AFL to back World Club Challenge
Saturday, June 02 2007 @ 05:39 pm ACST
Contributed by: Brett Northey
In more great news for international Aussie Rules the Australian Football League's General Manager of National & International Development has revealed to WFN that the AFL is looking to stage a World Club Challenge in 2009, with a new stadium in Florida the leading candidate to host the event. What could make the tournament stand out from previous international tournaments is AFL backing and the prospect of major prize money.
Whilst very early in the planning stages, the AFL's David Matthews has had fruitful discussions with USFooty's President Rob Oliver and the new stadium under construction in Fort Lauderhill in Florida has been suggested as an ideal place to hold the inaugural World Cup Challenge. Earlier this week we reported on the new stadium, which was initially designed for cricket but will almost certainly be multi-purpose and could ultimately provide a home base for footy in the United States (see A Home for USFooty?). This again demonstrates the potential for cricket and Australian Football to partner, as has happened in South Africa where the AFLSA are headquartered at the North West Province's main cricket facility. Historically it makes sense as Aussie Rules has traditionally been played on cricket ovals, though in much of Australia this was made easier by the sports being played in different seasons.
Significantly this is not intended to be a one-off occasion, with the AFL keen to see it repeated perhaps every three years. It would become an officially sanctioned AFL event and have a bidding process overseen by the AFL's Roger Berryman and will probably be open to all the affiliated countries to bid for, though obviously the US is the focus for 2009, with an exact date yet to be decided.
Matthews told us that "the Challenge would be an invitational event for clubs from across the globe and eligibility rules would facilitate a balance between ex-patriate Australians and nationals. The AFL will be looking to offer significant prizemoney through a sponsor to be announced in due course". The event will be open to international club sides but will almost certainly not include Australian teams, as the top amateur and semi-pro clubs would unreasonably dominate the competition.
Hopefully the AFL WCC will go ahead and prove to be an inspiration to footy clubs around the world and depending on the prize money on offer may be a further way of funnelling funds into leagues. It also offers the opportunity to showcase our sport in places where it is not yet fully established, and the possibility that an AFL exhibition match could be tied in with the tournament hasn't been ruled out, though it would depend on a great many factors.