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Major League Aussie Rules to hit the US Scene

North America

As Australian Football has developed in the United States over the past ten years, a number of clubs have begun using 9-a-side 'Metro Footy' to overcome the hurdles posed by a lack of large enough grounds, small initial squad sizes and the distances between cities.

Now, a new initiative is underway to take 9-a-side footy to the next level with the creation of 'Major League Aussie Rules', a plan which may see metro sides from across the USA competing against each other.

The model for club structure in the USA has recently tended towards clubs having intra-city 9-a-side Metro Leagues, with a squad representing the city then travelling regionally to play 18-a-side matches. This was first adapted by the then Phoenix Scorpions (now the Arizona Hawks) who founded their Arizona Australian Football League in 2000. Over 100 players pulled on the boots for an AZAFL match in the 2004-05 season, a record for the club and the result of half a decade's recruitment work.

This trend has seen similar leagues created in San Francisco (the Golden Gate AFL), Chicago, New York, Boston, Florida (now becoming a state league feeding into their Eastern AFL side), North Carolina, Nashville, Milwaukee and numerous other cities across the USA.

Southern California has seen repeated attempts to create Metro Leagues within cities, but these have so far been less successful. The California AFL was once the strongest regional league in the USA, now it is essentially in recess. An attempt was made to rebuild the CAFL with a metro-style greater league last year, but the season began badly with the unexpected collapse of the reborn Inland Empire Eagles and then had some further hurdles causing it to collapse mid-season.

Long-time Californian Aussie Rules stalwart Chris Olson is one of the leaders behind the project, and he is starting to gain support from other local clubs. He is quick to reinforce that the idea is not intended to replace 18-a-side football just complement it and offer another avenue whereby much larger numbers of people can play more often and with less travel.

When asked how MLAR would fit into the wider USFooty scene Olson has the following to say. "In my mind this is what we should be focusing our attention on in the states. Don't get me wrong, full-18-a-side games played on ovals 160 m x 145m is what footy is really all about - if you've got the facilities. In California we don't and won't. Property values here make building ovals a near impossibility. So why bother trying to organize a club where you need a min. of 18-20 players and struggle to find a place to play a game? On top of that you're only going to play maybe 6 games a year plus a tournament or two. How can you recruit new players to a game when they're not even going to get playing time?

"Last season in the CAFL was to be the precursor to MLAR, but there were problems that saw it break down halfway through. The first 4 rounds, however were a huge success. So it can work."

MLAR would see metro leagues from around the USA join together as a greater body, with finals held for the first season in mid 2006. For some clubs it would be a matter of formalising existing 'scratch' metro leagues, for others their existing league would sign on. The costs to clubs for registration would initially be zero, however as a national body there is scope for clubs to then be able to use grounds such as smaller soccer or gridiron stadiums and control gate receipts and similar.

In the highly sensitive political world that is international footy, the MLAR is being careful to make sure people are certain that it isn't an attempt to overthrow any existing organisations, just to tie together and formalise metro competitions. Major League Aussie Rules won't get going for a few months yet when the main USAFL season of the Californian clubs has finished, but the potential is there for a new avenue for development in the USA.

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Major League Aussie Rules to hit the US Scene | 5 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
Major League Aussie Rules to hit the US Scene
Authored by: wheels on Wednesday, July 13 2005 @ 07:44 pm ACST

I think this is great forward thinking on behalf of people in the West, but to date the USAFL Executive board has not been contated to support this idea...what doesn't help the promotion of the game in any country is two organisations thinking they can promote the same game...

Major League Aussie Rules to hit the US Scene
Authored by: Aaron Richard on Thursday, July 14 2005 @ 01:20 am ACST

I was curious about that. Is there an official USAFL line on what the deal is?

Major League Aussie Rules to hit the US Scene
Authored by: Troy Thompson on Thursday, July 14 2005 @ 01:39 am ACST

I would have thought it pretty disrespectful to the USAFL to call themselves Major League when they are looking at a minor scaled down version of the game, especially without consultation.

Major League Aussie Rules to hit the US Scene
Authored by: WFN Administrator on Thursday, July 14 2005 @ 02:22 am ACST

For what it's worth, I was under the impression that the USAFL were across these plans. Footy politics get nasty - we all know this. Hopefully there aren't any serious clashes coming about.

Major League Aussie Rules to hit the US Scene
Authored by: Brett Northey on Thursday, July 14 2005 @ 05:02 am ACST

Hopefully it'll be a good development to help spur things along in the western US, and can be done in conjunction with the USAFL.

In terms of the name MLAR, I guess on the one hand it could be seen to be undermining the USAFL brand, but on the other they're obviously looking for something catchy to sell the game.

Hopefully the guys at MLAR can have a good constructive chat with the USAFL and everyone will be happy. And remember compromise is important.

Brett Northey - Co-founder of WFN, Chief Editor and Editor for North America and Africa