Close examination of the 2013 fixture highlights the AFL’s lack of regard for Melbourne-based Lions fans, which comes as “a slap in the face”, according to Lions supporters advocacy group The Lion’s Roar.
West Coast, Adelaide, Fremantle and league newcomer GWS will play more games in Melbourne next year than the Lions. This comes despite the AFL-approved Brisbane Bears/Fitzroy Lions merger agreement guaranteeing a minimum of six games annually.
The AFL has scheduled only four games in Melbourne for the Lions next year.
“Respectfully, those four other teams have no cultural link to Melbourne. In contrast, it is proudly the Lions’ second home. We call on the AFL to explain why they have deprioritised our Melbourne-based fans.” says the Lion’s Roar spokesperson Adam Staines.
The AFL earlier cited two reasons for rejecting the Lions’ request for six Melbourne games according to Lions CEO Malcolm Holmes yesterday.
“Hawthorn and Melbourne have commercial deals which see them sell games interstate, which in our case, has resulted in games in Darwin and Launceston, instead of Melbourne.”
“And 2 - the introduction of GWS and the Gold Coast. The introduction of more teams into expansion markets mean ‘away’ games are somewhat more diluted away from Melbourne with these two expansion sides.”
The Lion’s Roar, on behalf of Melbourne-based fans, rejects these excuses.
“The League had 18 teams last year and yet the AFL managed to uphold their obligation to 6 games in Melbourne. As for the Melbourne teams’ interstate games, the AFL has 16 other teams they can send before us.” said Staines.
The Lion’s Roar believes the AFL is spreading the Lions too thin, at the expense of their Melbourne fans.
“With all due respect to Darwin and Tasmania, the Lions have enough on their plates trying to grow the game in Queensland and cater to their Victorian supporters, without being sent to the League’s frontiers.”
It is not just Melbourne-based fans disappointed by the AFL’s stance. Queensland-based Craig Nicol is one of many who have rallied in support of their southern colleagues:
"Originally a Bears fan, now a proud long-term Brisbane Lions member, I embrace the Fitzroy part of our heritage.”
“I get down to at least one Melbourne game each year and love joining the fans down there and seeing their passion.”
“Giving them 4 games is just plain wrong. The AFL approved the merger agreement guaranteeing 6 games down there, so they need to live up to that obligation. Next year, GWS has more games down there than we do!”
“The ‘Fitzroy’ chant going up at the pre-Hall of Fame match this year gave me goose bumps. It was such a special moment and a great initiative from the Club. Why would the AFL want to undo all of that work?"
The Lion’s Roar says fans have had enough.
“We demand the AFL honour their obligation to schedule six Lions games in Melbourne each year. With a League concerned about integrity, that should be a non-negotiable.”