AFL savaged over 'pathetic' act during Socceroos game at World Cup

The Socceroos are pictured on the left, and a headshot of AFL boss Gillon McLachlan on the right.
The Socceroos top 16 match against Argentina at the FIFA World Cup had to compete, if you can call it that, with the AFL releasing their 2023 season fixture at the exact same time the match began. Pictures: Getty Images

The AFL has been accused of attempting to steal the thunder of the Socceroos after fans noticed they had released their 2023 season fixture at 6am on Sunday morning. Football fans across Australia, as well as those just getting on the Socceroos train, were left with a firmly raised eyebrow once it had been noticed.

The Socceroos faced football heavyweights Argentina on Sunday morning, having progressed to the top 16 at the FIFA World Cup for just the second time in team history. Impressive wins over Tunisia and European contenders Denmark earned the Socceroos their unlikely progression, where they proceeded to give Lionel Messi's side an almighty scare in their eventual 2-1 defeat.

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However it was the AFL who found themselves the subject of scrutiny after releasing their fixture at 6AM on the dot on Sunday morning, just as the Socceroos kicked off against Argentina. Many sports fans were puzzled by the timing, wondering why on earth anyone would be up that early on a Sunday to get the lowdown on the next AFL season, which doesn't get underway until March 16.

Speaking on ABC sports program Offsiders on Sunday morning shortly after the conclusion of the Socceroos game, AFL reporter Caroline Wilson was sharply critical of the AFL fixture reveal. She said the league, as well as the NRL, had a history of trying to get one over football in Australia.

“It’s really interesting to watch the response from the other codes, and, you know, the story was 10, 20 years ago when Australia failed in World Cups, AFL and NRL broke out the Champagne,” Wilson said.

“I thought the response this morning to release the round one fixture of the AFL 2023 season was just lame of the AFL to release it today. I would have just given them a bit of clean air today. I thought that was disappointing by the AFL.”

Wilson wasn't the only one accusing the AFL of trying to steal some of the Socceroos' thunder, with many other sports fans chiming in on social media. AAP reporter Oliver Caffrey described the timing as 'next-level parody', while plenty of others were happy to mock the AFL as well.

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AFL's cheeky fixture release backfires among Socceroos fans

While the AFL's fixture release will ultimately come as the briefest of footnotes in the Socceroos' memorable World Cup campaign, it is another example of the major Australian sporting codes clashing when it comes to football.

Earlier this year, Football Australia was left miffed when both the AFL and cricket's Big Bash League trumped them during a visit from Manchester United when they played several exhibition matches earlier in 2022. A photo opportunity with Rashford and players from many other sporting codes in Melbourne ironically left out featuring any A-League or W-League players from Melbourne, a move that left Football Australia frustrated.

Melbourne Victory skipper Josh Brillante was actually present for the promotional event, but was not in the picture that was widely seen in the press. Images of Rashford with a Sherrin sparked a massive backlash, with football fans questioning why the game's custodians in Australia would allow an international icon to essentially promote a rival sporting code.

Manchester United star Marcus Rashford was pictured holding a Sherrin and with players from rival codes, in a move that angered football fans. Pictures: Twitter/Getty Images
Manchester United star Marcus Rashford was pictured holding a Sherrin and with players from rival codes, in a move that angered football fans. Pictures: Twitter/Getty Images

According to The Age's Vince Rugari, Football Australia is determined to avoid such a situation happening again in the future, vowing not to sign off on big exhibition matches unless promoters and clubs agree to promote matches through local and grassroots football clubs. Press plans will also be subject to increased scrutiny under what Rugari referred to as a 'no Sherrin rule'.

The furore around Rashford's press appearances was kicked off when former SBS fottball commentator Lucy Zelic pointed out the image on Twitter. “Can someone tell me what the point of this is,” Zelic wrote.

“Is Marcus suddenly going to switch codes and sign for an AFL side? Go and pat a koala, meet with proud members of our Indigenous communities and spend time with grassroots FOOTBALL clubs. This is just f**king embarrassing.

“This is a blatant PR exercise that Marcus was told to do, nothing more, nothing less. Cross-code promotions are a waste of time. They should be appealing to FOOTBALL fans. As a code, the AFL and its representatives have done nothing but s*** on football time and time again.

"Who could forget in 09’ when we bid for the WC and [former AFL CEO Andrew] Demetriou refused to give up Etihad (now Marvel Stadium) for an INTERNATIONAL tournament. Agreeing to be apart of this stupidity is just insulting.”

The FIFA World Cup 2022 is on SBS and SBS on Demand.

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