It is time the AFL reviewed how and when injuries are revealed to the fans?
Injuries are a constant problem in elite sport, often dictating the ability of teams to perform to expectations.
Medical opinions and solutions can often change. Sometimes it’s infuriating, especially for the fans.
This issue has been brought to a head with what’s been dubbed the Adelaide Football Club’s “injury crisis” — with some nine of its best 22 sidelined for the clash against the Western Bulldogs.
So, is it time the AFL reviewed how and when injuries are revealed to the fans?
Adelaide AFL captain Taylor “Tex” Walker left the ground in last Saturday night’s five-point loss to Port Adelaide complaining of tightness in his gluteus maximus.
Yet he returned to the ground and in the final quarter bombed a 60-metre goal.
On Monday, the club indicated he was right to play. By on Tuesday, Adelaide general manager of high performance Matt Hass — in his sponsored weekly video release on the club’s website — indicated “things look positive for Tex”.
And then on Thursday, firstly through a tweet five minutes before a media conference, the club revealed Walker would be out for at least two weeks while he undergoes a conditioning program.
The fan reaction on social media was savage.
There were accusations the club deliberately misled people about the extent of Walker’s problem.
Adelaide’s head of football Brett Burton bristled at the suggestion the Crows were being deceptive in advising about the injury status of their players.
“I find it offensive that anyone would say we aren’t transparent and that we are trying to hide stuff,” he said.
“The reality is that these guys are human and things change.”
No official policy on injuries
At the moment, the AFL does not have a policy specifically dealing with the reporting of injuries.
“The clubs are expected to provide an update in the early part of each week to their supporters/members, as well as the media,” said AFL media relations manager Patrick Keane.
“Some clubs are much more conservative on how much they wish to reveal but selection each week provides a reference on who is and isn’t fit when clubs discuss their teams.”
In a world where betting, tipping and fantasy football proliferate it is important to make sure information is available and distributed to all without fear or favour.
Oh and then there are the fans of the game. Surely they deserve to know what is going on?
“Nobody likes one to be put over them whether it’s punters or bookies or tipsters or fantasy players,” said Gerard Daffy, the media manager at UBET.
“As long as there is transparency everything is fine.”
The Crows, and it is certain they are not the only club, complain about the amount of speculation surrounding injuries from boundary commentators to alleged experts in the broadcast booths to journalists tapping away on keyboards.
The complaint is that it is often wrong. Well, if there is a void then it will be filled. In the absence of facts from the clubs, there are plenty of people being paid money to speculate.
The solution for the AFL is to consider tightening up the rules on reporting of injuries.
The AFL and its clubs have regularly engaged in study trips to the United States to look at fan engagement, franchise structures, media trends and injury treatment and a myriad of other things in American professional sport.
The National Football League (NFL) has a very straightforward policy on reporting injuries.
In essence, its intent is to provide full and complete information on player availability to everybody at the same time without fear or favour, whether a club sponsor or not.
The NFL policy document says information must be “credible, accurate, timely and specific” and the policy is of “paramount importance in maintaining the integrity of the game”.
There are three parts to the injury report policy:
- A practice report detailing a player’s status and his level of participation at training
- A game status report detailing whether a player is out, doubtful or questionable
- And, finally, an in-game injury reporting ensuring a club must detail “factually and accurately” any injuries as soon as possible
There is a bit of detail across the eight page police but here is the kicker.
To ensure adherence the NFL commissioner can fine or suspend a club or individuals and can even take away draft selections if there are breaches of the policy.
Other elite codes have found that the best policy is to be open and honest with the media and the public.
Perhaps the AFL could learn something from their example.