An Australian bishop has spoken out after it was announced that the Australian Football League (AFL) will next year stage its first match to be played on Good Friday.
The Etihad Stadium in the docklands area of
Melbourne is the pre-eminent football stadium in Australia, and the home
of the AFL.
The full fixtures for the 2017 season will be published
but the AFL have already confirmed that North
Melbourne will take on the Western Bulldogs at the stadium on 14 April.
The AFL approved playing matches on Good Friday in 2014; but this is
the first match to be scheduled for the holy day. The match will have a
4.20pm start to avoid clashes with any Good Friday services taking place
“We accept that some football fans remain opposed to scheduling a
match on Good Friday”, the AFL’s general manager of clubs and
operations, Travis Auld, said. “The decision to now schedule a match was
made on the basis that our society has changed in recent decades and
the majority of football fans, who are our ultimate decision-makers,
share the view of our clubs who have expressed their wish to play on
But Bishop Philip Huggins, from the Diocese of Melbourne, has
criticised the move, saying it was “another win for market, not for
“We have always been ‘kicking against the wind’ but the AFL has been
one entity that has exercised restraint – not least because many people
of faith who also enjoy football have conveyed the depth of their
feeling about Good Friday,” Bishop Huggins said. “But now, in 2017AD,
this is to change.
“The trouble with this approach to life is that the heart dies a
little each time the relentless and commodifying logic of the market
overwhelms all other considerations. Even the most sacred days, for
which our forebears had the wisdom to make holy days – holidays – are
“We are then left with a society full of products but short of
meaning. That is what is happening and no amount of marketing spin fills
North Melbourne FC is known by its nickname the Kangaroos, or just
Roos, for short. Their managing director, Carl Dilena, told the club’s
website that they were “absolutely thrilled by the announcement.”
“It’s a tribute to this club’s track record of innovation and a
credit to all the great North people . . . who initially proposed this
game in the late 80s and early 90s,” he said.
The AFL, the two clubs and official broadcaster Channel 7 will use
the match to support an appeal by the Royal Children’s Hospital. “There
are a lot of great things we can do together to achieve some great
outcomes and we will sit down in due course to discuss those with all
the key stakeholders,” Dilena said.
Explaining the importance of Good Friday, Bishop Huggins said that it
was called Good because “it spoke to people about the profound love of
God, so visible in Jesus.”
He continued: “The meaning of Jesus’ death and resurrection is so
profound that our forebears knew they needed separate days – holy days –
to take this in and live by the truth it revealed. They knew, for their
own sakes, that they must keep these days free of distraction.
“Hence, we in the Anglican Church have taken a lead in reminding our
community of this wisdom amidst the endless marketing of more products
to distract and trivialise the gift of life, even on holy days.
“The fact that faithful fans will be hurt and further alienated is
swept aside as a consideration. Behind the rationales lies mere greed –
greed and a refusal to think there is any wisdom in traditions that have
fed the souls of millions for countless centuries, across all kinds of
Bishop Huggins – himself a “passionate supporter” of Victoria side
Geelong – said that the AFL’s restraint until now in not scheduling
matches on Good Friday when other codes had done so was appreciated and
he urged the League to reconsider its decision to change this practice,
even at this stage.
The AFL is the senior league in Australian Rules Football – a
competition played with oval balls on oval pitches. Australian Rules
Football is not the same as association football, or soccer.