The external factors are the rise of the National Rugby League competition and the Hyundai A-League national soccer competition. The NRL has always had the potential to become a threat until the Super League war which decimated the code to the core in 1995 halting three decades of momentum.
The national Soccer competition suffered a similar fate until a recent boom in popularity that came with the financial security of having a few million dollar man guaranteeing the league.
The NRL now has a TV rights deal that is on par with the AFL which will allow it to compete on a grassroots promotional level that the AFL has dominated over the past ten years with its innovative Auskick program.
The A-League has also become a twilight haven for many high end marquee players searching for a "sea change" at the end of their careers.
Both the NRL and A-League has the potential to draw international names that attract wider audiences, this is a distinct advantage for the up and coming codes as the AFL has no other nation to draw players from.
The internal factors of the seeming demise of the AFL are wide ranging and many in number. Over the past decade Andrew Demetriou the CEO of the AFL has been the leader in administration sporting innovation, and it's also fair to say the other codes on the sporting landscape have been searching for a similar character to leads their codes.
However over a span of around 24 months much has changed. The controversies that have marred the AFL code are wide spread and very alarming. I will give a quick list of the public "dark patches" of allegations against the wider AFL community of the past few years. The poor man has been inundated with calamities falling around him.
The Melbourne Demons "tanking" investigation, they were found not guilty but still fined half a million dollars and two members of the staff have been suspended for serious amounts of time. There is still an arrest warrant out for former Melbourne Demons for no showing up to court. A young Port Adelaide player dies in tragic circumstances in Las Vegas on an end of season trip where its alleged recreational drugs may have been involved.
The multimillion dollar investment into Israel Folau who transferred from the NRL to the AFL will go into the history books in my view as one of the greatest marketing failures in Australian sport.
The Essendon Bombers are under a huge cloud for their alleged use of supplements in the 2012 season. The AFL had a recent drugs "summit" to explore the possible changes they can make to the three strikes recreational drug policy. This also comes after the alleged major rising in recreational drugs amongst young athletes in the league.
David Evans the Essendon Chairman is the latest casualty of the never ending saga, it appears the AFL now has the preliminary version of the report that is investigating the supplement use at Essendon. Hopefully once public, this report will supply answers to many of the questions fans have.
Any action that has to be taken from the AFL really needs to happen before the finals appear or it may just detract from the game, and this would be ridiculously unfair for the fans of one of our great national sports.
If you look at the negatives flowing out of the AFL, apart from a few, there is a common theme that runs through them. That theme is that young players appear as a philosophy to being developed physically more than mentally.
The AFL is the hardest sport in Australia to expand with new clubs. You might think that this is a ridiculous suggestion as they are the biggest sport in the land. One should think it would be the easiest. If you look deeper you see that this is not the case, as other codes have international players and leagues to draw from. The AFL must develop all of its players through the AFL draft and a few smaller regional metro leagues of players who did not make it through the draft.
A new club needs veterans to draw from to teach the young athletes how to hold themselves in public and private. The AFL recently expanded to the Gold Coast and Western Sydney. This expansion robbed clubs of key veterans and spread the clubs even thinner. In a sport where the average age of athletes seems to be dropping, robbing clubs of experienced veterans will not help an already tough situation.
Geelong lost the best player in the League Gary Ablett and the Demons lost Tom Scully. You have to feel for both clubs who would have invested a fair stake of time and development into the careers of both athletes.
One has to wonder whether the AFL expand any further afield while there is such a lack of top line players to feed the current clubs? And if they do, will it be to the detriment of the clubs that already exist. Many media outlets are starting to question just how well some clubs are looking after their young athletes.
My response to this is they are operating under a "framework" that has been created for them by the AFL. If there is to be more support for younger athletes the AFL needs to address the system they have created within the league and make the tough choices that need to be made.
Josh Hinds is a school chaplain on the Gold Coast, a family man and PSI's IT professional. Josh is an experienced writer on international sport.
Josh Hinds' previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/joshua-hinds.html