Don’t change our game: Pagan, Paddy
Coaching great Denis Pagan has urged the AFL not to mess with the fabric of the game in the wake of the coronavirus crisis as a leading sports marketing expert warned radical change could alienate the sport's passionate fan base.
It comes as Geelong star and AFLPA union president Patrick Dangerfield warned an AFL plan to cull of club list sizes would almost certainly shorten matches into the future.
Pagan, a dual Kangaroos premiership coach, understands the game needs to be streamlined, but called upon the AFL to keep the fundamentals intact.
A number of leading football identities have called for radical change to the game, while AFL legend Leigh Matthews advocated cutting the on-field numbers to 16-per-side.
But Pagan said AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan and general manager of football Steve Hocking needed to "keep it simple", saying the game had survived world wars and depressions and would survive the coronavirus crisis.
"Look, these are very qualified people (advocating radical change), but I don't think we don't need it," Pagan told the Herald Sun.
"Leave it at 18 (on the field) and four on the interchange bench. I don't know why people are talking about going to 16.
"I just hope the people (at the AFL) making the decisions accept that they don't own the game. They are only caretakers while they are in the positions they are in now.
"The game will look after itself. We don't need to be changing things for the sake of it."
He understands the biggest financial squeeze in the game's history will mean fewer assistant coaches and support staff for senior coaches.
While he said the clubs can easily deal with fewer assistant coaches, he feared the game won't look the same if some of the longstanding rules are tampered with.
"We can complicate it as much as you like, but one of the great things about our game is the simplicity of it," he said.
"You get the ball, you kick it, you mark it and you kick the goal ... it's not rocket science."
RMIT University associate professor and sports marketing expert Dr Con Stavros believes the AFL should tread warily about changing the game too radically.
"People like Leigh Matthews are saying 'let's cut it down to 16 players' ... but now is not the time (for that)," Dr Stavros said.
"I would be making it as normal as possible ... (if not the fans) might go 'That's not my sport now'.
The AFL is hell-bent on reducing club list sizes from around 45 to 35, or potentially as low as 30, from next year to save on costs - depriving more than 150 current players of a job.
"At Geelong last year we used 39 players ... the requirements of a (normal) season - 22 home-and-away games, plus finals (and) the lengths of games - requires a significant list size," Dangerfield said.
"But if you reduce list sizes, well how does that look if you are expecting players to still play 130-odd minutes with only lists of 30?
"It's just improbable. It would be near impossible to do and to still provide the same level of quality in the play that we currently have."
Quarters were reduced 16-minutes plus time-on this year to reduce player fatigue because of the condensed 17-Round season, but some have called for it to stay beyond this season.
The league also tried unsuccessfully to reduce the length of half-time breaks this year, before backflipping after a supporters' backlash.
Players have been told to prepare for four-day breaks between games when footy resumes in 2020.
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Originally published as Don't change our game: Pagan, Paddy