September 23rd 2017


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COVER STORY Labor's vision for a transgender world

EDITORIAL Liddell closure: acid test for Turnbull

EUTHANASIA We risk turning our doctors into death dealers

DOCUMENTARY Harvested Alive: killing Falung Gong in China

AGENDA FOR AUSTRALIA Distorted jobless stats defeat planning efforts

ENVIRONMENT Hurricane Harvey: don't let a good disaster go to waste

AFL GRAND FINAL Bob Santamaria predicted the sunset of Aussie Rules

HISTORY After 500 years, is sugar going sour?

IDEOLOGY OF TRANSGENDERISM Reshaping our identities and relationships

MUSIC The Sequence: it's elementary

CINEMA The Hitman's Bodyguard: 'Eighties' action with popcorn

BOOK REVIEW One of globalisation's dwindling band

POETRY

HUMOUR

LETTERS

SAME-SEX MARRIAGE For bullying, look left, look left, and then look left again

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AFL GRAND FINAL
Bob Santamaria predicted the sunset of Aussie Rules


by Brian A Peachey

News Weekly, September 23, 2017

Bob Santamaria was born in Sydney Road, Brunswick, almost in the shadow of Princes Park, the home ground of the Carlton Football Club. Throughout his life he was a loyal follower and supporter of the Blues.

Left to right: Miriam and Brian Peachey, and
Bob Santamaria at the 1992 Grand Final at the MCG.

Australian Rules football meant much more to him than being a one-eyed follower. In 1983 he said: “Throughout my life I have had such a deep regard for the game as exemplifying the very best in the Australian character and I would regard it as a disaster if it faded out.” He went on to say: “This is what is happening to Australian Rules due to the acquisitiveness of wealthy men, television and sponsorship, and a facade of a corporate structure allied to modern finance.”

He likened some aspects of the fate of football to that of the nation. During the early 1980s there were reports of clubs on the verge of bankruptcy and solutions proposed by the “acquisitive wealthy men” and suggestions to make the great game national.

The 1983 Foschini case in the Victorian Supreme Court troubled him. Silvio Foschini played for South Melbourne but did not want to stay with the club when it was to move to Sydney. He was cleared to play with St Kilda and successfully claimed that the VFL’s clearance rules were a restraint of trade.

Bob said that the case made player contracts inevitable and he predicted clubs would buy and sell players like cattle and count them as assets.

The sun has emphatically set on the game that Bob Santamaria knew and loved. He said: “It was a game, whose purpose was entertainment, not advertising or cash flow. It was entertainment for the family, particularly fathers and sons. The price was cheap enough for all members of the family to go to the local ground every Saturday.”

I understood and shared Bob’s feeling for the unique Australian game. I sat with him at the MCG during the 1992 Grand Final and must admit that I was openly pleased that the West Coast Eagles won and took the trophy out of Victoria for the first time.

Today Bob’s fears and predictions have proved true. The AFL is now an economic giant and the game has changed. There is little long-term club loyalty among the now 18 teams with more than 800 players on generous contracts. Bob’s prediction that players would be “traded like cattle” for big money, is a reality.

The trading ceiling price has not been reached, despite the contract recently signed by Fremantle Dockers and Nat Fyfe, said to be $1 million a year for six years. There are now 97 players who receive $500,000 or more each year.

Every weekend nine games are played in five states in big stadiums, where the price of entry is more than low-income families can afford. Every game is televised by Foxtel, available only to those who can afford to subscribe.

Football is now everything that Bob Santamaria was opposed to. It is what he predicted: “A highly capitalised business, played by professionals, not for a sporting public composed of families, but for television audiences financed by a television company.”

The consolidated revenue of the AFL in 2016 was $570 million and its chief executive received a salary higher than the highest-paid player earned, $1,740,000.




























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