15 Nations found European Australian Football Association in Frankfurt
Friday, January 29 2010 @ 10:00 AM CST
Contributed by: Aaron Richard
Delegates from 15 Australian football leagues around Europe converged on Frankfurt last weekend to officially found the European Australian Football Association, the long-awaited first pan-European governing body for the sport of Australian rules football.
Following on from the summit held in conjunction with the 2009 EU Cup in Zagreb, the conference has seen a governance structure put in place, with the financial and logistical backing of the AFL.
A six-member commission has been elected, featuring both sports management professionals and leaders of national leagues in Europe, along with the appointment of Gerard Murphy as EAFA chairman and the creation of a full-time Regional Development Officer position being funded by the AFL.
ARFLI stalwart and newly-elected commissioner Ciaran O'Hara says "The conference in Frankfurt was a great success. In fact in the ten years I've been involved I've never been to a more well-run event, and credit for that must go to Malte Schuldich of the AFLG and Gerard Murphy. Fifteen countries were represented, with two more sending apologies."
"It has resulted in clear progress for European Footy. We now have a representative association, the European Australian Football Association. The framework for a constitution was agreed and will hopefully be ratified without objection, considering that everyone contributed."
"The Association will consist of a General Assembly of members, with a Commission working on their behalf. The Commission will have a two year term and consists of a Chairman (elected by the General Assembly), three outside commissioners recruited for their Strategic and business acumen and three commissioners elected by the General Assembly. The Commission will interview and recommend a Full-time Regional Manager, a position which is to be funded by the AFL."
Chairing the committee is sports management professional Gerard Murphy, who brings to the job a wealth of experience through his work with Leading Teams.
The outcomes in Frankfurt were only possible after the intense debate that took place at the conference held in conjunction with the 2009 EU Cup in Zagreb, from which the various European bodies were able to put a proposal to the AFL.
As Gerard Murphy explains, "Zagreb is really where we broke the back of this concept... the Frankfurt conference was basically where we concretised everything that was discussed at Zagreb.”
The three outside Commissioners ratified by the assembly are former Melbourne Footballer and Octagon UK Managing Director Glenn Lovett, Nike Executive David Tucker and Professor Hans Westerbeek, Chair in Sport Management at Latrobe University.
It is expected that the Regional Manager will be appointed in the near future. Murphy says, "the position of Regional Development Manager will be advertised in the upcoming months, including via channels such as the league websites. The AFL will also put forward some candidates."
The Development Manager’s role will be quite broad, including working together with the leagues to help them officialise and streamline their operations and helping them to achieve formal recognition as the governing body for the sport in their respective countries.
The fifteen founding member leagues are Iceland, Ireland, Croatia, Spain, Italy, Czech Republic, Germany, France, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Andorra, England, Scotland and Catalonia. The Netherlands have also been awarded full member status in absentia.
Norway, Austria and Wales remain the only major absentees from the conference, however it is expected that they will join the association in the near future to bring the number of member organisations to 19.
England, Scotland and Wales will be separate members of the association, reflecting their essentially autonomous structures. England delegate Shane Hill also holds the position of umpiring representative.
Catalonia's membership as a separate entity was accepted as a once-off exemption, with the assembly feeling that they have been competing as an independent body in European tournaments for a number of years.
Josh Vanderloo from the AFL says the league is very happy with how things have progressed so far, saying "The AFL is pleased that so many nations have committed to moving forward together under a united European Australian Football Commission banner. The AFL's wish is that the best possible structure exists for the game across Europe and the appointment of the commission is an important step that can democratically set the path forward."
"There is genuine excitement from within the AFL as to what can be achieved across Europe. We will fully support the recommendations made by this commission and look forward to the imminent appointment of an AFL Regional Manager - Europe."
"2010 is going to be a big year from an International Game Development perspective. The announcement of both the World XVIII and Pacific Nations inclusion in the NAB U16 Championships has generated a lot of interest, both domestically and abroad, and will pave the way for the recruitment of international players onto AFL lists."
"We recognise the need to have a greater involvement in the EU Cup and the growing relationship will only assist in this area. Consequently we have engaged Robert DiPierdomenico to be the patron of the European Australian Football Association to assist with the promotion of European activities both here and abroad."
Vanderloo also indicated the AFL's vision is to support the governing body with a focus on five key areas: building participation, identifying talented juniors and giving them elite pathways, coach and umpire development, attracting third-party commercial support, and supporting events such as the EU Cup.
The coming months will be very interesting to watch for the European footy community, but at this stage the atmosphere seems very positive.