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Opinion: Report card on IC2005

International Cup 2005

After following international footy for some time, and reporting on it in detail for over a year, it was a pleasure to meet so many people I have dealt with by email, online forums and phone. It was also great to see the Cup in the flesh having been unable to attend the inaugural 2002 event.

So many people have expressed opinions, mostly positive but some negative, about the Cup and its role in football and whether the AFL should do more. Having read such comments here and elsewhere, and seen the tournament first hand, and debated and discussed the issues for some time now, including during the event with many other international footy supporters, I thought it would be a good opportunity to offer my own opinions about the 2005 Cup - hopefully well-founded thoughts but nevertheless just personal opinions.

Country Numbers

Firstly there is the issue of the number of teams. 11 attended in 2002 and it was hoped 2005 would see more. 12 confirmed their entry, but Denmark pulled out with several weeks to go, and Nauru just a few days out, leaving 10 teams. This was by no means a disaster, as 10 is still a good showing and the original 12 certainly represent the vast majority of countries with Aussie Rules programs in place with significant development of nationals rather than expatriate Australians only. It also allowed a semi-final system which produced great footy. It was no surprise Nauru pulled out, as their tiny nation is in a perilous financial situation. It was just very unfortunate timing after the AFL had widely published the draw. Denmark had financial, internal political, injury and unavailability issues. The only way to get more countries to attend would be significant financial contributions from the AFL, which will be discussed later.

Player standards

Those that attended the 2002 Cup are of no doubt that across the board the standard of play had risen in 2005. This is probably the single most encouraging point. Troy Beard, coach of Japan, remarked that although Spain were beaten badly in most games, they were still better this time than the winless teams of 2002, Japan and South Africa. Having personally seen South Africa just 6 months ago, they have improved dramatically.

If one is to be brutually honest, the bottom few sides probably aren't above the bottom levels of amateur football in Australia. The skills are still lower, but the commitment and fitness are higher - there's no doubt all the teams trained hard, as expected as representatives of their countries.

The higher ranked sides, generally with more players who took up the game as juniors, would probably compete well just off the top of the major amateur leagues, such as the Victorian VAFA or South Australian SAAFL, although this is hotly disputed even within the ranks of World Footy News. The Grand Final between PNG and New Zealand was a high standard, especially considering big match pressure was on, and it compared well with the 2002 final (available to watch on the AFL website for subscribers). There is no doubt the Kiwis were the stand-out nation and played a very polished game, with great discipline, strength and skill. The PNG of 2005 were no doubt better than 2002, but again runners-up. The smaller fields, higher pressure and shorter quarters of the Cup probably masked just how good the top two or three sides were. With an average winning margin around 10 goals, the truth is that New Zealand in "normal" football conditions were probably 100 to 200 points better than most other sides. That's exciting to see the standard lifting, but a worry for the other countries.

Although most improved, the one side that may not have reached its previous levels was Ireland. Last time they were too strong for PNG in the final. The lads from the Emerald Isle gave it their all to make the Grand Final this time, falling short in their semi, but it's fair to say the squad this time was a bit down, due to the loss of many top level Gaelic footballers who were unable to play for various reasons. But in all other cases the standard was up and that is really all we can hope for. Later we'll do a story looking into just what level New Zealand has reached.

Tournament Organisation and Implementation

With so many countries coming from around the world, there are bound to be a few hiccups along the way. As mentioned, the draw and Official Souvenir Program available to most people was incorrect with Nauru's very late withdrawal. Somewhere along the way the numbers of some guernseys didn't match the guides either. There were also some complaints about the changerooms at Murphy Reserve being too small, but this seems to be a minor issue in the bigger scheme of things.

Player eligibility was raised several times, with passport checks being done (or re-done?) relatively late in the tournament. This doesn't seem right. What if a player was ruled ineligible? Would the team then forfeit all their prior matches, throwing the series into disarray and making the event a farce? We don't have inside information on the exact processes, so it isn't fair to comment too strongly. But it would be better if all countries were given the opportunity to protest before the tournament and that be the end of it unless clearly new information comes to hand. Perhaps that was the intention and the problem is determining what constitutes new information.

