2008 International Cup - updated country attendance likelihood list
Thursday, December 06 2007 @ 10:24 pm ACDT
Contributed by: Brett Northey
Back in March of this year WFN looked at a wide list of countries that may consider sending their team to the 2008 Australian Football International Cup (see 2008 International Cup - country attendance likelihood list). Eight months later, and much less than a year before the tournament, we listed the teams the AFL say have expressed an interest (see IC 2008 - Hands up for Division 1?). We've spoke to representatives from most of those nations to see whether they are expecting to get Down Under for international footy's premier event. If all the countries we rate as moderate or better make the journey, the Cup will feature a major jump in numbers from past years, going from 11 (2002) and 10 (2005) to 16 in 2008, giving the AFL the number of nations they are hoping for to give balanced divisions. That's not including possible teams based on recent ethnic migrant groups in Melbourne, whichever division they end up in.
Below is a table rating each country on whether they are likely to attend and what key issues they face, other than usual financial pressures. Most of the attendance likelihood ratings are based on discussions with representatives from those countries, some of which is also shown below.
Fans will be disappointed to know that both Germany and Austria will not be making the long trek to Australia. AFL Germany has long said that they see their resources better focussed locally and it is hard to fault their logic. Austria, through Martin Ruppe, considered attending, but concluded their program was not yet ready for such a large undertaking.
Much more positive news for the tournament came from Joel Kelly, Operations Manager - AFL South Africa, who was succinct in rating their chances as "Very high". Similarly New Zealand's Chief Executive Officer, Rob Vanstam, said, "The NZAFL will be attending the 2008 International Cup". Ireland is also confident, with ARFLI President Ciaran O' Hara stating that, "Ireland will definitely be travelling to the International Cup in 2008. Roger Clarke was appointed as Head Coach prior to the Autumn Internationals against Britain and Denmark. He has appointed Tom Madigan from the Dublin Demons and Shaun Smith from the West Dublin Saints as his assistants".
After the Danes pulled out late in 2005, supporters will be keen to see how Scandinavia's leading footy nation has progressed in six years, and it looks like we will get the opportunity. Incoming DAFL President Ian Hill rated their chances as very high, saying "The trip is in the hands of Jim Campion, who in footy always seems to be able to achieve what he sets out to do. I would be very surprised if Denmark was not there".
Neighbour Sweden are now also rating themselves as confident to make the long haul to Oz. Swedish AFL president Jimmy Ljunggren is rating Sweden very likely.
After some recent changes at the top in Britain the Bulldogs' focus has not changed, and coach Charlie Kielty told us, "Preparations are well under way and everything is on track for GB to be participating at IC2008". Similarly BARFL Committee member Martin Smith confirmed their attendance chances as "very high". A major overhaul of the game's organisational structure is underway, but at this stage it doesn't appear as though that should have a major impact on the Bulldogs.
Across to North America, and the USAFL's President, Richard Mann, rated the Revolution as "definite", but noted "costing is obviously a big issue", and the United States are looking for any support forthcoming from Australia. No doubt this applies to all countries, and any businesses or individuals interested in getting involved should certainly contact the attendees or send us a message to pass on. Canada are also full steam ahead with plans, and ambitiously are looking to get a junior side to Australia as well. AFL Canada President Mike McFarlane explains, "Canada is very likely to be attending the 2008 IC. Unless something drastically happens in the next few months there is no reason for us not to attend. We are also attempting to send a 17 and under team to Melbourne at the same time. I know that there are no other junior teams planning on attending at the moment be we are trying to capitalize on the momentum from the games in the summer. We should know in a couple of weeks if this is a go or not".
The confident responses continue, with the Japan AFL's Hideki Miyasaka saying, "Japan will be attending" and rating the probability as "very high". Things are reasonably positive for their giant neighbour, with China rated as a "high chance" according to Andrew Sawitsch, who has been developing the game there. He has his eye on the developing nations division, but is under no illusions that the task remains large. Sawitsch put it plainly, "there is a lot of work to be done until that time. Need commitments from the AFL. Need sponsors", but he felt the AFL were keen like the Chinese to make things happen, and he will be heading home in February '08 to try to develop fundraising strategies with the Melbourne Football Club.
A possible inclusion with very unusual circumstances could be an Israel / Palestine squad under the banner of the Peres Peace Team, as reported in Israel-Palestine "Peres Peace Team" one step closer to IC 08. Given Australian Football appears to have dropped off in Israel in recent years, and given this new proposal is yet to have any players signed up, we'll still have to rate the likelihood of attendance as only moderate, but boosted by the support the concept is getting from high levels in business, the AFL and community.
