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Travel costs still a problem for Cup countries

  • Thursday, April 03 2008 @ 05:18 am ACDT
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International Cup 2008

We reported in What support for IC teams? that as per previous tournaments, airfares would be the single biggest issue for the competing nations at the International Cup, which face total event costs of more than AUD$100,000 for each country. The AFL has sourced an arrangement with Qantas and provided contacts for fifteen nations, with Nauru, Samoa and Tonga unfortunately not covered as the airline doesn't fly to those islands. We've now spoken with several countries about whether the offer has made a substantial difference to their costs, and sadly the answer so far is no, though Tonga is hopeful of making their own deal.

We asked several countries if their travel costs were being alleviated. One of the attending teams had already organised flights prior to the Qantas offer being put forward. Another, preferring to speak off the record, were disappointed to find a breakdown in communication. Ultimately they were offered a "Group Facility" to organise multiple aspects of the trip as a single package. Qantas did offer to price match any other airlines, and the country in question will certainly be examining all other options.

The issue here isn't with Qantas, who are not tournament sponsors but providing the offer through their ongoing relationship with the AFL. What's needed is a major tournament sponsor with that money being used to offset travel costs, or an airline as a sponsor providing significantly discounted fares. Or failing that, a once every four years outlay by the AFL in the interests of making the tournament the best it can be. One suggestion we've heard would be for all European nations to depart from one location and arrive as a group. A plane full of Australian Footballers arriving from afar would surely be an excellent media opportunity for the International Cup, the AFL and Qantas (or whichever airline would oblige). Perhaps next time.

On a brighter note it’s understood Tonga are still hopeful of making the International Cup, and are working on a significant sponsorship deal with another carrier (with the AFL not standing in their way), though the arrangement is not yet secured. More on Tonga soon.

The late announcements of some key non-game events has also caused some frustration, with one country concerned that some of the AFL commitments clash with events they had already planned with sponsors and local community. Their general feeling is that being well prepared just five months out from the tournament has actually compromised several of their commitments.

There is a lot of work going on behind the scenes to ensure the IC08 is the most successful so far, but it's clear a few support issues remain. Given this is the third such Cup it was hoped some of the problems would have been cleared. Certainly for as long as the Cup is held in Australia (and we expect that 2012 will certainly be Down Under), the huge cost of flights will be the number one issue that needs to be addressed.

If any naming rights or other sponsorship dollars are found, competing countries will be hopeful of some compensation for their costs (with one of the more distant suggesting a larger share to those with larger costs). Although the countries are willing and enthusiastic participants who choose to attend the event, the AFL needs to do everything they can to ensure these fledgling leagues and their players are not left with crippling debts, thus setting back development rather than advancing it.