A sport is a play-like activity in nature. It involves physical activity by the participants. Sports are organised for purposes of physical exercise, competition or entertainment. They involve competitors who exhibit a lot of skillfulness and are guided by a technical bench and coaches or trainers. Results of a given game are only known at the end of the event (Loy 2003, cited in Shilbury and Kellet 2010 p. 11). Special equipment and facilities are used in various sports activities. There are specific rules and regulations, a sports organisation, guiding how a particular sport is played (VanderZwaag and Sheehan 1978, cited in Shilbury and Kellet 2010 p.11). Some of the special facilities and equipment used by the participants include balls, special uniforms, a marked out pitch and special shoes. Australian Football League (AFL) is one of the dominant leagues in a sport and game crowded Australia. The league annually attracts crowds in excess of about 6 million. Millions of fans tune into television and radio broadcasts to “follow” a season-long league. The league has 16 clubs participants. It noted that around half a million Australians are club members, and contribute annual subscription (Australia Football League 2013). This is quite a big number; Australia is indeed a sporting country.
This report focuses on a sports event that I attended in person on 1st April 2013 at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG). It’s a football match between fierce rivals Hawthorn and Collingwood clubs. These two teams, together with Geelong, are the league favourites. Hawthorn has been a perennial rival of Collingwood, with the later having won in most of their previous matches. The match was a good piece of entertainment as the teams showcased much prowess in the game. This was a must-watch match.
The paper is divided into four sections, the sports event, the role of volunteers in such events, the role of government in events of this magnitude and the structure and organisation of the AFL. The report will conclude by pointing out the weaknesses and strengths of the event and give some recommendations to the event organisers.
The Most Significant Characteristics of the Sport Event
The punctuality of the event is one of the most significant characteristics. This is because of the high levels of planning before and on the day of the event. All the teams were warmly welcomed and ushered into their respective changing rooms by the attendants who were mostly volunteers. The match started on time, and all other activities before and after the match were on time as well. The second characteristic of the event is that the management should involve representatives from both clubs, AFL representatives, among others.
A sports manager is someone mandated to plan, organise, staff, direct and control of a sports organisation. The main product of the organisation is a sport or something related to sport. It is play-like characteristically, involves physical ability, skill, tactic or chance. In sport, the outcome is never certain, and it is guided by rules and regulations. A sport as well utilises special kind of facilities as well as equipment like well-marked fields and uniform. (Mullin 2003, cited in Shilbury and Kellet 2010 p.11).
There is no doubt that social engagement and competition are the most significant characteristics observed in an Australian football match. This event is a social event, in which Hawthorn and Collingwood’s teams collaborate, abide the set rules by the AFL, and agree to the terms and conditions set to compete in the competition by the federation (Kew 2003, cited in Shilbury and Kellet 2010 p.14). The outcome of the match was based on skill, strategy, and chance. The team’s technical benches were involved in setting up a strategy, sharpening their player skills and physical fitness to win the match. It was known it’s a highly contested match and attracted the fans’ interests, who were to capacity in the stadium. Very high levels of competition, cooperation, and conflict were experienced and expected. The two teams obliged to terms and conditions, and the match ended with no much of an incident. The rules used to guide and govern the match were AFL set. The teams found it a challenge, though a unique sporting feature to compete and cooperate. A sport is characterised with so much physical prowess. It’s played with the realm of ongoing and regular competitions, there is a lot of competition, and rules are set to govern the competition by the federations (Shilbury and Kellet 2010). In the case of the match between Hawthorn and Collingwood, there was a lot of physical contests, competition standards were high, and the rules used to govern the match were set by the AFL.
The Importance of Football in Australian culture
Sports for all
The AFL league has promoted regular participation through a partnership with the following but not limited to youths, women, men, disabled persons, working adults, families, seniors and community as a whole. AFL, allows participants to take part commensurate with their ability. The sports industry has grown through a promotional partnership with local and international organisations. The industry has brought together people from within and outside the sporting fraternity. They have realised that sports can benefit individuals, the community, the nation, and the world.
In the colonial times, the penal authorities restricted press coverage of sport in the Sydney Gazette (established 1803). The AFL currently sells coverage rights to media houses. Media houses, in turn, get adverts from the corporate world. Millions of fans tune into television and radio broadcasts to “follow” the best teams in their houses. The corporate interest in the sport has tremendously grown. The corporate world is now investing in the sport through direct sponsorship of teams, players, and sports associations. Financial rewards are now a common thing in the sporting fraternity. Employment opportunities are being created within and without the sport. The sport can boast of professional managers, professional players, and sports managers, among others. Australia is now open to external opportunities. The Australian players, coaches, are being exported to go and participate in other parts of the worlds. Australia is also getting sports personnel from other countries. Thus, in cultural diversity, there is a cultural blend.
