Rucci is right. Give Saturday back to the locals

Thursday night. Friday night. Saturday afternoon. Saturday twilight. Saturday night. Sunday lunchtime. Mid afternoon Sunday. Sunday twilight. This is currently what the fixture time slots of the AFL draw looks like. That is one massive chunk of the weekend.

If you love footy, and particularly AFL, this doesn’t leave you with much time to do much at all with your weekend, let alone have time to go and support the lower levels of footy namely the SANFL.

The Advertiser’s chief football writer Michelangelo Rucci has suggested that the AFL blackout Saturday afternoons and allow this time purely for SANFL and grassroots footy. 

This is a good idea that would benefit not only football in South Australia, but footy around the country.

The SANFL is full of issues at the present time.  You have to look no further than the crowd of 988 people that turned up to watch South Adelaide play Port Adelaide on June 18 at Hickinbotham Oval. 988. That really is sad. It is worth noting that this was a day where the Power’s AFL team was to play Fremantle in Perth on that same afternoon.

There are many reasons why crowds have dropped, but the fixture and oversaturated market place are two contributors.

SANFL matches have moved away from being held at night during the mid winter months. That experiment was not seen as a success last year despite most grounds now being equipped with lights. The black outs at both Gliderol Stadium at Glenelg and Hickinbotham Oval at Noarlunga in 2015 didn’t really help the cause.

The AFL needs the SANFL and the SANFL needs the AFL, which is strange because at the moment you’d think they could not co-exist.

On any given Saturday afternoon, given the choice between heading to a SANFL game or staying home watching AFL on the TV, most people are going to choose the latter. There are also times where AFL is scheduled for both the Crows or the Power at the same as SANFL games. That is ridiculous.

The SANFL TV broadcast rights are up in the air for 2017. How more attractive would it be for a broadcaster to show the game without having any competition from an AFL game. Perhaps the SANFL could also be modern and show a game every week on TV rather than this stop start rubbish we’ve been exposed to this year on Channel 7.

The aim of course is to get people back to the grounds, not necessarily watch it on TV, but any exposure is good exposure and a little money from advertising wouldn’t hurt the competition either.

As a fan looking for a football fix without AFL action, Saturday’s would have to be spent in the garden or ideally heading off to a suburban ground after morning junior footy to see some SANFL action.

Young kids must be encouraged to go along to find heroes who they want to go back and see week after week. Much like they have with Eddie Betts. Have SANFL tickets as best on ground prizes at junior level, have SANFL players do more clinics, have more free merchandise available displaying club logos and sponsors.

This idea of a black out on Saturday afternoons would not be that hard to accommodate. There is some room to move with the AFL fixture. A fourth game on a Sunday wouldn’t hurt, nor would perhaps having two games on a Friday night. The time difference in Perth could be used as a bit of a buffer for this. An increase in Thursday night matches is also an option.

Saturday twilight games could potentially stay. If Saturday night footy was pushed back to 8pm and Saturday twilight started a little later in the afternoon, there would be no cross over with local game, which could start just after lunch on a Saturday.

If the AFL reserves sides stay in the SANFL, this would also avoid having the Crows or the Magpies playing at the same time as their AFL equivalent as we’ve seen a couple of times in 2o16.

Furthermore, the SANFL rules this year have been compromised partly so the AFL can see what happens before potentially introducing them at AFL level. Surely us as fans should be allowed some clear air to see these rules in action too.

It is do or die for the SANFL in 2017. Changes have to be made or we won’t be seeing much more of this competition beyond that.

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