Venues

The grounds were varied, with matches on some days on adjacent ovals at Murphy Reserve Port Melbourne, other rounds being split between Teac and Optus Ovals, and the Wangaratta country matches being held on adjacent ovals there. The concept of the Murphy Reserve games being held together was terrific, allowing the crowd, media and waiting players to see all teams at the same location. The drawback was that the fields were painfully small. The marked line that might normally be 50m was more like 40m and very close to the centre square. Although the grounds stood up well to the many games and inclement weather, and the locals got behind the matches, the short lengths and narrow wings didn't encourage good football as the weaker sides bottled up the play. Perhaps a similar set-up could be found in future, with bigger fields - you certainly want the nations to be able to display their best footy. So a positive experiment that just needs some fine tuning.

The Optus Oval and Teac Oval matches were good for the players to experience excellent facilities, they just lacked the crowds and of course didn't have the benefit of the closeness at Murphy Reserve, but overall were very successful. Besides Wangaratta, probably the peak attendance was around 300 people besides players and officials turning up at each of Optus and Teac in Round 2, with numbers dwindling thereafter.

The Wangaratta round was magnificent. The V-Line transportation got the players up to Victoria's northeast and the town's people turned out in numbers for the games. It's well known country people are passionate about their footy and appreciate the grassroots nature of the sport internationally. With schools involved as well, probably 2000 to 3000 people turned out, greatly enhancing the atmosphere much to the pleasure of the players. Such a show was more appropriate for international footballers than the 100 or so onlookers who turned up to most matches in Melbourne (besides the support staff and players looking on).

Promotion

Did the AFL do enough to promote the 2005 International Cup? This seems to be a contentious issue and opinions are many. I believe they did a fairly reasonable job. The overall budget for the event was reported to be approximately AU$100,000 with maybe around AU$30,000 on promotion. This included radio spots, paid print media adverts, the Official Souvenir Program, several pages in the AFL Record the week before the matches started, no doubt reaching many thousands of AFL fans, and posters etc in Wangaratta. The AFL also had daily media releases, and staged AFL Football Operations Manager Adrian Anderson's weekly press conference at the opening ceremony and games, ensuring the football media was present. A great deal of mainstream media articles and stories were produced, no doubt raising the profile of international football significantly in Melbourne (if not anywhere else in Australia or the rest of the world).

So why the small crowds? The turnout at Wangaratta was great. And on the opening day of the Cup there were dozens of media and perhaps a few hundred interested onlookers. As the word spread, it was hoped the numbers would grow in the following rounds. They didn't. By the time of the seeding matches (the last round) on the final day, there were probably less than 100 people at Optus Oval. There is no escaping that that is very disappointing although I'm told similar to 2002.

I don't wish to be controversial but increasingly it is becoming clear that, in broad general terms, the football fans in Melbourne are interested in their AFL team and that team alone. Wandering amongst the small crowds I asked people where they were from, just doing a small sample. Unless they had friends or family playing, or a connection with the local club, most seemed to be from interstate or country Victoria. This trend extends further, to the people involved in setting up the game in other countries. So many are from Adelaide, Perth, country Victoria or even Queensland or New Zealand. Given Melbourne's claims as the home of football and relatively large population compared with some of those other regions, I get the feeling Melburnians are slightly under-represented in spreading the Australian game. That's a great shame, especially since Melbourne has much to gain from this event and footy in general growing around the world. There are many Melburnians involved too, it just seems, perhaps anecdotally, that there should be more. I could be wrong but others have noticed this too. Perhaps with the International Cup slowly growing then maybe it will change anyway.

I also have no doubt that if the International Cup was partially staged in a city like Adelaide (I use this as an example as it's my hometown) that with a smaller advertising budget it wouldn't be difficult to generate crowds in the thousands (and charging them entry, unlike the current free arrangement). An agreement with the SANFL for a bye weekend and a bit of promotion woud see significant numbers at say Adelaide Oval. There are reasons against such a move, but food for thought. I certainly wouldn't propose a total move away from Mebourne, but some games could be staged elsewhere in the first week, with all roads leading to the MCG for the final.

Funding and Costs

A major issue is the cost for the teams to attend the Cup. New Zealand are believed to have spent around AU$70 000 and some European countries more than AU$120 000. This money, if spent on junior development, could do wonders for the sport. But of course most of that money would not be spent on juniors, because much of it is raised (or simply contributed) by the players themselves, for the express purpose of going to the International Cup.

