Sunday, August 10, 2008

Sport with the Olyroos

Back off our Olyroos.

Reading the reviews of the Serbia game I felt quite cheesed off. It is almost like people thought we were going over there as favourites and 'medal hopes.' If Australia were prepared to invest and focus the time an effort on this football code - then yes I think we would be the best in the world. This syndrome is best typified by the 'Olympic station' that is running an ad to get people to watch its coverage of the Olympics that starts with AFL players going up for a high ball, then covers a whole series of sports that are at the Olympics. The message was - Australia is a world class sporting nation. Well, we divert a lot of resources into three codes of football that aren't regarded as world games. And our number one code AFL is not played by any other nation and will never be at the Olympics.

Each AFL team spends between $30m and $40m per year on players, officials and supporting equipment. AFL player preparation and conditioning is probably world's best practice (Jason Ackermanis put this view some months ago comparing the AFL warmdowns to the EPL where players are gone in 15 minutes).

My guess is that an A-League team may spend $5m to $10m with only around $2m to $2.5m (including the marquee) on players and their fitness. So when audiences back A-League teams to AFL standards, or Japanese or Qatar standards, then we can expect an A-League backed team to win a medal at the Olympics.

Australia wins medals in sports where we do more than other countries to back that sport - eg swimming in America struggles for any profile, and we focus more than other countries on shooting, horse events, rowing, hockey ...

The interesting thing is that Australian Olympic officials are warning than the mood is changing in other countries. So, for example, England will host the 2012 Olympics and wants to match the event with increased medals. It has chosen sports where Australia is relatively strong to focus its $1 billion talent development funding. They are also hiring Australian coaches in sports where we excel. We are also seeing the bizarre in other codes like a small French union team being able to pay more for Sonny Bill than an established Australian league team.

Are we prepared to shift our sporting dollars to match this? Not just in football, but in all our Olympic sports?


Anonymous said...

here`s my two cents ...

being down in the southern hemisphere, and being relatively isolated, i think we aussies get a skewed view of the world.

ummm, non-football examples are ... the illegal immigrant debate (our numbers pale in comparison to the # of people going into europe or the US), or newspaper coverage of aussie troops in iraq (we had 300 troops over there, italy or poland had 3000 (? guestimate). the local papers made it sound so heavy, when it isn`t.

so then olympic football comes along, we have no sense of where we fit into the big picture. or what we should expect from our team.

could our olympic squad play better football than they have (with a different coach)? i think yes. could they improve so much that they win a medal? no.

should we be cheering for the team? yes.

re olympic funding, i saw a similar sentiment over here in japan recently. someone on tv was saying that the jap media shouldn`t obsess so much about high school baseball, but rather try to support other sports as well, because right now not many young athletes are going into olympic sports in japan. but i feel like that is false advertising. japan loves high school baseball. highlighting other sports which japan doesn`t love to try to increase a medal count feels ... cynical.

so i think the money / support should follow the love. and right now afl is the top dog in oz. but having said all that, here`s looking forward to a medium term future with 40,000 people having a great time at every roar homegame. and every other a-league team pulling between 25000 - 60000 every week. and other countries talking about the amazing footballing culture we are developing. our own, the same way people talk about brazillian football, italian football, dutch, french, german, english ...


ps. pretty sure that the AFC website you tipped me about will allow me to watch a-league games. they clarified their geoblocking policy, and it is only in australia and the us that you can`t watch a-league games. while i can`t watch j-league matches. will be buying a month pass next week so i can give it a test run.

john said...

Wow Great post Clayton can I re-package it as a post to my site?

We are just so good at AFL, so professional, picking up stuff and applying it to the sport. Pity no-one will notice and the economic benefit will be minimal.

Ed Vegas said...

Really interesting perspectives John and Clayton.

But couldn't we at least give a shot at playing football?

Perhaps we underestimate our ability - we did not help our selves with the Negative selections, negative tactics, long balls, milligan giving away possession every time he got the ball. When Celleski came on we played some football and scored a goal. If only we had some other players capable of some flair over there. Perhaps I am bias (but in good company here) but Vidiosic, Kruse and Zullo could have provided some spark, some attempt to win, instead of putting our hands up in defeat before the start of the comp by selecting a physical team instead of a team technically capable of competing.

Cant wait to watch messi tonight!

Anonymous said...

hi john,

feel free to take the comment and use it /repackage it etc.

hi ed,

i think there is a debate going on in oz at the moment (without anyone really recognising it) about what "good football" is. is nick carle a good player? is ruben zadkovich? should patafta have been benched last year? do we celebrate physical, hardworking play or flair? the result or the glory?

so in GA`s head, i imagine he thinks we did play good football. the best example of this underdog"s football philosophy (or anti-football philosophy if you are so inclined) was rangers run to the uefa cup final last year. they defended, and they defended, and they defended. and got to a final they would never have got near if they tried to play the same way as their rivals did.


ed Vegas said...

Clayton, you are sure right about the debate... while many, including myself, probably feel the Ollies did well against argentina - have you read Les Murry's blog at twg?? No prizes for guessing which side of this debate he sits. I did not think we played anti-football last night, but I am afraid we did against the serbs.

Perhaps the debate should not be about winning v style and more about what kind of style will give us the best chance of winning. Do you pick athletic players for midfield like ruben z and milligan and play the long ball or would we have given ourselves a better chance with zullo and vidiosic? I reckon the latter.

Anonymous said...

graham arnold was the one claiming we were medal hopes. idiot.