Closer to Australia, Tonga's Mark Korsten advised "Tonga is keen. We rate our chances as moderate, depending entirely on how well we do with our fundraising". Near neighbour and arch sporting rival Samoa were a bit more confident, with National Game Development Manager Michael Roberts saying, "the likelihood of Samoa attending is very high. I'm in Melbourne to meet with Australian contingent of our AFL Samoa committee to clarify our strategies from this point onwards leading up to the cup. We hope to be able to have a full program itinerary lined up early in the new year along with some other announcements and initiatives of AFL Samoa". Some of those plans are very encouraging but not yet finalised.
As usual we've failed to make contact with anyone from the small island nation of Nauru, and that doesn't encourage us that they will be at the tournament. That would be a great shame in the sport's 150th anniversary celebrations, given Nauru's unique position as the only nation besides Australia to embrace Aussie Rules as its number one sport (so far). We hope the AFL take every reasonable action necessary to bring Nauru to the Cup.
Back to Europe, and we discussed with Marc Jund the chance of France making their first appearance in Australia. Jund is with the Strasbourg Kangaroos, France's most active club in recent years. He has previously explained that the game has gone backwards in France, "now it's back to what it was two years ago: Strasbourg and Paris only". Jund says that now even getting a side together for the recent EU Cup was a struggle and it is time to focus on local infrastructure, so we won't be seeing the French this time around, but Jund noted "we'd like to take part to the IC cup soon", so maybe 2012 will be their target.
Finally to the sub-continent. Both Pakistan and India are at the very early stage of footy development. Our contacts there have been quiet of late, though the AFL remained confident that India was still at least a possibility for the Cup.
At time of writing, we hadn't received any feedback from the remaining countries.
2008 International Cup - attendance and performance issues:
|Country||Attendance Likelihood||Attendance Issues||Performance Issues|
|1||Papua New Guinea||Very high||None||Have selected mainly juniors in past|
|2||New Zealand||Very high||None||Are enough juniors being kept in the sport (compared with say PNG)?|
|3||United States||Very high||None||Geographic spread makes team training rare|
|4||Japan||Very high||None||Potential lack of key position size; split between JAFL and NAFL|
|5||South Africa||Very high||None||Large junior numbers still too young|
|6||Canada||Very high||None||Some potential Ontario-centric issues|
|7||Denmark||Very high||Late withdrawal in 2005 (but circumstances understood to be much different this time)||None|
|8||Ireland||Very high||Local league not growing||A few gun Gaelic recruits could make a big difference|
|9||Britain||Very high||Has political scene settled? Probably enough||Upheaval in regional area a negative (collapse of previous regional league) or a positive (ultimately more locals involved in regional matches)?|
|10||China||High||Very early stages of development||None|
|11||Samoa||High||Player eligibility (many based in Australia)||Player eligibility|
|12||Sweden||High||Game expanding but many clubs young||None|
|13||Spain||Moderate||Does a united national body exist?||Madrid-centric squad or all-Spain?|
|14||Tonga||Moderate||Focus on juniors; recent national political problems||None|
|15||Finland||Moderate||Very early stages of development||None|
|16||Israel/Palestine||Moderate||Development not commencing until 2008!||None|
|17||Nauru||Low||No show in 2005; tiny population||Tiny population|
|18||India||Low||Very early stages of development||None|
|19||Pakistan||Very low||Very early stages of development||None|
|20||Indonesia||Very low||Early stages of development||None|
|21||Solomon Islands||Very low||Very early stages of development||None|
|22||Croatia||Very low||Very early stages of development||None|
|23||Czech Republic||Very low||Very early stages of development||None|
|Argentina||Assumed to not be attending||Little contact with the outside footy world|
|France||Not attending||Early stages of development|
|Germany||Not attending||Feel local development better served by declining until future|
|Austria||Not attending||Very early stages of development|
1. This table is based on our experience and dealings with some of these nations, but is not to be considered a definitive list. This table still represents our opinion, so in some cases in our final analysis we may have slightly down-weighted the enthusiasm of some responses.
2. Attendance Issues refers to circumstances particular to that country which may make their attendance less likely, as opposed to the usual issues all nations face, i.e. player availability in an amateur sport and funding/costs of travel.
3. Performance Issues refers to circumstances particular to that country which may make their performance less than would be anticipated based purely on past form or the size of the sport in their nation.
4. Any countries not listed above are thought at this time to have insufficient locally developed players who would qualify for the tournament, as opposed to expatriate Australians, who are generally ineligible.
5. The AFL recognises only one body in each country and England, Scotland and Wales currently compete as Britain under the British Australian Rules Football League.
See International Cups for our central page for the 2002, 2005 and 2008 tournaments.