The word volunteer originates from the mid-1700s. It is Hebrew meaning to ‘to willingly give’ (Jamrozik 1996, cited in Shilbury and Kellet 2010 p.11). Volunteers sacrifice their time and service to something at their own will. In a given society, volunteers willingly offer their services in various roles within many sectors. There is no clear definition of volunteering, given that there so many diverse forms in which volunteer services are offered. There is also misconception whether volunteering means purely unpaid service. The volunteers are, in some instances, paid a token for their services. This does not fully meet their expenses. However, the more important aspect here is that volunteer work should be fulfilling and enjoyable. The volunteers are required to work under given guidelines of a given organisation and not at there on free will and liking (Shilbury and Kellet 2010).
Sport in Australia has developed greatly due to the volunteer services from the citizens. From the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) report on Voluntary work (2007c), sports took the highest percentage (25%) of volunteers in 2006 (ABS 2007c, cited in Shilbury and Kellet 2010 p.64). Furthermore, the ABS statistics showed a higher percentage of volunteers in sports away from the cities than in the cities (ABS 2007c). This proves the importance of volunteers at club level in the regions as well as in amateur sports. The volunteers assist in reaching out to participants in the regions by enhancing publicity of events. As much as sports has evolved from purely volunteer service to professional and well-paid staff, volunteers remain essential to the club activities. Volunteers remain the backbone of sporting development. They serve mostly in non-playing sections of sports and games. The following aspects will illustrate the role of the volunteers in sports events:
Historically, sports in Australia were administered by family members, friends, and sports enthusiasts. These people volunteered their time and services to run the affairs of the club or sports association (Shilbury and Kellet 2010). In the AFL, some of the administrative positions in the club committees are held by volunteers. Most of these are players, former players, and football enthusiasts. At the administration level, we have volunteers with various specialisation fields employing their skills in committees of clubs and associations. For instance, people with accounting skills serve as treasurers of the clubs and associations. This is referred to as serious leisure type of volunteering. Such roles are obligatory and require a lot of dedication and time, preferably a whole season.
People also volunteer as coaches, team instructors, or teachers of the various sporting activities. Most of the clubs, especially the less established ones, use volunteers for most of these services. Most successful teams started purely voluntarily, with the coach, team instructor, gym instructor and the manager being volunteers (Graham, Stedman & Joe 1995 ).
Event organisation is where volunteerism is employed most, not only in Australian sports but also in the world. Volunteers offer their services from the planning stages to the particular day of the match. Some of the services include but not limited to; publicity, transportation, venue preparations, ushering teams and fans, and hospitality services, among others. In the AFL match of Hawthorn Vs Collingwood at MCG on Monday 1st April, officiating and refereeing was done by volunteers. Another significant role that was played by volunteers was the preparation and sale of drinks and snacks in the stadium. Volunteer’s contribution went further to entering scores, and timekeeping, and offering medical services like first aid and ambulance service in case of emergencies. Serious medical issues are handled by medical practitioners who are also in the volunteering team. Events of great magnitudes like Olympics and world cup competitions have always pulled volunteers from all over the world. It is on record that the 2004 Athens Olympics attracted the highest number of volunteers in Australian history.
The base for the recruitment of professional staff
Volunteers also offer a base for recruitment into paid professional staff. This offers some advantage because most of them are already acquainted with the responsibilities. Some of the employed officials in most AFL clubs were at one point volunteers to their various clubs (Sayer, Max & Whimpress 2003).
The government and the sports commission of Australia have an affirmation of the importance of high performance and community sports participation. This comes as a result of the acknowledgement of the importance of sports in national health and development of the social fabric. Although there has not been a clear policy guiding the government involvement in the development of sports, Australian sports have seen tremendous support from the government. The Australian government has over the years greatly funded Olympic sports; however, with the agitation that the Olympic sports are less inclusive, there is a change of focus towards the most popular sports as well. These sports include football, cricket, hockey, and netball (Commonwealth of Australia, 2009a, extracts from pp 5-8, cited in Shilbury and Kellet, 2010 p.86). The government has invested in sports through; laying down policies for the enhancement of recreation in the country, development of recreation itself, sport and fitness and research and training. (Shilbury and Kellet, 2010, p.88).
