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Focus on equity, not money

Nick Bowen  May 19, 2017 1:09 PM

Clarkson: "Make it 17-5" Alastair Clarkson Press conference before our Round 9 clash with the Pies.

On field equity, rather than money, has to be the driving factor behind any changes to the season fixture, Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson says.

The AFL has been toying with changing the existing home and away fixture for the past two years in a bid to bring more fairness to a draw where each team plays just five opponents twice. 

The League first floated a 17-5 model, where a team would play each of the other 17 clubs once and then be divided into divisions of three – first to sixth, seventh to 12th and 13th to 18th – for the final five rounds.

But after clubs resisted this proposal, primarily because of the financial hit they would take if not able to play traditional rivals twice in a season, the AFL came up with an alternate 18-4 model, which would operate similarly to the 17-5 version but with an additional rivalry round where state-based and traditional clashes would be scheduled.

At the AFL's meeting with club CEOs on Thursday, there was also some support to replace the pre-finals bye with wildcard play-offs that would determine the last two places in the finals.

Clarkson told reporters on Friday he felt the 17-5 model was the best of the proposed new fixtures, saying it was time to put fairness ahead of commercial interests. 

"I think the AFL and the footy community need to make a decision on what their actual intent is with adjusting the current system," Clarkson said.

"(The) 17-5 (model) is all about making it more equal, breaking the competition after Round 17 into three groups. If that's their intent for equity, which I think is a good intent, then the wildcard (games) become part of that. 

"If they're looking to commercialise and make it 18-4 and have two rivalry rounds and that sort of stuff, it's about commercialisation and money.

"And if you're after that then keep the current draw because that's what has driven that. If we want equity, go 17-5. If you don't, just leave it alone, just keep it as it is now."

Watch: Clarkson's full press conference

When making its decision, the AFL should put what was best for the game ahead of the clubs' financial interests, the Hawks coach said.

"If the (club) CEOs have got a choice of two rivalry rounds, what do you think they're going to take? Because it means an extra half a million dollars in the bank for their bottom line," Clarkson said.

"It's what the philosophy is of the game: what's best for the game, not what's best for each individual CEO and his (or her) bottom line. 

"If what's best for the game is equity, then that should be what drives this decision, not money. Our game needs to have a balance between what's best for the game and the spirit of the game and what's best in terms of the commercialisation. 

"We need both, but let's not have a bias too heavily (weighted) towards one. And if we go to 18-4 l feel like it's a bias too heavily (weighted) towards one."

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