Contributed by: Brett Northey
AFL International Development Manager Tony Woods was in Adelaide this week for the launch of a major AFL Fiji fundraiser by Port Adelaide's Fijian connection, David Rodan and Alipate Carlisle; more on that later. worldfootynews.com took the opportunity to sit down with Woods to discuss a range of issues about the sport's international growth, and some of Tony's thoughts will be featured across several articles.
High on the agenda was August's International Cup, with two questions that come up each Cup top of our list - what format will be used and what support will the AFL be offering competing countries.
In the past there have been unsuccessful moves to have multiple divisions to protect the lower ranked sides from 200 point beltings and although some nations have been keen to test themselves against all-comers reality hits pretty hard when the scoreboard gets ugly match after match along with a mounting injury toll. It appears that a split is a must in 2011, but how to divide the nations could be a contentious issue.
Tony Woods explained that the AFL is considering a fresh approach, using a two-day lightning carnvial with shortened matches so that all the teams can begin in the same division, but quickly be sorted into an upper and lower group for the more conventional rounds that follow.
"This year we're looking at a round robin format, lightning premiership format in the first round as a way... to effectively rank the countries as they proceed into the tournament... Ultimately this comes back to the final number of teams but we're looking at a couple of divisions and conducting a lightning premiership as a way of feeding into division one and division two... a number of shortened games played over a couple of days. How that looks in the end we're still working on and trying to make it fair for all, but recognise that some teams have been coming... this will be their fourth tournament and some teams will be coming for the first time. It's really designed at ranking the teams as best we can... to give every team a chance to put their best foot forward but ultimately the better teams to move further in the tournament. The reality is it's hard... it's three years since they've all played with each other, a lot changes, circumstances change, players move on. Essentially it's been based on feedback coming from the teams themselves anyway."
Do you like the idea of a quick multi-match carnival to seed the nations at IC2011? Comments welcome and vote in our poll:
1/1: Do you like the idea of a ligntning carnival to seed teams for IC11?
On the divisive issue of funding, it has been a well-discussed point that the AFL's international development arm at this point in time is not equipped to pay for flights for as many as 30 teams and support staff. But it is believed that some support has been offered to some nations in the past. Woods put the AFL's position on the record.
"I often get asked the question as to which countries are you supporting, we're happy to look at ways in which we can support every country. We've invested time and energy and resources into striking an accommodation deal with Accor to the betterment of the countries. We're in the final stages of trying to strike an airline deal." Domestic or international? "Internationally. We're looking at ways to cover either in entirety or subsidise travel from Sydney to Melbourne. We look at country circumstances on a case by case basis. The reality is that some developing countries in some cases need a little bit of a helping hand, but there's no blatant up front handouts. My preference, as has been the preference in previous tournaments is that countries have to work to do what they need to do to get to Australia and in every case that happens."
"Seven months out from the tournament which countries are we looking at helping, well none yet. And I don't mean we aren't going to what I'm saying is we're encouraging everyone to work through the same process. I'm sure that the countries who end up competing, and I'd be really surprised if this wasn't the case, if there's particularly a third world country that's required a little bit of help at the 11th hour just to get onto the field, if that's one more team they can play against then surely that's good for the tournament."
Note that at the time of the interview we were unaware of the imminent withdrawal of several teams such as Italy and Timor-Leste from the IC11 otherwise that would also have been a topic of discussion. Both nations are very new to Australian football and felt that it was too soon for them in terms of costs and player availaibility etc.
World Footy News