Thursday Night Footy – Why it should be here to stay

The time has come to bite the bullet and make Thursday night football a permanent weekly fixture on the AFL calendar. There are currently about six a year, but from next year that amount should at least double to twelve or even go as high as fifteen. Sure, crowd numbers may not be as huge as a Friday night game and people do have to work the next day, but there are ways around that. If the AFL adopt a 17-5 fixture, there will be five games at the end of the season that are almost guaranteed blockbusters that can be easily scheduled on a Thursday night. That will encourage crowds. Thursday nights should be a feature during school holidays in each state and encouraged at the beginning and end of the year where the weather is more likely to be decent.

Here are five reasons why Thursday night footy should be here to stay –

Weekend Longer
It makes the weekend seem longer, even when it is not. Sure, you still have to get up and go to work on a Friday, but it is Friday and that does not really count right? It is not like you are going to schedule a Thursday night game in the same venue each week, but if your club had two a year, surely that does not impact on everyday life too much. It also means the media cycle can stop dribbling on about one or two issues from the previous round and move the focus onto next week far more quickly than what is currently happening. We would have still been talking about last week’s controversial deliberate rushed behind call on Thursday night in the absence of any AFL action this week.

Less clash games
It frees up a time slot on a Saturday afternoon or Sunday to do other things. One less game on a weekend means two games do not have to be scheduled to run at the same time, which gives them more air and a bigger audience. It may even encourage fans, particularly in Melbourne to attend more than one game a week. If your team has played on a Thursday night and you still want to go to the footy on weekends, you can very easily go to another game.

It also would give competitions such as the VFL, SANFL and WAFL some more clear air on Saturday Afternoons. With less AFL, fans can head to the local footy on Saturday’s and ensure these competitions can be viable into the future.

TV Product
The ratings of the last two weeks tell a tale. The numbers are pretty decent, particularly when you consider that Thursday is not traditionally a high rating night on televsion. Fox Footy have turned the current series of AFL Thursday games into ‘Pie Night’ and I am sure would have no qualms about making ‘Pie Night’ a regular feature of their programming. Channel Seven meanwhile have four or five channels these days. Home and Away can easily be shifted to one of those if the free to air broadcaster wishes to partake in the Thursday game. What I think you would find is under the current broadcast deal there would end up being games exclusive to Fox Footy on Thursday nights, with Channel Seven having rights to a select few, as they have got this year.

NRL have set precedent 
There is plenty that the AFL do that the NRL could learn from, but the regular fixturing of Thursday night games is something the NRL have got nailed at the present time. It is an event on pay television and free to air television alike and really puts the NRL on the sporting agenda before the weekend even begins.

The AFL should also adopt the model of having the MRP sit early in the weekend to analyse games played on a Thursday or Friday. It is madness to have games played early on in the weekend analysed on a Monday.

Messes with Channel Nine
Alright, so this one is a little bit tongue in cheek, but scheduling games on Thursday nights messes with Channel Nine’s programming of the AFL Footy Show. This is a good thing, because it is rubbish and should not be on air. It historically does perform as well on Wednesday nights and eats into other major programming, which will hopefully be the cue to shelve the program completely. One can only hope.

It ist time to make that weekend a little longer and put footy on the box for one extra day a week throughout the AFL season. Monday night footy is never going to work, but Thursday night is and can. Share Thursday night footy across the country, set up more blockbusters and program cleverly. It is a no-brainer moving forward for the AFL.

Picture – Geelong Football Club

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