Matildas gesture backfires on AFL as fans left raging over 'un-Australian' move

AFL fans were left fuming when the MCG took the Matildas game off the big screen before Melbourne's clash with Carlton.

Matildas players celebrate alongside a photo of the big screen at the MCG.
The MCG pulled the Matildas broadcast off the big screen when it went to extra time. Image: Getty/Corbin Middlemas

What initially looked to be a brilliant gesture backfired on the AFL on Saturday night as fans were left fuming that they couldn't continue watching the Matildas at the MCG. The AFL revealed before Saturday night's quarter-final at the Women's World Cup that they would broadcast the Matildas' clash with France on the big screens at the MCG, SCG and Optus Stadium before and after AFL games.

However there was uncertainty around what would happen at the MCG if the Matildas went to extra time, given the Melbourne Demons' clash with Carlton was scheduled to kick-off at 7.30pm. Unfortunately we found out - and it didn't go down well with fans.

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AFL officials pulled the Matildas broadcast off the big screen at the end of the regulation 90 minutes because they didn't want it playing when the Melbourne-Carlton game got underway. Boos rang out around the MCG when a notice went up on the big screen about 40 minutes before first bounce reading: "To continue watching the Matildas, please switch to your personal streaming device or available screens throughout the stadium."

Fans watch the Matildas on screens in a bar at the MCG.
AFL fans watch the Matildas on screens in a bar at the MCG before Melbourne's clash with Carlton. (Photo by Daniel Pockett/Getty Images)

The Matildas game ended up going to a penalty shootout (which began after first bounce in the AFL). It led to spectators at the MCG crowding around TV screens in bars and throughout the concourse rather than watching the AFL.

Commentator Roger O'Toole wrote on Twitter: “WTF! Seriously, you promote ‘come to the MCG and watch the Matildas before the football’... but only until the end of regular time, Life really isn’t this hard." Radio host Jim Wilson described it as "bloody ridiculous", while others labelled it "un-Australian" and "pathetic".

FIFA wanted Matildas game shown in full at MCG

It has since come to light that FIFA wanted the AFL to play the entirety of the Matildas game on the big screen, but the AFL pushed back. Sam Edmund of SEN reported on Saturday: “The AFL have surprised many with their willingness to do this. It is a begrudgingly willingness as well. There’s no way they would want this played but there’s a real element of not wanting to shoot Bambi, and fair enough, it’s the right thing to do.

“Behind the scenes over the last couple of days, the negotiations have been frustrating, bitter and they certainly got ugly. The Matildas versus France quarter-final will be shown on the MCG big screen from the kick-off until Carlton and Melbourne run out on the MCG from somewhere between 7.07pm and 7.10pm tonight.

Spectators at the MCG, pictured here watching the Matildas on the big screen.
Spectators at the MCG watch the Matildas game on the big screen. (Photo by Daniel Pockett/Getty Images)

“If the game finishes in regulation time, this is no problem, but if it goes to extra time and then penalties, it will be a big problem. It will then be shown on the 300 odd TVs around the stadium in the function rooms and the bars until its done.

“FIFA sent the AFL contracts on this that just simply weren’t feasible. FIFA wanted the game shown in full and even 10 minutes post-match as well, but the AFL weren’t willing to bend on that after already pushing Carlton versus Melbourne back until 7.30pm.

“FIFA then said, ‘OK, if you’re turning it off the big screen well then you are turning it off everything’. And that’s when the Melbourne Cricket Club (MCC) came in and said, ‘You’ve got no legal right to do that’. Optus Sport control the feed to the big screen’ but Channel 7 control all the feeds to all other TVs in the stadium. The MCC have essentially said, ‘If you’re in your living room, we can put Channel 7 on and this is our living room so we are showing it and you can’t stop us’."

Radio personality and former AFL player Ryan Fitzgerald was also left fuming that the big screen at the Gabba wasn't showing the Matildas game after Brisbane's clash with Adelaide, despite it being shown on TV screens in the concourse. "Absolute shit effort at the Gabba," he tweeted. "You’ve got an oval full of sporting fans going into the penalties and they refuse to put it on the big screen."

The post-match press conference at the Gabba was even delayed so opposing coaches Chris Fagan and Matthew Nicks could watch the end of the Matildas game. Luckily for the AFL the Matildas' semi-final clash with England will be on Wednesday night at 8pm and they won't face the same headache.

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