Let’s get one thing straight here: no matter what happens, the sports business in Australia will never be the same as the sports business in the US. It’s just not going to happen.
Now I know that some people like to talk about the Americanisation of sport in Australia and yes, there are things Australian sporting codes are adopting because they have worked so well in the US such as salary caps, the reverse order draft, and free agency. The primary reason for this is because the leagues want to make a better game. Better games mean more fans and more fans mean more money. EVERYTHING is [nearly] ALWAYS about money. But is it working well? Eh. Not in my opinion.
The way I see it… Australia and the US are too different. Sure, we’re westernised countries who love sport and have disposable income and speak English and used to be British (Although we handled that situation VERY differently – American cut the rope as soon as possible while Australia loves being part of the monarchy… mostly). But apart from that… they’re really different. Sure, we can argue to the death about money and size and sponsorship (and believe me, we will – that will bet he second part in this series!) but ultimately, Australians and Americans view sports differently.
Sports in America is all about entertainment. There’s music, there’s lights, there’s dancing and drinking and loud noises and about 12,846,936 things competing for your attention all at once. You don’t even know where to look. It’s about showing off (I mean, touch down dances and slam dunks? That ain’t nothin’ but good, old-fashioned show-boatin’). Sports are about sponsorship – who is going to make money and how. They’re about money. They’re ALWAYS about money. Frankly, in the US, you don’t pay for sport, you pay for experience.
Regardless of how you feel about how Americans handle sport, they have some of the most lucrative business in the world and, by far, some of the most successful sporting leagues (the EPL, of course, is spectacular, but you already knew that).
This is not to say that Australian sports are not successful and not lucrative. But Australians don’t see sports as massive productions like Americans do. Do you know what Australians see sport as?
That’s it. They see men, a field, a ball. Athletic ability. Competition.
Sure, some people also see a good sausage sizzle or a couple (mid-strength) beers and that’s all well and good but they simply see a sport. It’s almost romantic, in a way. Kind of like people who refuse to buy Kindles because they simply prefer real books and don’t want the superficiality of something so flashy. So how do turn something so raw and nostalgic and important into a money making machine? How do you Americanise Australian sport?
My answer: You don’t.