I had a very interesting conversation with an AFL expert this week and learnt a lot about our game. For a start, I learnt what AFL's brains-trust thinks of football.
I don't think they see it as a threat. In fact they may even think that they are winning the battle for young minds. Apparently, the key success factor getting kids to stay/sign up with a sport is the career path. Even if it is only in their dreams. Through AFL eyes, football has a major - major draw back. You can't access the big stars. In AFL you can, in football you can't. The really good players have to go overseas in football, so we will only see the best at the beginning and the end of their careers. Plus going overseas is a lottery. You make it in Australia in AFL and you have made it, you make it in football here and you have taken the first step.
For AFL they are continually looking at ways to make the big stars readily accessible to young fans to counter the games modernisation, professionalism and training regime.
Don't be surprised if Ben Buckley uses the FFA as a pathway back into AFL - perhaps CEO. AFL would see FFA as a challenging experience for potential executives. But don't expect too many 'guns' to take that path. There is too much happening in AFL. Too many new ways to grow the sport.
A-League clubs need to find ways to access more money so that they can become more professional in their interactions with fans. They need to find a way to keep the kids wanting to watch and play. AFL is certainly thinking about how to win them.