It would clearly be better if the countries did not have to foot the bill though. At least some extra money could then be diverted to game development. However the major issue is flight costs. It probably composes more than 75% of the total budget of countries. Help on the ground is provided to varying degrees by AFL and community clubs, with the Sydney Swans and Bacchus Marsh two stand-outs. So the biggest issue is the flights. If the AFL did hand-out cash for that, the budget would quickly approach AU$1 million. With many clubs crying out for more money from the AFL, from AFL clubs down, any expenditure has to be justified. The AFL has been burnt before handing out money internationally for no return. Plenty would argue "why is a league in country x more worthy than Australian league y?" So it's unlikely that funding to specifically attend the Cup will be forthcoming any time soon.

So the event does drain money from countries, and often leaves volunteer officials exhausted and burnt out. On the other hand it motivates players to stay in the game, and to achieve higher levels. It attracts more athletes to the game when offered the chance to represent their country. In some cases it has been shown to generate more awareness of footy. It also raises the international leagues' profile in Australia, helping justify AFL funding and allowing leagues to build support networks.

So there are many pros and cons, besides the obvious enjoyment the Cup brings to players. Overall it seems to be a good thing, that will continue to grow, but the switch to a four year cycle after 2008 is probably for the best, to spread out the costs over a greater time.

Summary

Overall I think most who attended the 2005 International Cup, be it players, officials, supporters or international footy media like ourselves, all agree that the event was clearly a great success and a major step forward from 2002. The only two significant issues arising would be the cost of countries getting there, and the lack of crowds.

2008

We'll try to find out a bit more about the AFL's plans for the 2008 International Cup. It was stated some time ago that the Cups would be held every three years to 2008, then most likely swap to four years. There have been some hints that 2008 will be bigger again, but no major details as yet.

One wonders whether a shift in the tournament should occur. Unless the AFL can dramatically increase promotion of it, maybe it wouldn't hurt to continue to experiment. The timing is one issue. Being played in August in Melbourne, cold and wet weather is almost guaranteed. Plus with AFL matches on and finals just 2 to 3 weeks away, gaining media and public attention for an amateur tournament is virtually impossible. What about a shift to around March, perhaps in the gap between the pre-season Cup Grand Final and the first round of the season? The media and public are starved of football and have been on a slower diet (apologies to fans) of golf, horse racing, cricket and tennis over summer (all quite popular but quickly pushed aside by an Australian football story). The weather is much warmer and grounds in good condition.

The first of two major problems would be that many countries are not in season. This could be too difficult to overcome. But as the national squad programs become more developed, the issue may decrease in importance, as players are generally already in ongoing national team systems, and don't necessarily need half a season under their belts. And not all countries are in this situation, e.g. the 2005 champions New Zealand start their domestic competitions after the Cup. The other issue is players wanting to see AFL matches. While some are more concerned about the good of the International Cup, some would be very unhappy to miss AFL games (which is fair enough since in many cases the players have shelled out their own money for a trip of a lifetime). Again, as players become more "professional" this may be less of an issue. It would be interesting to know how many games most players saw this time. I know of at least one group who chose not to attend one match they had access to and rather relaxed away from footy. Timing it at the end of the pre-season could reduce the number of games seen, but if most players arrived for the pre-season Grand Final and then saw the first round of regular season matches two weeks later before flying out, they would still take in plenty of big matches. And bear in mind they play every second day so have plenty on their minds during the series anyway. All this is just a thought, putting the idea out there. It would certainly improve the chances of major media coverage and crowds, with the potential to charge a modest entry fee and use that to subsidise travel costs, and bigger crowds also means more merchandise sales. If this change occurred the march past of players could be held at halftime of the pre-season final.

Another idea is to spread the event out geographically. Although there is the risk of increasing the logistics, the Wangaratta experience was clearly worthwhile. Traditional Aussie Rules cities like Perth, Hobart and Adelaide would embrace the concept, as would numerous Victorian country towns (including Wangaratta again). If there is a pool system in place, as was originally planned for this year, then one pool could be staged for a period in another capital city. It would give countries the opportunity to raise their league's profile in a new city, with the potential for larger crowds, more networking with local clubs and the travel costs would be a small fraction of what teams spend overall (booked in advance, Adelaide to Melbourne on a budget carrier is only around AU$60 - even two ways that is only around AU$4000 for an average travelling party, which is not huge when most are spending around AU$120,000 overall and there would be potential benefits). Such a move done in conjunction with a state league such as the SANFL or WAFL could be very successful. Players would still go to Melbourne for the second half of the tournament with the ultimate goal of playing in the Grand Final at the MCG as per 2002 and 2005.