The national government dominates with its priorities. This, in turn, includes also sports priorities. For example, the liberal party’s policy and national vision were clear in that it emphasised elite sports and success through the Olympic Games. On the other hand, an Australian labour government mostly puts into value the community involvement in sports and its contribution to the nation’s health.
On a broader picture, the government involvement in sports can be viewed through the following subtopics which include;
The government’s involvement in the development of sports can be traced to the early 1970s. A report done in 1973 with title The Role, Scope and Development of Recreation in Australia began the process of defining government involvement in sports. From the same report, an extract relating to sports management shows how much the sport in the country has developed. The government of Australia has been involved in the funding of the Sydney Olympic Games. The government funds through the provision of government services. The Olympic Games are a massive undertaking by the government and so full support by the government on all aspects is required. These funds are also used to reward the sportsmen as seen in the government budget on the Sydney Olympics. The Sydney Olympics saw an amount of $375 million being used from preparation up to the end of the games. Apart from the direct funding, the government funds through other agencies within the like the Australian Sports Commission and the Australian sports anti-doping authority, two of which are directly related to sports. They are both under the Department of Health and Ageing (DHA). DHA manages some activities within the sports and recreation program area; however, most activities are managed by the two agencies mentioned. Certain percentages of the budget of DHA are directly dedicated to sports activities.
Provision of Sport Administration Structures
Governance revolves around the exercise of decision making. Sports organisations are run by elected officials (Administrators) who are the policymakers for the enhancement of organisational performance. Good governance systems ensure the elected officials and staff meets the organisation’s set goals. In Australia, support for the Sport and Recreation Ministers’ Council (SRMC) is also provided by the sports department. The council is constituted by the state and territory ministers responsible for sports and recreation, the Commonwealth sports and recreation minister and the minister responsible for recreation in New Zealand and Papua New Guinea. Also significant to Australian sports is the role of the Standing Committee on Recreation and sports (SCROS). It has been instrumental in various initiatives which include the development of policies on women in sport, among others. One of the most important of its outcome has been the keen monitoring on research and production of reports, including annual participation in exercise and sport survey.
Ensuring That the Country Continued Success in International Events
Through direct government funding of Olympic Games and ensuring all is at stake to ensure favourable participation in the Olympics; it is a sign of the government will see the country succeed in the international events with cash rewards; the players and the management teams get motivated. This leads to tremendous results. Direct funding is highly criticised because the fund is used in the games that are not the country’s popular sports compared to others like cricket and do not indicate the country tradition (Crawford 1993, cited in Shilbury and Kellet 2010 p.105).
The Organisational Structure of the AFL Commission
The commission is composed of the chairman, chief executive officer and commissioners elected by 18 AFL clubs. The chairman’s main role is to watch over meetings while that of the chief executive officer is to oversee the procedures of the Australian Football League. Apart from electing commissioners, the clubs also have the mandate to ratify commission deliberations with merely over three-quarters of the votes.
AFL Commission Mission and Objectives
The Mission of AFL commission is to enhance lives by leading innovative development of competitive and recreational football and provide the highest standard of collective representation. Some of the commission’s objectives are: To improve the management and structure of the AFL, ensure an appropriate welfare system is developed and implemented for the benefit of all AFL players and coaches, maximise the players potential through best practice employee relations services, and build and maintain a financially viable and independent association.
Sports events have seen tremendous numbers of fans throng the stadiums to watch football matches in the recent past. Some of the strengths observed from the above-discussed event were; good volunteer spirit, high levels of event organisation that ensured good time management and efficient emergency response system. On the other hand, some of the short-comings were; lower level of government support as compared to Olympics, relatively low volunteer tokens and incentives and their general welfare. The event organisers should seek the attention of the government for improvement of its involvement in the organisation of sports. The great work done by the volunteers should be greatly appreciated through more tokens and incentives. All in all, the event organisers should keep up with the good organisational skills exhibited during the event. This made the sports event a great success, and very entertaining.
Australia Football League 2013, Australia Football League. Web.
Graham, S & Joe, JG 1995 , The ultimate guide to sport event management and marketing, Irwin Professional Pub, Irwin.
Sayer, M & Whimpress, B 2003, Champions of Australia: a history of Australian Rules football competition between the teams from the various state leagues, Australian Society for Sports History (SA), Australia.
Shilbury, D & Kellett, P 2010, Sport Management in Australia: An Organizational Overview, Crows Nest, NSW, Allen & Unwin.