What the other codes could learn from AFL media

This blog appeared on the Guardian website and I thought Id address it a little.

Far too often proponents of soccer and league complain about the lack of media coverage, or even the lack of positive media coverage that the local media outlets show for their chosen sports and teams. Time and time again, we see the complaints about an AFL centric media, or complaints about how the AFL is getting positive coverage all the time, or generally about the imbalance in AFL coverage compared to other codes. How did it come to this?

Something the AFL appears to have realised years ago is that positive coverage takes work and investment, and not just by the established media. Not only does the AFL have its own Media unit – according to some bigger than most newsrooms across the country – but EVERY club has a journalist assigned to it, whose sole job is to put out articles and medai about the club, and to feed local media. People mock the articles about Andrew Walkers hat and such, but it keeps the footy in peoples minds during the offseason.

Take a look at the AFLs events and media coverage. It doesnt stop when the season ends, and pick up again when the preseason starts. Events like the draft, combines, international rules are all staged with enough space to generate their own media. Prior to the draft we had delistings and “will they, wont they” announcements by the hour. Womens footy announcements are coming every other day at the moment. Clubs are out and about now touting membership numbers. Injury updates, training schedules, sponsor announcements – the scoreboard is always ticking over.

The NRL finally figured this out at the commencement of their current deal to a degree, forming a joint media unit with Telstra, but has a long way before it approaches AFL levels of saturation.Theres still too little of anything league related in the media once the season is over until the Nines begins.

For the FFA and Aleague clubs the complaints are still all about how they dont get enough coverage and when they do its all negative. Despite having access to one of the biggest sporting brands in the country – the Socceroos – they have been unable to capitilise on this.  This is not to say that the mainstream media are perfect, but other codes could do more to promote themselves. The Aleague had an incredibly muted launch this year, and may have screwed the entire start of its season over as a result – thats before the fans went on strike.

Part of the problem is of course that the Aleague has no breathing room prior to its season start, theres no real build possible when you are up against the AFL and NRL finals – and you are left with just 10 weeks before the Big Bash kicks off. Im left wondering why they wouldnt start the season a few weeks later (finishing later or making the season shorter) to give themselves a proper build – and some clean air for the FFA Cup finals at that – because the current system isnt working. It may well get worse when an expanded Big Bash kicks in in 2018.

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