A final thought is that if many more teams attend, a move to two divisions may be required, to prevent lopsided games, especially as junior development races ahead in some countries but not others. Whatever occurs, 2008 is likely to be bigger and better than the successful 2005 Cup, and will quite possibly be heavily tied in with the AFL's planned celebrations for the nominal 150 year anniversary of the beginning of Australian football. 2008 is almost cetain to be much bigger and better than what was already a successful 2005.

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Opinion: Report card on IC2005 | 11 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
Opinion: Report card on IC2005
Authored by: Sean Finlayson on Monday, August 22 2005 @ 11:49 pm ACST
Great wrap up Brett, but I'm afraid I don't agree with you entirely about the reasons for the poor crowds in Melbourne.

There were 2 factors for me that prevented me from going to games.

Firstly, the draw was difficult to find and not always accurate. The IAFC's draw on their website was incomplete for the entire duration of the tournament, with no times or grounds. The Word doc download on the AFL site was up a few days before the tournament, but was a 404 error for about 4 days until I wrote an email to them and then they put it up again. It's almost impossible to find a contact address on the AFL website and when I did find it and email them, they took days to respond to it and didn't even email back to apologise. It just obviously wasn't number one on the AFL's priority list. And even the draw on this site was not entirely accurate all of the time. The problem was that there was not a good definitive program anywhere. A friend of mine from Canada was down in Melbourne and he said even his former teammates weren't sure when their next game would be. I understand that this may have been difficult because of teams pulling out, in defence of the world footy public it makes it hard when you are actually going out of your way to see a game, you tend get a bit miffed by these sorts of things and don't feel like going if you aren't sure that the game will actually be on.

This may have been different for Wangaratta, at least their promotions would have been very clear about the times and locations for the games.

Secondly, the fact that most of the games are on during the week, when most of us are at work doesn't make it easy either. I can only think this was done to avoid going head to head with AFL games, in which case this is assuming that Melbourne people won't follow it before you actually try it. Most of the few games on a weekend were toward the end of the tournament at Optus Oval. In any case, it was not possible for me to get to the games (with the exception of the grand final), so I imagine that the same would go for many others. My feelings on having to pay to see Collingwood and Carlton just to watch the International Cup Grand Final from B-grade seats and then go home ? well that's another story ... suffice to say, I am neither a Collingwood or Carlton supporter, and this might turn a lot of people of going also.

Games during the working week is fine for Wangaratta school kids, international visitors and unemployed Melburnians, but not for adult footy fans with 9-5 jobs.

Finally, I don't really buy the fact that some teams couldn't find the money. It should be the duty of the AFL to pay for this sort of thing, and if they can't, then the international leagues should be able to find money from somewhere. I noticed that the Irish for example even had PayPal donations on their website. Where there is a will there is a way. Perhaps the international leagues were not clear as to what sort of financial commitment would come from the AFL.

I think that the AFL assumes that people are only interested in the local competition and this will eventually be it's downfall. I know many people who live in New South Wales and Queensland that can AFL because Australia is the only country in Australia that plays it, and it will never be taken as seriously as union or league in these states until others do. Union is growing in appeal to many people (even in the aussie rules stronghold of Victoria) simply for the very reason that like soccer, it is a world game.

These are the facts, and I hope someone (if not the AFL) takes responsibility and fixes them before 2008 for the sake of International footy. $0.02

Opinion: Report card on IC2005
Authored by: Robert Vanstam on Tuesday, August 23 2005 @ 06:14 pm ACST

To put things in perspective, a single AFL player earns more in a season than the entire budget of the New Zealand teams campaign to win the cup.

The amount of support provided by the AFL to the various nations per year is also comparible to one AFL players yearly salary.

