Demons v GWS match in Alice Springs could be scrapped as council criticizes AFL for ‘bullying’ them to lift ban on community footy
- Alice Springs local footy has been temporarily cancelled
- Comes as violence continues to plague the city
- AFL is concerned about the impact on footy and could pull the game
The AFL and Alice Springs City Council are embroiled in a dispute that could see the Melbourne and GWS Giants scheduled for the Northern Territory city in July be dropped.
The Demons and Giants game is part of an annual agreement to play an AFL clash at TIO Traeger Park in the red center.
However, the ongoing violence in Alice Springs has led the City Council to temporarily cancel the Central Australian Football League (CAFL) community competition over fears of incidents on the ground.
That decision has gone down like a lead balloon at AFL headquarters, with top buyers worried about the impact the scrapping of community footy will have on the game in Central Australia.
News Corp has reported that a leaked email from the AFL to elected members of Alice Springs Town questioned the viability of the round 16 match due to the cancellation of community football and called for its reintroduction.
The Demons’ Kysaiah Pickett played in Alice Springs’ 2022 game against Port Adelaide but may not return if the AFL scraps the 2023 game
James Harmes, Bernie Vince, Nathan Jones, Sam Frost and Jack Watts of the Demons in Indigenous Round jerseys at the 2017 game in Alice Springs
Alice Springs Mayor Matt Paterson responded to the AFL’s directive, calling it “extremely short-sighted” and accusing the AFL of bullying the Alice Springs community into changing its mind.
“I think it’s quite immature and a classic case of bullying and they need to look at themselves,” Paterson said.
“I have often said that policy makers and politicians should not make decisions for Alice Springs if they are based in Darwin, Canberra or in this case Melbourne.
‘A connection has been lost.
“If AFL wants to bully the Alice Springs community into changing their mind, they’ve read the room all wrong.
“I don’t know if any of the executives have been to Alice Springs in the last 12 months, but I think they should come here before they make those decisions.”
The council’s decision to ban community football from the grounds has led to an escalation of tensions between the Alice Springs City Council and the AFLNT.
Young fans in Alice Springs would be deprived of first-class footy and community footy if the standoff between the AFL and the Alice Springs City Council is not resolved
Fans surround the Eagles’ Liam Ryan to pose for a photo with the AFL star during the 2019 game in Alice Springs
The All-Stars perform the rallying cry for the exhibition game between Richmond and the Indigenous All-Stars in Alice Springs in 2013
The CAFL’s 10-team community division has a licensing deal to play at Traeger Park that expires in September 2025 and it had been hoped that competition could resume in a shortened format last month.
However, the council has upheld the ban and kept the gates of Traeger Park closed to community football players due to the ongoing violence in the city.
AFLNT has made several structural changes to the contest from 2022 to ensure the contest is ‘delivered safely’ and will see ‘less visits to Alice Springs’.
This includes having a seven round match – with four of the seven rounds played over two weeks – with 12 matches at distance when ‘safe and practical’ and a shortened finals series.
It is a reduction of two rounds from 2022 and five rounds less than in 2021.
In a statement, AFLNT said it planned to continue working with all key stakeholders to advance CAFL football in 2023 for the “improvement of the community” following a special summit on March 20.
“The importance of football to communities across the NT is widely recognized,” the top body said.
“Football is a powerful tool and has a positive impact on many involved, including players, coaches, referees, volunteers, families and supporters of clubs.
“We are committed to ensuring that football continues to play a positive role in Central Australia and all Territory communities.”