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Volume 6 No. 212

Leagues and Governing Bodies

The Australian Football League's push into the Sunday night time slot "will be greater than first thought," with six games scheduled to start after 7pm on Sundays in '14, according to Matt Murnane of THE AGE. The league "will begin its trial of the new concept immediately," scheduling Carlton against Port Adelaide at Etihad Stadium as its first Sunday night clash in an opening round that will be split over two weekends -- March 14-16 and March 20-23. There will also be six Thursday night matches, "including the first ever Thursday night game at Simonds Stadium between Geelong and Adelaide in round one." The record 25-week season "will include a split opening round and two byes per club." Anzac Day, which falls on a Friday this season, "will be a nine-hour marathon of football with three games in two countries and three time zones" (THE AGE, 10/31).

GOOD FRIDAY FOOTBALL: The AAP reported the AFL "will soon break its last great scheduling taboo by playing on Good Friday." The league is "experimenting with Thursday and Saturday night matches next season." Deputy CEO Gillon McLachlan concedes that Good Friday "is the final frontier," to be breached perhaps as early as '15. While the NRL has played on Good Friday for several seasons, AFL CEO Andrew Demetriou "has led strong opposition to the concept." Asked if a Good Friday match was inevitable for '15, McLachlan replied, "Inevitability means certainty -- there is gathering momentum. It's probably a 50-50 bet (for 2015). If we did it in 2015, we need ... a proper, respectful consultation with the stakeholders" (AAP, 11/1). In Melbourne, Murnane reported in a separate piece McLachlan said Demetriou -- a "vigorous opponent of Good Friday football in the past" -- had ‘‘softened’’ his stance on the issue. McLachlan: "I don’t know if he’s always been completely against it. He’s mellowing, he’s softening." At a meeting of the 18 clubs in AFL grand final week, there was "a united push from presidents and chief executives for the competition to overturn its traditional insistence that the religious holiday remain football-free" (THE AGE, 10/31).

PLAYING NICE: Also in Melbourne, Jon Ralph wrote the AFL "once pretended it played nice with its fellow Australian sporting codes." What is clear from the fixture released is the AFL "wants to if not obliterate them, then a least starve them entirely of the limelight." A football season that once "stretched to roughly six months is now a 29-week marathon starting in the middle of March." The league will also play 18 pre-season games on consecutive days in February. It is "part of a deliberate attempt by the AFL to dominate the sporting landscape save for two weeks over Christmas and two weeks during January’s Australian Open" (HERALD SUN, 11/1). Also in Melbourne, Mark Robinson wrote the "Americanisation of the AFL continues unabated." The American influence "started with the introduction of the salary cap and national draft, two components that are the pillars of the competition and the fundamental reasons why the AFL is fair and why the English Premier League is a joke." Important "bibs and bobs followed." The "racial vilification mandate, drug testing, respect and responsibility, all aspects covered by American sports." Moreover, the Americanisation of the draw and its future "took significant steps." The AFL said that "it was testing the market, but six games is more than testing the market, it is trying to control the market." Why else would they play Collingwood vs. Carlton and Essendon vs. Carlton, two 80,000 blockbuster crowds at any other timeslot? Make no mistake, Sundays "are not only here to here to stay, they are here to flourish" (HERALD SUN, 11/1).

Cricket Australia "has been accused of giving England a big free kick before the Ashes by plundering state squads to the detriment of the Sheffield Shield," according to Chloe Saltau of the SYDNEY MORNING HERALD. States "are up in arms at having to release star batsmen for a new-look invitational XI to play against the English in a four-day match" at the Sydney Cricket Ground starting Nov. 13. And many within Australian cricket are mystified as to why CA "has agreed to the old enemy's requests for stronger opposition, rolling out the red carpet for the tourists in their final tour game." Cricket Victoria Operations Manager Shaun Graf said, "Rightly or wrongly they want to look after the English. But they don't do us too many favors when we go over there, so I'm quite surprised that we want to accommodate them" (SMH, 11/1). In Brisbane, Malcolm Conn wrote English counties routinely put out "dud sides against Australia in tour matches, which included during the last Ashes series earlier this year." Many state officials are furious but have been told by CA to "publicly and privately" support the move. One official they would not be "going to war" with CA over the issue for fear of a "vindictive" reaction. Another described it as "an absolute disgrace" and said the states were "filthy" (COURIER-MAIL, 11/1).

The National Rugby League "is considering allowing players to effectively be free agents at all times as part of a widespread review of the salary cap," according to Adrian Proszenko of the SYDNEY MORNING HERALD. The Australian Rugby League Commission "has engaged all major stakeholders, including players, agents, clubs and the media for the first time, as it seeks to modernise the salary cap while retaining a level playing field." Some of the options being considered include: the NRL "centrally contracting marquee players in a system similar to cricket and rugby union;" allowing players to shift clubs at any time, "in spite of contractual ties, if clubs can agree terms;" and implementing a salary cap that includes a limit on off-field spending on resources "such as coaches or high-performance units." The NRL will not implement any of the more radical proposals for next season, "but all options are being examined to provide a system that will cater for the game's needs for decades to come" (SMH, 11/1).

The Int'l Cycling Union (UCI) has insisted that the inquiry into past doping announced by new President Brian Cookson "is not dependent on the participation of Lance Armstrong." Cookson "announced the formation of an independent commission at an extraordinary meeting of the UCI's management committee." However, despite confirmation that representatives of Armstrong have been approached to discover whether he would be willing to take part, "a source close to Cookson has indicated that they plan to press ahead regardless of whether the disgraced seven-time winner is involved" (INDEPENDENT, 10/29). ... Indian Sports Minister Jitendra Singh has responded to his senior colleague in the government, Veerappa Moily's letter to him in connection with badminton player Jwala Gutta's ongoing impasse with the Badminton Association of India, saying that "he will examine her case and see how he can extend support to her" (PTI, 10/31).