One More Time…

Last Saturday saw the Grand Final of the Australian Football League between St.Kilda and Collingwood finish in a 68-68 draw in front of 100,016 people at the Melbourne Cricket Ground – only the third time in the 114-year competition history that the league’s title decider has finished level.  The Saints were looking for only their second title in history (their only to date was equally dramatic in 1966 over Collingwood by a late solitary point), while the Magpies (the largest-market team in the league), were seeking their fifteenth in total, but only their second since 1958.

The thrilling finale means that the teams do it all again this coming Saturday to create their own slice of history.  Despite being in Ontario presenting seminars this week at some excellent Departments, by reading popular media and other various forums, is it obvious that fan opinion is clearly divided (even bipartisan) on the merits of having a full replay.

Historically, full replays have been part of the game’s culture.  However, the last time the showpiece fixture was drawn was in the still clearly semi-professional era in 1977 (the first year it was televised live).  Indeed, until 1990, all finals (playoff) matches were replayed, until a first-week finals draw in that year resulted in all remaining finals being pushed back a week, forcing a league re-think.  Since then, only the Grand Final was to be replayed, but with draws uncommon in Australian Rules football (approximately 1% of all games), various stakeholder groups do not tend to think much about such rules until the moment they become binding.

On the apparent upside, the league and the two teams are set for an unexpected financial windfall, some estimates saying in the order of $20 million (US$19.2 million) for this supposedly one-off event.  Needless to say, the Players’ Association has called for the players to receive their fair share of the unanticipated revenue.  Also, just yesterday the league increased the Grand Final prizemoney (hat-tip: Rob Macdonald).  Another unexpected beneficiary of the replay are the members (season-ticket holders) of the two clubs, less of which will miss out on tickets this time, as there is set to be a lower allocation to corporate clients and sponsors of the league.

One of the downsides is being felt by soon-to-be newlyweds, with some guests who have other priorities dropping out, see this link.  This is not to mention other sports (who purposely schedule events for when the AFL finishes), having to re-schedule games or face losses of revenue.

The AFL has, by their own admission, now broken their own guidelines by hastily changing the rules to allow extra-time (as many periods as necessary) to produce a winner in the unlikely event that the replay itself results in a stalemate at full-time (unlimited replays were specified previously).

In the modern professional and streamlined era with crowded match calendars, some argue that full replays should be consigned to the past.  Analogously, unlimited replays existed in the English FA Cup until the early 1990s (with some extreme cases going to an almost farcical fifth replay), but since then only a single replay (with penalties if necessary) still applies up to the quarter-finals stage.  Fortunately, given the rarity of draws in the indigenous Australian game, a penalty-shootout before extra-time style solution, like the one advocated on this blog on July 16 for Association football (soccer), is probably unnecessary.

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Author: Liam Lenten

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6 thoughts on “One More Time…”

  1. If the clubs can replay from the start, can the fans who attended the first match do the same? That is, can they attend the replay with the same ticket stub? I doubt it and maybe that is the reason for replays.

  2. Your intuition serves you well, Duane. Rightly or wrongly, the way they see it is that the original game produced a result (even if albeit no winner), so the replay is a different game altogether. Given the full replay was the historical norm, I am more likely to think that the real reason was not so much to force fans to buy another ticket, but more the thinking that a full replay was the only ‘right’ way to decide the winner.

  3. FA cup finals used to go to replays, so did the neutral venue semi-finals. Also, I the world cup final had a provision for replays, I think until the 90’s. The replays in all this would happen only after overtime in the original game.

    The world cup final never used a replay, the first tied world cup final was in LA in 1994- Brazil won on penalty kicks.

  4. There were replays in the knock-out stages of the 1934 and 1938 World Cups. The 1954 and 1958 finals used an odd format where they had playoff matches (effectively replays) after the group stages.

  5. Some people who attended last week will be at the MCG today for the the GF Replay: (a) Club members, if rich enough to have purchased a season-ticket guaranteeing them a GF seat; (b)AFL members (for historical reasons best explained elsewhere, the AFL itself sells memberships that give season tickets to those members and a very high probability of securing a GF seat; (c) Melbourne Cricket Club Members – The MCC is the stadium operator and historical custodian of the MCG; MCC members take up a good proportion of the MCG’s capacity and have some of the best seats in the stadium, so a good number of these members will be there again. But history suggests Liam is correct, this is a historical curiosity; not a grab for more money.

    Last week, the attendance was two fewer than the official spectator capacity; with Melbourne newspaper the Herald-Sun reporting during the week that two people were literally waiting for their tickets to arrive in the mail (they were lost by mail carrier Australia Post) so they couldn’t go…

    Meanwhile, many other sports have madly rescheduled fixtures. The Victoria Racing Club shifted Turnbull Stakes Day – the traditional offical start to the Spring [Thoroughbred] Racing Carnival in Victoria – from today (Sat) to tomorrow (Sun); semi-pro and amateur cricket competitions, along with many lawn bowls competitions (and probably some tennis competitions too, though I haven’t heard about them), which were to play the first round of their season today have been postponed until a later date; and the inaugural derby between A-League pro soccer teams Melbourne Victory and Melbourne Heart has been shifted to next Friday night. And so it was that Australian football (today) and rugby league (tomorrow) confirmed their dominance as the football codes people really give a hoot about in this nation.

  6. Wait a minute, Robert. Are you really telling me that tied cricket matches go to replays? I mean, doesn’t cricket already take, like, 18 days to play, and then you guys want to do it all over again?

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