Whether it be the emotional thrill, the love of the game or even the publicity, some ex players can’t seem to stay away from the game they played for so long.
That’s not to say they should stay away, it’s more of an observation of just how many ex-players are involved in commentary, social media and general coverage of the sport.
We see it in the AFL and cricket more so than most sports. Ex-players and legends of the game return to the spotlight to give their insight to fans across the country or the globe.
It’s a great way of giving fans a better idea of what is happening out on the field, as the ex-players know more so than anyone else just what takes place.
And whilst it’s great that we are privileged enough to get such genuinely insightful knowledge from these former superstars, for some people, it takes away possible opportunities at work in the industry.
Nearly every commentator on 7’s coverage of the AFL has played AFL football to some degree. Same with Fox Footy. Even Dwayne Russell, a man known for his commentary, played 50 games for Geelong and was the captain of Port Adelaide in the SANFL during the 1980’s.
By having nearly every commentary position occupied by an ex-professional, those working their way into the journalism industry have to fight tooth and nail just to be considered for entry level jobs.
This is something that can and should be changed.
Now don’t get me wrong. These ex-players from all different codes are very good at what they do. They look at the game like your average Joe can’t. Most of them are genuinely engaging with the way they commentate and interact with one another.
For all their commitment to the game throughout their careers, it’s only fair the game gives a little bit back to them.
But let’s flip the coin and examine the situation from an aspiring journalist’s position.
For argument’s sake, let’s call him Harry, a 22 year old sports journalism graduate from Melbourne who loves all types of sports.
Harry has grown up watching his heroes during their primes and has idolised them for years. But he decided that instead of playing, he wants to report on the sports he admires so much.
Harry has a decent portfolio filled with work he’s done, a strong and consistent presence on social media and he hasn’t put a foot wrong since he graduated.
But if he wants to attain his dream job of working on live TV, he’s got to compete with those who he grew up idolising.
His idols, now retired, happy, probably with kids, are now earning a few more bucks by turning up to report for a few days a week and for some, to commentate usually once per week.
How demoralising must it be for Harry knowing that as long as his idols continue to work after they retire from sport, he’ll never get the dream job. Or a job that is similar to that.
As much as the use of ex-professionals has helped the game, it has limited the amount of jobs for young, aspiring journalists who want to get their careers started.
If sporting associations across the country can configure a system to even out the amount of ex-players and actual journalists/reporters in the media, it’ll be as close to a solution as we get.
But now, as long as the system stays 90% ex-players, we’re not just doing a disservice to these young adults.
We’re doing a disservice to the industry.