Its great that we can have such a fantastic tournament ( a trip of a life time for the NZ boys ) and the AFL has not even begun to get serious in their support. Stay involved you blokes, because the momentum will increase from this point onwards.

When we first arrived in Melbourne, we were shown the sights and history. As we drove past the first game of Aussie Rules down at Spotswoods ground, I explained to our driver that most of the players had never seen a live game beyond the ones they actually played in.

We have recently had the AFL finals programme scheduled for Pay television in NZ. For some of the players this will be the first full game they have seen beyond the games we visited during the carnival.

Training numbers at my club team in Auckland have doubled through the exposure we received in the press over here over the last three weeks. (Mostly under 17)

Previously our emphasis has been on developing a senior competition in NZ. This is probably the opposite of where the AFL would like to focus growth, with their emphasis more towards junior development and hopefully rising stars.

Due to the lack of Television games in New Zealand the only role models for kiwi kids have been our senior club players because they are the only ones they ever have the opportunity to watch. If we dont get the senior comp stable it will be very hard for the kids to see any footy.

If the AFL is serious about developing their support outside of OZ they will have to ensure that we get the game on the TV so kids have something to aspire to (not to mention adults).

It was interesting listening to Victorian Minister for Sport, Justin Madden speak at the World Cup function about the importance of barracking for a team in the AFL.

We were hosted by the Melbourne club while in Australia and had the opportunity to watch them train. The guys did not know a single player without looking the name up in the programme.
Currently the NZ players do support a team and they are called the "All Blacks".

My report card for the tournament Brett, is a thunbs up.

Considering the AFL has only offered token assistance at this stage, I can see massive development over the next three years. I only wish these comments could make it to the AFL rather than the International Footy public who already understand these issues.

Robert Vanstam NZ Assistant Coach.

Opinion: Report card on IC2005
Authored by: Brett Northey on Wednesday, August 24 2005 @ 06:29 am ACST

Hi Robert, thanks for your comments. That's great news about the increased numbers at training, especially younger players. Hopefully you'll hang onto a few long term, and hopefully the trend is being seen at other clubs. It would be great to see a regular under 18s competition emerge, say in Auckland, in the next few years.

Thanks to you too Sean. I figured my report might stir a few comments, but as long as they are constructive like yours then that's fine. Certainly I'm not saying that all Melbourne people are dis-interested. And you list some good reasons why people didn't show. But I'd also suggest that with a population of what, 3.5 million, if there was general interest then even if a tiny percentage could make it, then crowds would have been much better, especially on the weekends. People may have a passing interest, but obviously not enough to put the shopping off or whatever. Again, I understand plenty would have fixed committments, but surely 10s of 1000s didn't. But yes, there is also the issue of getting the message out better.

You made some good points that I think are representative of many people's thoughts and probably would be similar to mine some time ago before I became more heavily involved with international footy and realised some of the issues all parties face. I'll try to address them here.

I agree that the changing schedule was a problem. It highlights a key issue for the tournament. People like us want the AFL to push the event to the general public. They stepped up a notch this time, and spent a fair amount of money. But then Nauru pulled out in the last few days, and with Denmark already out, the best they could do is modify the draw as little as possible. Then during the tournament Spain ran out of fit players and pulled out of a match. So again the draw was wrong and people wondered why Spain wasn't playing Canada. By the way, you mentioned the draw on here being wrong - we had to change it quite a few times but I don't think it was ever wrong for very long - we worked hard to keep it right, and we warned about Spain the night before, although obviously not many would have seen that. Again, I know you weren't criticising us.

Regarding the IAFC site, I don't want to go over old politics but it should be made clear that the original IAFC that started the International Cup was wound up and its role taken over by a commitee working with the AFL. The inaugural President and the President at the time are both still around and involved with international footy and happy with the outcome - and they were both at the Cup. So the IAFC site you were probably looking at has no affiliation with the old one or the AFL or the International Cup or any of the attending countries.

So on the one hand we want the AFL to spend more money on promotion and get the public along, whilst still maintaining its professional image, and on the other hand teams will pull out and the public will turn up for games not on, clutching copies of the draw that were correct 24 hours earlier.

