A recent poll of footy fans from across the nation has revealed that 95% of them don’t actually understand the notion of prior opportunity and how it applies to the holding the ball rule. The results are affirmation for intelligent footy fans (i.e. the remaining 5%) who endure countless pleads of “BAAAAAAALLLLLL!” every time a player gets tackled, every weekend, in every game.

According to the AFL website, the concept of prior opportunity is applied to the holding the ball rule as follows:

“Where a player has had a reasonable opportunity to dispose of the football by way of kick or handball and is then legally tackled and there is no immediate legal kick or handball a free kick results.”

While the term “reasonable opportunity” could be seen as a subjective term, it’s fair to say that when a player gets tackled at the exact same moment that they gather the ball, they haven’t had a reasonable opportunity to dispose of it. However, this supposedly trivial matter is dispensed of by many who seem keener to scream the word “BAAAAAAALLLLLL” as often as possible during a match.

In the recent poll, 95% of respondents claimed they’d never heard of the term “prior opportunity” and/or didn’t understand how it applied to the rules of the game. The results shocked AFL insiders who are now considering running an awareness campaign in an attempt to improve spectator behaviour and protect the hearing of umpires. With the current investigation into the OHS issues around umpires bouncing the ball, the AFL is reportedly taking a proactive approach to looking after the game’s officials.

Here at The Watsonia Bugle we enjoy screaming “BAAAAAAALLLLLL”, and we also understand the important part that call plays in the culture and tradition of our great game. But we also try to show as much respect to the rules of the game as possible. So don’t be a dick, learn the rules, and use your “BAAAAAAALLLLLLs” carefully.