AFL spectacle ‘more critical than it’s ever been’ due to threat of soccer, says legend Leigh Matthews

Leigh Matthews (right) says the AFL has cause for concern. Photo: Joe Armao Leigh Matthews (right) says the AFL has cause for concern. Photo: Joe Armao
杭州桑拿

Leigh Matthews (right) says the AFL has cause for concern. Photo: Joe Armao

Leigh Matthews (right) says the AFL has cause for concern. Photo: Joe Armao

Australian football legend Leigh Matthews has warned the AFL that the league’s “spectacle is more critical” than it has ever been, with football’s “monopoly on Melbourne winter sport” lost.

A crowd of 99,382 attended Friday night’s International Champions Cup soccer game between Real Madrid and Manchester City at the MCG, while just 26,815 turned up to see Hawthorn inflict Carlton’s heaviest ever defeat at Etihad Stadium.

None of the three biggest crowds at the MCG so far this year have been for an AFL game, with Friday night’s soccer, March’s Cricket World Cup final and June’s State of Origin rugby league all drawing more than the 88,395 that watched Collingwood’s ANZAC Day win over Essendon.

With the AFL scoring drought continuing amid massive stoppage numbers, Matthews said on Saturday the league would need to be vigilant.

“We have to accept a little bit that the AFL has no longer got its monopoly on Melbourne winter sport,” Matthews said on 3AW.

While he believed football was still the “biggest show in town”, Matthews said he realised the seriousness of the AFL’s challenge when 50,871 watched May’s A-League semi-final between Melbourne Victory and Melbourne City at Etihad Stadium, only slightly less than went to the same night’s Geelong-Collingwood MCG game.

“[The A-League] was being spoken about almost as much in the general media in the Friday night that particular week.”

“That’s the first time I can ever recall anything other than the the Friday night AFL game being anywhere near potentially the biggest show in town.

“I think last night just emphasised it again that therefore the spectacle is more critical than it’s ever been because there is genuine opposition out there.”