football’s latest act of self-sabotage is beyond parody

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Ten days. How long has it been since Australia faced Argentina in the Round of 16 of the World Cup; a week and a half since Garang Kuol came close to sending the game into overtime. Now Lionel Messi and co are destined for a World Cup final, while Australian rules football is embroiled in a resentful civil war that threatens to irreparably sever the relationship between the A-Leagues and its most devoted supporters.

Two days after the initial announcement, the furor surrounding the decision by the Australian Professional Leagues (APL) to sell the hosting rights for the next three major men’s and women’s finals in Sydney shows no signs of abating. If anything, it’s getting worse and worse.

Related: Premier League double down on grand final change despite Anthony Di Pietro resigning

The fan’s rage at the decision appears to have grown self-sustaining, an ouroboros of disgust that only grows with each passing moment, NSW’s commitment remains. Massive boycotts and walkouts are expected this weekend. Players such as Craig Goodwin, Remy Siemsen and Jason Davidson have taken to social media to disavow the decision. And some clubs have issued their own statements distancing themselves from the decision-making process.

Although the vote on the partnership was apparently unanimous, Melbourne Victory chairman Anthony Di Pietro resigned as a trustee of the APL board, and his name was notably absent in a statement from late night released by the PLA on Tuesday, which dubbed the decision. . At least that was until he was ripped from facebook and reposted without the names of the other 11 club representatives.

This is beyond parody. Even before the Socceroos team members began to return home from their historic spell in Doha, sardonic jokes were flying – how would the local game spoil this? It’s the well-deserved cynicism of Aussie Rules football. But even the most jaded wouldn’t have anticipated that it would take little more than a week for a self-inflicted existential crisis to materialize.

While it’s easy to dismiss the lingering grudge as the latest example of Aussie Rules football being eaten, it’s increasingly appearing to be the latest front in the increasingly bitter ideological dispute between fans and fans. administrators on what matters in modern sport and what is worth sacrificing. .

Beyond the dissatisfaction around a grand finale, it has become a moment of class consciousness among those who provide the passion and the atmosphere, as opposed to those who claim ownership. Even if the decision were reversed today, the anger would likely remain; fans who rebel against those they now believe see them not as partners but as cash registers whose concerns can be ignored when the dollars add up. It’s more than a grand finale now. It’s about trust, connection and a feeling that the fans don’t matter at all.

How the A-Leagues come back from this, if they even can, is hard to imagine. The outrage of the past few days has been fueled almost entirely by a sea of ​​collective fans, and there are no definitive leaders to target or schmooze to ease tensions. The media are not so much directing the conversation as being watchers who care.

Related: ‘Terrible decision’: A-Leagues decision to sell grand final rights to Sydney angers fans

The APL’s rollback seems impossible: the NSW government won’t let them terminate their contract and, even if they did, the reputational damage of such a move would likely negatively impact any future hopes of get government funding again. There is also a level of belief that their concept, a week-long “football festival” (details of which are still scarce), is what the game needs to grow. And that’s not to mention eight figures over three years – it costs money to run a league these days.

It’s a crisis. But it’s also modern football, where business considerations, investment vehicles, data lakes and other words you’d find on LinkedIn have become just as much a part of the game as joga bonito. When Lionel Messi enters Lusail Stadium in the early hours of Australian morning on Monday, he will do so in a World Cup sold to the highest bidder, in the last final before the tournament expands to 48 teams and becomes even more profitable. . He will then return to a Paris Saint Germain team that is effectively owned by Qatar, and take part in a Champions League that will grow from 32 to 36 teams in 2024 – which was itself a response to not-yet-dead attempts to establish a Super European League.

Now it looks like Australian rules football is having its own modern moment. What is the value of a dollar?

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