January 28, 2023

The AFL has maintained it did nothing wrong in ambushing the Socceroos with the announcement of the first-round schedule, with a senior executive saying the league “supports other codes.”

Australia was in full football mode last Sunday as the underdog Socceroos took on Argentina in the FIFA World Cup.

Thousands flocked to city centers to watch parties, while a total of 1.71 million people tuned in to watch the match on SBS.

Australia had defied all critics to take two group stage victories and knock out world No. 10 Denmark and promise the African nation of Tunisia to reach the knockout stages.

But while the country was gripped by Socceroos fever, the AFL inexplicably tied its first-round tie during the game.

It was heavily criticized by sports fans, who said the timing was “pathetic,” “petty,” “arrogant,” and “crippled.”

Thousands of Aussies traveled to Qatar to support the Socceroos at the FIFA World Cup

Thousands of Aussies traveled to Qatar to support the Socceroos at the FIFA World Cup

Aziz Behich of Australia, Lionel Messi of Argentina during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Round of 16 match between Argentina and Australia at Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium

Aziz Behich of Australia, Lionel Messi of Argentina during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Round of 16 match between Argentina and Australia at Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium

However, AFL competition boss Travis Auld defended the decision, saying it was made long before the Socceroos ever qualified for the knockout stages of the World Cup.

He added that he was a “sports fan” and that the AFL respected and supported other codes.

“The reality is that as long as I’ve been with the AFL and probably long before that, we’ve always released Round 1 of the game to News Limited. [Corp[ on the Sunday – and that’s been organised a long time out,’ Auld said.

‘I think we’ve got a track record of being pretty respectful and supportive of other codes.

Thousands of Aussies flocked to viewing parties in city centres to get behind the Socceroos in their match against Argentina

Thousands of Aussies flocked to viewing parties in city centres to get behind the Socceroos in their match against Argentina

Auld has listened to the criticism but says the AFL did nothing wrong and the timing had been organised before the Socceroos qualified for their match against Argentina

Auld has listened to the criticism but says the AFL did nothing wrong and the timing had been organised before the Socceroos qualified for their match against Argentina

‘So putting out nine games of footy on a Sunday in a newspaper, we felt it’s what we’ve always done, we felt that’s OK.

‘If we’ve released one round of football in the newspaper and that’s got in the way of the game, then it is what it is.’

Summer is typically the domain of cricket and many thought the AFL’s decision to release the round one draw in early December, along with the recent Gather Round announcement, were attempts to steal the spotlight from the summer of cricket. 

The second Test between Australia and the West Indies is being held at Adelaide Oval, the same city that will host Gather Round in 2023.

However Auld said the announcement complemented the cricket, rather than detract from it. 

‘I went to the cricket last night and it’s an unbelievable event,’ he said.

Marnus Labuschagne hooks a ball away past West Indies player Shamarh Brooks on the second day of the second cricket Test between Australia and the West Indies at the Adelaide Oval

Marnus Labuschagne hooks a ball away past West Indies player Shamarh Brooks on the second day of the second cricket Test between Australia and the West Indies at the Adelaide Oval

‘This city is so lucky to have a venue like this and clearly it’s pushing hard for sports content and it’s working.

‘I’m a lover of sport, I was there and I think it’s wonderful and I think this just complements that.

‘It talks more to what the city has to offer from a sporting point of view so I don’t see the two as mutually exclusive.’

AFL fixture boss Travis Auld with SA Premier Peter Malinauskas at Montefiore Hill to announce the Gather round of AFL matches to be player in Adelaide in 2023

AFL fixture boss Travis Auld with SA Premier Peter Malinauskas at Montefiore Hill to announce the Gather round of AFL matches to be player in Adelaide in 2023

SA Premier Peter Malinauska also defended the announcement of the Gather Round and said they would have clashed with other sporting and cultural events no matter what.

‘If they released it last weekend, it would’ve clashed with the Adelaide 500, if they released it this weekend, they’d clash with the cricket, then they’d clash with Christmas, then they’d clash with the Fringe [Festival[, then they’d clash with the Tour Down Under, then they’d clash with the Adelaide Festival, then they’d clash with Womad then we’ve got the Magic Round,’ Malinaukas said.

‘To be fair to them, whenever they announced it, it would’ve clashed with something here in Adelaide and I think that says about where we’re going.’

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