20 nations for 2008?

Thursday, September 01 2005 @ 10:10 am ACST

Contributed by: Brett Northey

The AFL's Community Development Manager Ed Biggs, who was also Tournament Director for the 2005 Australian Football International Cup, has responded to World Footy News' review of the event - see Opinion: Report card on IC2005 for our article. In his detailed email Ed also mentions the AFL's own review of the tournament and tantalisingly suggests that they hope to see as many as 20 nations competing in 2008. In his opening remarks Ed Biggs thanked WFN for their coverage of the Cup and the independent review conducted. He then stated that "As in 2002 we will be undertaking a full review, involving the participating countries & others who played a role in conducting the event. This process after 2002, resulted in many improvements for this year's series. We will take your comments into consideration."

The extensive email discusses the history of the event, the AFL's preliminary thoughts on issues arising in 2005, and some potential changes for 2008. It seems that most of the concerns we raised were also noted by Ed and will be addressed where possible. There's no doubt that overall the event was an outstanding success.

It's hard to see how 20 nations could attend in 2008, but it is encouraging to see the AFL is at least looking for numbers in that direction. With 10 this year and 2 late withdrawals, it is possible that those 12 will be joined by Germany and Sweden, with other potential countries including Tonga and Argentina. Beyond that, with just 3 years to go, and the AFL firmly committed to it not being an expatriate Australian event, few other nations seem likely. Still, a turn-out of 14 to 16 would be a superb step forward. A lot of hard work remains to be done before then.

Further extracts from Ed Biggs' email follow:

BACKGROUND

The concept of the International Cup was developed by the original IAFC - in particular its founding Chairman Will McKenzie (see article in the 2005 Souvenir Program). After numerous meetings between the AFL & IAFC Executive it was agreed that the AFL, with its infrastructure, was best placed to conduct the International Cup & take responsibility for international development generally. Accordingly the IAFC voluntarily went into recess & subsequently in August 2002 - during the first International Cup - unanimously resolved to formally wind up the organization, by voluntary resolution.

The AFL however, has continued to work from the original IAFC template. Will Mc Kenzie was a member of the 2002 Organising Committee & Marty Alsford, his successor as IAFC Chairman, is a current member of the International Development Committee (IDC). The AFL's method of operation is to consult widely with international affiliates & to then leave the final decisions on Rules, Timing, Location & Competition format to the IDC. The AFL administration implements those decisions.

ENTRY OF TEAMS

The withdrawal of two teams was a disappointment but in view of the costs & logistics understandable. Having to change the Match Program less than a week before the first round caused obvious difficulties for both the organisers & competing teams. The AFL had outlayed a considerable sum in producing a high quality Souvenir Program & Promotional Poster. These had been printed & the posters widely distributed. In the circumstances we consulted the IDC & drafted the replacement program based on the following criteria:

> No Byes > No Matches that didn't count for points > Retaining as much of the issued program as possible.

There is full agreement from the 10 teams that competed this year for more stringent entry conditions in 2008.

PLAYER ELIGIBILITY

In 2002 & again this year it was decided in the spirit of (the) event to avoid individual player registration. Instead each team was required to sign a "Certification of Eligibility" that all its listed players met the eligibility criteria. While any team could have lodged a complaint before the competition began, the reality was that queries arose only when players were seen in action. Although this creates obvious difficulties, competing teams must have the right to raise issues & the Competiton Manager has a resposnibility to act if a player is found to be clearly outside the elegibility criteria. As the Competition Manager I received several queries or protests in this regard (none in 2002). Hence my decision to move to individual player ID (passport checks) for the closing rounds. While this is not the way we would want to operate in 2008, it was effective in the circumstances.

In regard several matters raised with me & my determinations, there was an opportunity for appeals if a party did not accept my finding. No appeals were lodged.

Clearly for 2008 a process of individual player registration is required pre tournament. This has been agreed upon in principle at a meeting of the 10 competing teams. The detail & implementation will require some consideration & still may not be perfect.

LOCATION

The AFL is open to the event being played in any state or country & leaves this entirely to the competing teams. Melbourne/Victoria has been the unanimous choice to date.

TIMING

Under Victorian legislation the use of public parkland is available for football from April - September only (the latter being severley limited due to councils preparing cricket pitches). August was not unanimous, but held the majority support.

VENUES

The IDC resolved after consideration of all aspects, to stage as much of the event as possible - in particluar the opening - round in open parkland venues for two reasons. a) For atmosphere b) To allow teams to see all other teams in action - this was raised as an issue after the cross over matches in 2002. Once the decision was made it was the responsibility of the AFL administration to find an appropriate venue.

This was not an easy task. Other open parkland venues (e.g. Albert park, Royal Park & Princes Park) simply were not available because of concern at the heavy usage. The option of a private school venue was also pursued without success. In the event our prime consideration was a venue that would stand up under wet weather. Murphy Reserve was clearly the best in that regard.

Your suggestion of "fine tuning" the concept is a reasonable contribution, but very hard to deliver in Melbourne. We will explore further options in 2008, but it may be that competing teams will ultimatley have to make a choice between the atmosphere of 2005 & the venues of 2002. A rural round will obviously be retained in the program & if practical possibly two.

ATTENDANCES

We were very happy with attendances. Again a trade off applies if opting to play at stand alone higher level venues.

2008

Location, Timing, Format, Venue Type & Competition Rules will be the outcome of the forthcoming review & further discussion by the IDC. The simple objective is to conduct an event in accordance with the wishes of the majority of particpants. The AFL would like to see 20 countries if possible & will look for ways to increase participation.

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