Get rid of the NRL and all junior competitions, effective immediately. It’s not doing us any good, internationally.
Call it a “restructure”; call it genocide. Call it what you will – rugby league needs to go.
Rugby league is preventing us from being a rugby union powerhouse. It is also preventing many promising juniors from joining other codes, such as football (feels weird to keep calling soccer ‘football’, but I can’t turn back now).
Instantly, we would become incredible at rugby union, rather than the mercurial laughing stock that we are right now. We’d be the All Blacks, but better. Huge, skillful forwards; hulking front/second rowers; classy, inventive halves; dynamic outside backs; a goal-kicker that actually kicks straight – we’d have it all.
We only have room for one ‘national’ sport: AFL. I’m not comfortable getting rid of rugby league, but as CEO and turnaround specialist, that’s why they pay me the big bucks.
Ideally, we’d get rid of AFL as well. Culturally, that’s a tough sell – especially given the stronghold in Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia. I am concerned that were we to axe AFL, we may ignite a separatist movement that may indeed lead to full-scale civil war. AFL supporters are fanatical extremists and not to be trifled with.
Australia’s sporting landscape is a product of our geographical location. If Australia was positioned in the middle of Europe, we wouldn’t have this problem. But we’re fucking miles away from anywhere else and, well, we needed something to amuse ourselves with. So that’s why AFL was invented, I assume.
We can’t play anyone else because we’re fucking miles away, so hey, let’s just play each other at a game that no one else cares about? It’s like being a bored 8-year-old kid inventing stupid games with your mates in the backyard. No one else knows the rules, but it makes for a whole lot of inconsequential fun.
But I will leave AFL alone because every country needs one weird thing to call their own. Cheese rolling in Austria. Silly obstacle courses in Japan. Gay cannibalism in Germany. Yes, each country has its cute, quirky little national pastime.
If we got rid of rugby league – which is really only properly played in Australia and Northern England – we would be dominant at international sport. And isn’t that what it’s really all about?
The amount of money spent on acquiring TV rights for rugby league is incredible. Imagine if that was freed up to spend on other world sports, like football and basketball?
Sure, there would be a near-term loss as a result of this aggressive turnaround strategy. An entire generation of juniors who have grown up playing rugby league might be disenfranchised. They may turn to a life of crime, which would lead to a greater drain on the public system.
The cultural shift to rugby union, football and basketball would be difficult for older, entrenched league supporters who do not know any other way of life. I suspect that we may have to accept that these clients are incapable of change. Like pensioners clinging feverishly to their home phone connection as the primary method of communication. Obviously, we would give them all the support they need to help them transition to this new connected world.
But younger minds are more open to change – and I am confident that these generations, in time, will embrace this globally connected approach to sport.
All number of marketing strategies and awareness campaigns will be employed to make rugby “cool” again, while soccer and basketball will become more prevalent on TV screens due to renegotiated rights deals.
As I mentioned earlier, without the NRL live rights to worry about, money will be freed up to spend on other global sports. And corporates will be keen to affiliate their brand with these new global products.
David Villa coming to the A-League won’t just be an incongruous signing done purely for promotional purposes, but a genuine career decision to play in the Asia-Pacific’s premier domestic competition.
Disruptive innovation is key to changing the mindsets of Australians.
Fuck lifting the Provan-Summons Trophy [formerly the Telstra Cup]. I want to lift the FIFA World Cup, the Webb Ellis Cup and the Naismith Trophy*.
By Dave Edwards
*The Naismith Trophy is awarded to the Men’s Champion of the FIBA World Cup, according to Wikipedia