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What Going To An AFL Match Will Look Like In 2025

It’s Saturday Night Footy in 2025. Tonight’s game between the Hawks and the Blues takes place at Avatar 2 Park, formerly known as Luke Skywalker Stadium, which was once Marvel Stadium.

You catch one of those flying Ubers to the ground (yes, they actually did it!) and at the gates you’re given a handbook. The front cover reads: “How To Barrack”.

On the way to your seats, you flick through the pages. You see a diagram with the caption: “If you are to wear your team scarf, please wear it like this”, and on the next page are the lyrics to ‘Sweet Caroline’, which you are all to sing at half time. But you can only sing the song as it is, no improvising. This isn’t ‘Australian Idol’.

If you've never heard of Neil Diamond you can just hum. Image: Getty.

Now, sitting in your seat, you notice the ushers in each aisle holding up signs that read 'Quiet please'. They’re cold figures with a slither of ice in their hearts, a sentiment echoed in the silence they create. It’s something you might expect to see at the PGA Championship, or the Opera -- not the footy.

With the players yet to take the ground, you read more of the handbook:

Barracking includes: Clapping, whistling, and encouraging your team.

Barracking of any sorts is permitted only after a goal is kicked.

Barracking is to last no longer than five seconds.

Barracking is a seated activity.

You may not refer to the umpire’s lack of hair, their status as a human being or the accuracy of their *vision. (*All umpires have had their vision thoroughly tested prior to the game).

…however, you are allowed one criticism of the umpiring throughout the game. Use it wisely.

There is to be no criticism of any player, no matter how easily you think you could’ve marked that ball.

The first siren blows. After the initial scramble, the umpire misses a blatant free kick. Your blood boils. You stand in a fit of red-hot passion, as 150+ years of barracking entitlement courses through your veins. You scream a blur of obscenities for one second. Two seconds. Three. Four… Five. Then you feel a tap on the shoulder. A large figure looms over you. You’re out.  But that’s just how the footy goes in 2025.

OK, take a deep breath; does anyone actually see this happening?

I agree, the AFL has overreacted with their social behaviour officers patrolling the aisles on the weekend, and I agree, they could have gone about things differently.

The reason I don’t think we need to be concerned is because our game needs the fans, and the people in charge know this. Without a packed house, it’s an empty spectacle. Without the fans and the emotional investment, it’s just not as captivating. It’s just not footy.

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The reality is that fans can’t sit in silence because we are passionate, because we are part of the drama, and because we are human.  The deafening cries of “Breuuuust” or “Kreuuuuuzer” ringing out like the turbines of a Boeing 747 several feet overhead make the footy a transcendent experience and sweep us up in collective effervescence. I doubt anything will ever eclipse the rumble of the Western Bulldogs crowd I heard at the 2016 Grand Final. Their thunderous roar encapsulated a history of unwavering allegiance that words simply cannot capture.

Swans supporters look away now. Image: Getty.

Barracking is a part of football, but it’s important to note that what we saw on the weekend is the result of a timely social cocktail. It comes off the back of the ‘The Final Quarter’ documentary and a desire to never see a player treated how Goodes was again, as well as other reports of racist behaviour and viral videos of crowd violence. Following these incidents there have been calls for the AFL to be proactive rather than reactive.

And while some former players think it’s a sign of our “hyper-sensitive, politically correct, social-justice-warrior-filled world” (you actually couldn’t throw more buzz words in if you tried), I’d say that their reaction exhibits the same sense of sensitivity that they are actively criticising.

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You cannot deny there are certain incidents in the crowd that have crossed a line. The AFL has tried something because of these incidents. They didn’t nail it with their first attempt, but I have no doubt they’ll work to make it better, because they have to. The game needs the fans -- and the fans need the game, too.

The AFL needs Joffa. Image: Getty.

So what will going to an AFL game look like in 2025?

Well, I can’t be too sure what the on-field strategies will be, but I'm confident there won’t be marshals in every aisle telling us to keep it down, or a “How To Barrack” handbook on every seat.

Or, more importantly, we won't have to sing 'Sweet Caroline'.