AFL International Census 2007
Monday, October 08 2007 @ 09:47 am ACST
Contributed by: Sean Finlayson
Regular readers might recall that World Footy News was the first organisation to undertake a census of footy worldwide back in 2004.
The AFL's figures are maybe less conservative than these early estimates, as the WFN estimates used the criteria of players needing to take part in at least four matches during that year to be counted. However the current International AFL figures indicate a growing base of 34,845 players outside Australia, which represents outstanding growth over WFN's estimate of 26,183 in 2004.
The AFL's latest participation figures also show that the game continues to grow strongly in Australia, as reported in the Herald Sun article More chase Sherrin than before, player numbers have exceeded 600,000 for the first time, with a total of 615,549, with the most growth from the most populous and fastest growing regions - New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia.
What is particularly exciting about these latest figures is that in real terms, the number of players overseas has for the first time overtaken the number in Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory. These two regions have between them produced 25 current players in the elite Australian Football League and an even larger number playing semi-professional football for clubs like the Tasmanian Devils club in the VFL. And as a percentage of the total players in the world, overseas players now account for over 5% or one in every 20 players.
With these things in mind and given that the sport has been played at junior level overseas for almost a decade now, it is not unrealistic to expect an AFL draftee from somewhere outside Australia in the next couple of years. Encouragingly, not just South Africa (where the AFL's primary focus is), but many of the overseas leagues are starting to show signs of bearing fruit. Some AFL clubs may even suprise us by nominating an international player in the next rookie draft, though for some club's recruiters, like Collingwood and Brisbane, the success of recruiting Gaelic Football converts from Ireland may distract them from the overseas talent that lies elsewhere in the world.
Certainly these statistics should also mean that the 2008 Inernational Cup should be played at a much higher standard than previous cups, which should hopefully produce a more successful showcase of international footy.
It is an encouraging sign that the AFL is assuming the responsibility of world governing body and taking note of the growing overseas player stock in tracking and compiling these statistics. Though the AFL webmasters appear to have made a mistake with the link, causing it to be broken. The correct link should be:
International readers who are represented on the census (or not) - feel free to comment on how accurate you feel the figures are.
Editor: Note that WFN is still considering whether to undertake a 2007 census to follow up the original 2004 census. Obviously such a more detailed report such as that has the potential to be a valuable tool in tracking the game's development, and is obviously of wide interest with 3000 visits to the summary page. But such a task will require a large effort and the support of all the leagues, and a decision has yet to be made. In the meantime this AFL census should provide a quick snapshot of the current situation.