The issue is that international footy is still very much an amateur sport. Things are improving but sometimes we get impatient. You mentioned matches being during the week, but because of the amateur status of the players, they need the entire tournament held inside 2 weeks - many can't afford to be off work or don't have any more leave (e.g. I think Americans get quite a bit less annual leave than Aussies do). So matches were played every second day, including on weekends. Of the 6 rounds 2 were on weekends, which is the maximum possible without extending the tournament or asking teams to play on consecutive days.

I agree that having to pay for an AFL match to see the IC grand final is unfortunate. But again, if you analyse it, what other options are there? They can't clear the stadium after the first match. Talking to players there is no doubt that playing at the MCG is a huge incentive, so they would not like the thought of moving it to a smaller venue. And the expense of opening the G for a one off Cup match for a small crowd would be massive.

You say you don't buy that some teams couldn't find the money. I can assure you it's a massive issue. Countries spend from AU$70,000 and up to get here. Airfares for 30 - 40 people are huge. All play this game for free. Most are young men who probably have little savings and modest incomes. They don't know if they'll definitely be picked until a few months out. Where does the money come from? The leagues themselves are normally flat out just organising umpires and grounds during the season, let alone getting sponsorship. And most games don't get crowds, and not paying spectators. And I'd suggest Ireland's paypal didn't receive too many donations. The most likely people keen enough to donate are people like you and me. Did you? I know I didn't - figured I was spending enough on this site and getting myself to Melbourne and covering the whole tournament. So you can see, money is a huge issue.

Of course some want the AFL to pay for it all, but ultimately it has to answer to the clubs, and with several struggling financially, I don't imagine spending a couple of million on an amateur international tournament would be too popular. The whole thing is the chicken or the egg - the public need to push the AFL for it, and the AFL is best placed to create public interest. So what comes first? Both have to evolve together.

I agree that growing the game internationally could really help development in Sydney. I'm hoping the AFL will increasingly see that as well.

Finally, you said you hope someone fixes things before 2008. If you agree with my ideas above (maybe not!) then you'll see that some things are very difficult to overcome. However, I have spoken with the tournament organiser Ed Biggs and he is analysing the event and there were definitely issues he is keen to address. I probably shouldn't air details here but having a country pull-out at the last minute was a major problem in terms of professional appearance, promotion, bookings etc, and they will be seeking a way to prevent it in future.

Well, a lot said, but I thought it worthwhile hopefully clarifying some of the issues. We all want this to grow bigger and better, and I'm sure it will, but no doubt not as fast as we'd like. Countries are making connections, networking, and preparing better and developing improved players which will make the show more worthwhile for spectators. Meanwhile the AFL is slowly increasing its interest and contribution. We just need to keep pushing and spreading the word, whilst ensuring we aren't simply whinging at the AFL or knocking them when they are, after all, the biggest single funder of international footy, even if not as much as we'd like. We have to be constructive and do what we can.


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

Opinion: Report card on IC2005
Authored by: Sean Finlayson on Wednesday, August 24 2005 @ 07:12 pm ACST

Thanks Brett for your answers, and thanks for not taking my comments negatively, as you say, they weren't meant to be.
I'd be happy to make a financial contribution to the right people, but I think the AFL gets anough of my money already, and I'd hardly say they are "cash strapped"
I'd suggest that the World Cup be played at the start of the year during the AFL pre-season cup, while interest and excitement is at its highest, and while Melbourne people are not so worried about their AFL team loyalties. The game could be a curtain raiser to the Wizard Cup grand final. This would coincide with the seasons of the northern hemisphere teams and form part of summer training for the southern hemisphere teams. There are plenty of midsized grounds like Optus Oval and Junction Oval that are begging for events like this. A pre-season charity cricket match between Melbourne and Collingwood drew a bumper crowd at Junction Oval. With the right promotion from the AFL, perhaps having some big name AFL players involved, AFL fans would get right into it.

Opinion: Report card on IC2005
Authored by: Brett Northey on Thursday, August 25 2005 @ 04:46 am ACST

Around March would seem best - warmer weather, still some AFL matches with round 1, the public hungry for footy, maybe even twilight games for weekday matches. Of course there could be good reasons against all this but no show-stoppers jump out at me.


