Round 14, 2017

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With the 20 percent pay rise for AFL players announced this week (with success like that, perhaps the ALFPA could be called in to help campaign for better job access and remuneration in our sector?)  and changes to free agency  – we thought we’d briefly dip into these issues from yesteryear.

In a meeting in Melbourne, in March 1911, a conclusion was reached that players shouldn’t be paid. An international comparison was made with baseball. It was said the professionalisation of baseball had had disastrous effects. The Age reported that ‘Tens of thousands of players who played the game gave it up to become mere spectators’ and it was lamented that ‘civil servants and young fellows’ playing football would have to give up the game if it became professional. (‘Shall Footballers be paid?’ Age 3 March 1911 )

But by the 15th of May that year, The Sun told its readers that ‘The governing body of football in Victoria has decided to let its clubs do openly what everybody knew they had been doing privately for twenty-five years — pay the players’. In the context of this, the Sun identified the issue of amateurism and professionalism as being the most ‘vexed question … in sport’. (‘Paid Footballers for Melbourne, Sun 15 May 1911 )

Later in the year, a headline in Adelaide’s Advertiser asked ‘Is Victoria Stealing Men?’ (3 August 1911), and reported on a meeting of the overseeing authority of footy – the Australasian Football Council – in which questions were asked about the interstate movement of players. Mr W Strickland (former Carlton star & 1887 premiership player and recent inductee to the Collingwood Hall of Fame as player and coach) said that ‘there was too much money in the game in Victoria’ and if the three month residency requirements prior to playing were not enforced other states ‘would be liable to lose their best men’.  There was debate about how long residency should be – and after hearing about the ‘open trafficking in players in Victoria’, Mr W H Gill, thought that the residency period in Victoria should be increased to two years. Those at the meeting were reported as responding with laughter.

The issue of professionalism was considered a delicate one indeed. Mr Gill said ‘We had heard an admission that Victoria has practically adopted professionalism’ to which Mr Strickland was said to reply: ‘No, no.’ Mr Becker, representing Queensland, asked Mr Gill ‘to refrain from using the word professionalism’ as ‘It was calculated to harm the game’. Gill continued ‘gravely’: ‘To say professionalism has been adopted in Victoria is a very serious thing.’

But when it comes to tipping, amateurs are probably better than professionals, so good luck to all those out there in this very hard tipping week!

Mary and Jordy

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