has football become a home game?

Plus, laughing at the show makes us all grumpy old men. Look around you: suddenly there are big guys, scoring forwards everywhere. How can this be a regression?

The cost is also well before COVID. Crappy food too. Footy can be expensive, but the AFL has sought to freeze prices, and besides, in terms of budget, footy compares favorably to other entertainment. The risk of industrial deafness, sadly, was an issue long before COVID.

Football on the big screen: catchy.Credit:Graphic: Phil Carrick

Complaints about ticketing, the fluidity of fixtures, tee times and Thursday night games are real, but peripheral. Taken together, they do not explain the drastic thinning at the gate.

What has definitely changed since COVID is the change wrought by COVID. For months, we could only watch football from home. It’s a footy ritual of kvetch on commentators, but the presentation is eye-catching and almost everyone has a big screen now. And they have Kayo.

If people, in general, are abandoning free and paid TV in favor of streaming services, is it any wonder that football fans also prefer their sport as they please?

Max King of St Kilda: football as spectacle.

Max King of St Kilda: football as spectacle.Credit:Getty Images

Who among us has not at least once started the day with the firm intention of going to football, then when the time came heard the rain and felt the icy breeze under the door frame and remembered the bottle of wine and saw the lounge chair and planted himself down? Friday evening aperitif, Sunday around the barbecue.

COVID broke some habits, formed others. It’s the same at other levels of football and in other areas of life. It’s a shame, because despite all the efforts of the broadcasters, football on a flat screen literally lacks dimension. But this is where the course of history has taken us.

For the AFL, this is a delicate question. They nod to membership numbers reaching all-time highs, but that has to be taken with a grain of rock salt. Membership is a liberally interpreted statute in the AFL. One day it will appear that at least one 2022 membership ticket was held by a dog.

The new football monitoring paradigm is not as the AFL would have conceived it, but in a way they cannot lose. Over the past two seasons, ratings have risen about as much as crowds have fallen. Simply, those who would have left watched from their homes, and there some remained. The virtual is the reality.

This coincides with the AFL’s high-profile overtures to potential new global broadcasters, tapping into vast new funds. Seen in this light, as long as there are enough fans to create the spectacle and aura of a crowd (and last weekend was a big if), it doesn’t take much. Friday evening and free-to-air mousses, Sunday sausages and streaming.

The NRL was ahead of the game from the start.

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