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

Future IC's in March?
Authored by: Niels Schønnemann on Friday, August 26 2005 @ 11:15 am ACST

I play football in Denmark, and from our point of view (and maybe many other nothern hemisphere leagues), an IC in March would be bad timing, nothing less. Mainly from a training and match point of view. In the most northern hemisphere countries, the season runs from april til september (summertime), as the winter weather makes it impossible to play and train. Here in Denmark, all outdoor amateur sport can't get acces to grass training until mid april, meaning we would get seriously set back in our preparations. In contrast to the leagues that play between september to march (the ones with warmer climate), they can at least still train out of season on grass.
So march may have its advantages for melbourne, but big disadvantages for many of the countries competing.

Future IC's in March?
Authored by: Brett Northey on Friday, August 26 2005 @ 10:53 pm ACST

Yep, that seems to be the one major problem. Which is a real shame because I suspect it will hold the International Cup back quite a lot - it will always suffer if it has to go head to head with the AFL season. That's why I mentioned in my story that I wondered if increasingly countries can keep national squads together - maybe even training indoors for a few countries that are restricted that way. Countries don't need to pick their squads based on who is best this season - it will always have a large component of previous form. So yes it would be a disadvantage for say Denmark and some other northern countries, but then the current timing is a disadvantage for some like New Zealand whose season hadn't started. I guess it depends on how big the disadvantages are and whether the good of the game outweighs them. The only other options I can think of would be after the AFL finals but then players wouldn't get to see AFL matches, or in the mid-season break (so they could see matches at the start and end of the break, but the actual tournament would not be up against the AFL). Or leave it as is and risk it continung to be a very expensive exercise with little following in Australia and unfulfilled potential. But maybe that is the only viable option.

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

Opinion: Report card on IC2005
Authored by: colin on Thursday, August 25 2005 @ 06:53 am ACST

Brett, well done, great wrap up.
And also congratulations to all countries who attended and I know how disappointed Nauru and Denmark must feel, lets hope it does not effect their development into the future too much.

The AFL needs to be convinced some way, to involve all International AFL countries and themselves in a World AFL Footy Forum or gathering that creates a strategic plan, now that the International Cup is over and to move onto the next stage in development throughout the world.
While they deal with only a few (handpicked) people, real advancement will be painfully, painfully, slow.

Our real test is how do you keep the AFL INTERESTED now that the Cup is gone ?

Any ideas anyone ?

Opinion: Report card on IC2005
Authored by: Sean Finlayson on Thursday, August 25 2005 @ 07:51 pm ACST
If the IAFC is a figurehead of the AFL, why does the AFL own international footy ?

Does the NSWRL own International Rugby League ? Does Australian Rugby own the World Cup ? Does A-League own World Soccer ?

What makes the AFL the custodians of the game ? It doesn't seem logical for what is essentially the league of one country (with questionably limited funding and interest) to control the destiny of a sport that has the potential to rival all of these sports.

Opinion: Report card on IC2005
Authored by: Brett Northey on Friday, August 26 2005 @ 03:00 am ACST

Sean, as I explained earlier, the IAFC has nothing to do with the AFL or any of the countries that competed at the International Cup. The role of the IAFC was taken over by an AFL International Development Committee on a vote by the countries. The IAFC was wound up. The IAFC you are probably thinking of is a different one that was set up by a guy involved with the original but who didn't accept the decision made by the IAFC and countries. It is primarily a website with a couple of regular people working for it and the rest mainly people who become involved for a while then leave when they understand the politics. Unfortunately it causes a lot of confusion as people get the impression that it has the support of the major countries or is some kind of official body.

At last check the guy running it appeared to have dramatically changed its plans and was considering changing its name and focus. But the main point is that it isn't really an issue in international footy - it's doing its own thing without the support of most leagues. Whether it will have any success remains to be seen. But at this point in time it would contribute less than 1% of resources or manpower to international footy, but seems to grab a lot of attention for itself and cause a fair amount of grief for the main leagues, which is why this site chooses not to support it. If the main person involved can repair a dozen or more bridges and the leagues change their views we'd reconsider our position.

Why should the AFL control world footy? Well it doesn't, but it makes perfect sense that if it is the body that provides the bulk of the funding for countries and runs the International Cup, then clearly it has a right to have some say in things. And it doesn't stop countries from doing their own work too.

