Paul Sergeant has just taken over as the head honcho at Etihad Stadium. And he wants to shake things up.
As this article shows, Sergeant, wearing what appears to be one of Bill Cosby’s cast off crazy sweaters, wants there to be more razzle dazzle at games. He thinks this might help arrest a decline in attendances.
“The whole experience of going to an NBA game blows your socks off because they make use of the arrival experience, the video boards, the monitors around the venue, the PA system.
“Those sports in different parts of the world are out there. It’s about going, ‘well what can we look at? What can we learn from them?’ then translate it back into what can we do at our venues.”
To which I would reply, thanks but no thanks Paul.
I’m reminded of this excellent ad for Budweiser – about the only good thing relating to that insipid cat’s piss – that aired in the UK when the US brewing giant sponsored the Premier League.
The ad agency hired by Budweiser knew instinctively that the English audience would rebel against the idea of an American influence on their sport. For them, “American sport” mean razzle dazzle, cheerleaders and bigger is better because it is just is. This ad cleverly plays on those well-deserved stereotypes of American sport
People want less razzle dazzle, not more. They want fewer opportunities to have ads shoved down their throat, especially if those ads promote gambling. They are sick of their kids asking them at half time who they have bet on, or informing them that their team is at poor odds to come back.
The average punter in the outer knows the Good Old Days have gone and are not about to come back. The days of all games starting at 2PM on a Saturday and people being home in time to pick up the early edition of the Sporting Globe from the New Australians at the corner milk bar are long gone.
But we do not have to rush so headlong into the future. Much as many fans are frustrated with the annual rule changes, so the rapid change in when and where games are played is alienating some supporters.
Attendances are not falling because people feel that the big screen is not dynamic enough at three quarter time. Attendances are falling because the AFL makes their team play at times that simply do not suit modern lifestyles.
TV money is now the lifeblood of the game. The AFL makes teams play at times that encourage people to watch games on TV. The AFL effectively lets the TV stations decide when games should be played.
Paul Sergeant has an impressive sounding resume. He’s managed world class stadia like Wembley and the Millennium stadium in Wales. Yet as well known as these venues are, and massive as some of the fixtures they host may be, I’m yet to see a home and away game of AFL played at either.
Just as our code is utterly unique onfield, so we have our own off field traditions and foibles. Sergeant would have spent plenty of time in his Wembley days working with the Metropolitan Police on ways in which to keep rival groups of fans separated after the conclusion of an Association Football fixture.
That’s not a skill that translates down under.
Instead of lobbing here and immediately telling us we need stuff from abroad – Oh, what is this NBA you speak of Great One? We mere provincials had never heard of such a thing! How sophisticated you are! – Sergeant would be wiser to find out what it is we like about going to the footy and trying to maximise that.
Given that the game is rigged against him with the AFL deliberately scheduling games to increase TV audiences, Sergeant would do well to play to the strengths available to him, not give people yet another reason to stay home and mute the crap at half time anyway.