NRL pens $1 billion TV deal. Gallop joins FFA. NRL hunts Gill McLachlan. All Blacks shut out Wallabies. The obstruction rule. Buddy’s hamstring. Football crowd trouble. Malthouse and Carlton. Aussie Quade.
The Olympics have only been over for a fortnight, but already London 2012 has faded into the background. Seebohm’s silver and Magnussen’s meltdown all seems a little less serious now. The Games are a fun two-week fling, but only that. As Cookie Monster might say, Olympics are a ‘sometimes food‘ to be guzzled for two weeks every four years before we return to our meat and veg diet of football.
The fleeting nature of our Olympic obsession – compared to our week-to-week dependency on the footy codes – is what makes the AOC’s self-absorbed appeals for more funding so galling. John Coates shouldn’t go to the government cap in hand, begging for handouts; he should be working to establish the key Olympic sports as major attractions on the Australian sporting landscape. Sports like swimming need to figure out how to make a buck for themselves.
The answer? Consider this. An Origin-style series that takes meets to Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide as swimmers represent their state in a weekly or fortnightly, league-format competition. An abbreviated, Friday-Saturday-Sunday program packaged for television, with a heavy emphasis on profiling the swimmers, who are currently anonymous during non-Olympic/Commonwealth Games periods. Competitors vie for a spot on an Australian team to compete against visiting outfits: say, an American squad, a European All-Stars, and a Best of the Rest line-up.
Eight weekends of high-profile, made-for-TV swimming over summer, a time of year not over-crowded by blue-chip rival sports like AFL and NRL. A ‘Swimming Super League’ would not only ingratiate our swimmers to a standoffish public and polish the athletes’ racing skills, but access new streams of revenue by way of media deals and cashed-up sponsors. No longer would swimming rely on the government drip-feed; the sport would be able to stand on its own two feet.
Swimming – and indeed other sports that could engineer similar competitions tailored for television, the lifeblood of sporting profitability – needs to shed the culture of entitlement that appeared to grip the squad in London, especially the hyper-sensetitivity to criticism, or the ‘us versus them’ mentality that emerged. Let’s get to know you through a media-friendly, World Series Cricket-style Operation Bootstrap swimming league that strives to generate its own revenue that can be reinvested into the development of the sport, liberated from an institutional dependency on the public purse.
Less whinging, more innovation. Swimming needs to drag itself from its current off-Broadway position into the sporting mainstream, and the rivers of gold that come with television coverage.