One day there will need to be a FIFA-style body to run international footy. But that day is most likely decades away. The IAFC were very pleased that the AFL was going to pay more attention to international footy and were happy to hand over control - one official described it as what they had wanted in the first place. Sometimes people don't realise that international footy is purely amateur and very small. An independent world governing body is only likely to be needed when some of the countries grow to be a similar size to Australia in footy terms - or at least within even a factor of 10! Right now well over 90% of the world's Aussie Rules players are Australian. So the difference from League and Union and soccer is that Aussie Rules is still tiny around the world. The argument that the AFL should not have any say in world footy and that there needs to be a FIFA now is really quite superficial and doesn't bear close inspection.

So again, people are quick to knock the AFL on this one, but what is the alternative? Give us your money and your time and we'll decide what to do with it? No one works that way. And the AFL has shown they are happy to work with other organisations that haven't set out to undermine them, e.g. this site has a good working relationship, and the organisers of the Barassi youth tournament work with them. And all leagues are reasonably free to do what they want within their own countries. The only issues I know of are that funding from the AFL is normally required to be focussed on junior development, and there are some issue on sponsor clashes.

Colin's comments have some merit about a forum to discuss the future, but there was something like this at the Cup. If countries want to do it independently of the AFL they would - the fact that they don't is that for now, although eager for more, they are relatively content within the system.

I had a lot of the views that are being floated here such as yours Sean, but when you get involved and talk to all the parties involved, from the AFL down to the leagues to the clubs to the players, the theories don't stand up. And remember, it's only been 3 years since the AFL took over from the original IAFC, and in that time numbers have grown dramatically in NZ, PNG and South Africa, and are improving in most other countries. Some of that is to the credit of the AFL, and much of it to hardworking individuals around the world. Those people want to work with the AFL, so take their word for it and where possible lend them a hand.



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

Opinion: Report card on IC2005
Authored by: Aub on Sunday, August 28 2005 @ 09:02 pm ACST

Hi there,

I see there are a lot of questions about the role of the AFL and how teams fund their trips.

The AFL has made it very clear that they see themselves as 'hosting' the tournament. The AFL is the best possible 'host' for the tournament in terms of available monies for promotion, access to venues and organisation of people. The AFL does author the standards for the play (e.g., the 15-minute quarters and 25-yd penalties were, so far as I know, directed from the AFL).

As for the monies that teams need. Yes it is incredibly expensive, especially for those coming from far away (I was part of the Team Canada contingent). Right now those nations living farest away tend to be from the most economically well-off countries (i.e., Canada, the US, Ireland, UK and Spain as opposed to say Mexico or Portugal).

In Canada, we put efforts into fundraising, though through a combination of things that did not really affect the actual travel expenses (funds went towards things like gear). What did help was that through our sponsor team and other connections we saved money by getting deals on accommodations or being sponsored for our local transport.

Other teams had some other exceptional deals (one nation actually had free accomodations so only had to raise airfare for a country that was not so far away, e.g.). Hopefully each team will learn off each other. Two things that can affect teams though, are tax status and pre-tournament promotion. I'm not aware of any teams yet that have charitible or not-for-profit tax status. If they can achieve that then corporate sponsors should be considerably easier to approach. As well, there were some problems when sponsors were lined-up in a local country but when they contacted their local office in Australia, that office had no idea there was a tournament (and therefore couldn't endorse the sponsorship).

The AFL may not have been aware of that particular impact on teams at the time (promotion seemed very focussed on immediately before the tournament and then some coverage during the games). Few Melbournians seemed aware of the tournament (and from what I gather few footy fans read The Record anymore, which is where the main pre-tournament info was publicised). Also on during the tournament was a lot of coverage of the Aboriginal Team of the Century, which seemd to overshadow the tournament in the news.

Being only the second tournament I think we can say that things are improving exponentially and will continue to improve for 2008. All the teams are learning and those that unfortunately didn't make it are learning too so that hopefully next time we will have a larger turnout and see that much greater a competition.

Before I close, one idea that I thought would help. If the AFL could have produced (the day before the tournament) glossy "rave cards" promoting the event showing the game dates and locations and distributed them to the players (there was a team managers meeting the day before it all began), the AFL would have suddenly found at a minimum 35 x the number of teams of volunteers to promote the event to the locals (each player gets 5 cards, e.g., and can hand them out to people on the train or bus e.g. when they explain about the tournament). Just a thought.