Melbourne in pole position for IC11

Sunday, May 10 2009 @ 07:30 am ACST

Contributed by: Brett Northey

The AFL sought feedback from competing countries after the 2008 Australian Football International Cup. Probably the most interesting three issues raised were the timing of the next such tournament, its location, and whether some form of Australian side should be included.

The League has marked 2011 as the year for the fourth instalment of the Cup, and announced that the location was open to tender - see 2011 confirmed for next IC, location up for tender for more information. It seems that Melbourne is the very warm favourite to again be the primary host for the tournament - there are plenty of logistical and player reasons why this would be a good choice, although it may reduce the allure for some players and supporters (and therefore prospective nations) who have attended previous Cups. Perhaps surprisingly, the AFL reported not a great deal of feedback on the issue of an Australian side. The chances such a team would play the full tournament seem to be unlikely.

The AFL's Roger Berryman (Development Events Manager) was in charge of organising the 2008 Cup and will likely take the reins in 2011. worldfootynews.com posed a series of questions on what we could expect for IC11.

WFN: The AFL surveyed countries after IC08 regarding various issues. Overall, did you get a sense that they were happy with the tournament?

Roger: Yep, feedback in general was very positive and seems there had been a vast improvement on previous events… obviously plenty of constructive feedback for improvements raised. Main concerns were based around a lack of promotion and coverage through competing with AFL finals, and a need to provide more promotional material much earlier to assist countries pitch to potential sponsors.

WFN: Is there anything in particular that the AFL or you personally would have liked to have happened differently?

Roger: Definitely more involvement and support through our AFL corporate partners. The uneven nature of games is also something we have to find the right balance with.

WFN: AFL General Manager of National and International Development, David Matthews, has said the next Cup will be in 2011 and the location open to tender. Whether it be 2011 or 2012 was one of the survey questions; what was the general response from the nations - was a gap of 3 or 4 years more popular? What is the primary rationale behind 2011?

Roger: Three years was definitely the general consensus so on that basis we’ll be working on 2011. This keeps a consistent three year gap and means it won’t be held in an Olympic year (we went three weeks later in 08 to avoid Beijing).

WFN: With the location being open to tender, can you tell us a bit about the criteria that will need to be met and when the process will begin and conclude. As one of our writers has pointed out, if it were a northern hemisphere spring it would only be two years away already.

Roger: Realistically I can’t see us moving the event from Melbourne just yet, although Perth for example is one city to give consideration to. I don’t believe we’re at a stage that we would want to nor be in a position to take the event outside of Australia. The main criteria will be travel considerations for the countries, the venues for matches (location, number, size, condition, availability), whether we want both a city and regional involvement as per previous events and ability to showcase the elite AFL comp, ie: taking them to matches.

WFN: Will the AFL be calling for bids directly from Australian state leagues and international leagues, or cities themselves? Will Melbourne be required to bid for it or will it be the default location?

Roger: Refer above, we’ll ask our state leagues to consider.

WFN: There's probably a few overseas leagues that could organise side by side fields using the past example of polo fields or similar, as used at US Nationals. And there's also that new stadium in Florida. The biggest sticking point for internationals would be the ability to have AFL matches - obviously the AFL would have to schedule some games to accommodate that. Obviously that's a big ask - if it's a bridge too far at this stage, do you think it makes an international host highly unlikely in 2011?

Roger: My personal view is that it would be highly unlikely that IC11 would be held outside of Australia. That’s not to say it couldn’t happen and I agree with you that there would be fields/ovals o/s that we could use. An exciting part of the tendering process will be to find out how many realistic options we might have to stage the event.

I think we made some great strides with the event last year and probably just want to consolidate and make the priority of again enabling as many countries as possible to experience the AFL culture here.

WFN: The AFL also asked IC08 competing nations how they would feel about some form of Australian team being involved. What was the feedback on that and has the AFL given it any further thought? (Personally I'd like to see an All-Australian amateur under 19's play against say PNG in 2009 or 2010 as a test case, and if they are competitive but not dominant, look at including such a side in IC11, if the countries are happy with it).

Roger: Not a great deal of response actually, and what we got was mixed. My personal view is similar to yours in that I think we can find an Australian team of an appropriate standard to play a match or two against selected teams. It was interesting to get one of the new team's response that they couldn’t believe there was no Australian side in the competition.

WFN: It sounds like you might consider some form of Australian team to play some standalone games. We were loosely involved in some discussions about an All-Star international side playing some Aussies at the end of the tournament in 2008, but it didn't eventuate. Could that be on the cards? And does your previous response mean some form of representative side playing the full tournament is out of the question?

Roger: In relation to an Australian team… we had some good discussions about the possibility of having the World Team compete at the end of the tournament against either an Australian side or even against the Cup winners. That is, could it have been achievable (and worthwhile) of having the World Team play against PNG a few days after the GF. Extra costs obviously in keeping the players out longer is one drawback but worth further debate. And we certainly haven’t ruled out an Australian team competing as part of IC11.

I think my answers show we’re open to all suggestions but just need to fully consider the consequences both logistically and financially of progressing some of these exciting ideas.

WFN: Has further consideration been given to the use of upper and lower divisions, or is that debate further down the track?

Roger: Always a topic of conversation in here when we chat about the IC. As yet though we haven’t sat down to seriously consider our position for 2011.

WFN: Anything else you'd like to add?

Roger: I’d envisage a working party to be set up towards the end of this year to commence planning.

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