It’s not too much of a generalisation to
say non-Victorian AFL clubs are the only ones with a home-ground advantage these days.

The consolidation of Melbourne teams to
the MCG and Telstra Dome has totally erased any “home-ground advantage” enjoyed
by Victorian clubs when they play against other Victorian clubs (and reduces
the advantage enjoyed against interstate clubs).

Indeed, for Victorian clubs, “home-ground
advantage” is now a business formula, not an arena.

The statistics tell the story. In 2004 and
2005 the “home” team (being a team playing in their home state against
an
interstate team) won 129 times out of 193 matches (a massive 67%
winning rate). Such a considerable home-ground advantage would not be
an issue if
all teams enjoyed equal numbers of home games. However, this is not the
case.
Flag favourite West Coast plays 11 genuine “home” games, Adelaide plays
ten “home” games, the darling of the AFL Commission, Brisbane, play a
staggering 13 matches in Queensland while
the much maligned Fremantle will probably sneak into the finals on the
basis of
their 11 home games.

By contrast, St Kilda plays only two
real home games; Western Bulldogs two home games; Melbourne three home games
and the Kangaroos a pathetic one home match. You could even argue that the
sheer weight of home games has allowed non-Victorian clubs in recent years to
finish higher on the ladder and earn a “home final”.

Some may contend that the inherent
advantages now enjoyed by non-Victorian clubs is a necessary cost of making the
AFL a truly national competition, and has brought benefits to football in
terms of greater TV revenue and game development.

But it seems that the more the game is “developed” in NSW and
Queensland, the more Victorian clubs are disadvantaged. Until the
balance of
home games is rectified, it is a fait accompli that non-Victorian clubs
will
continue to dominate the AFL, while clubs like Melbourne, the Western
Bulldogs and the Kangaroos will continue to struggle
both on and off the field.

Precisely how that is good for football is
anybody’s guess.

Peter Fray

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