AFL Great Britain / England National Conference 2011
Monday, January 16 2012 @ 11:00 pm ACDT
Contributed by: Tobietta Rhyman
The AFL Great Britain National Conference was held on the 20th November 2011 in Birmingham. On the agenda was a list of the key dates for 2012, a move to rename to AFL England and numerous items to drive development such the Brit Cup, juniors and a European tour by the AFL AIS Academy. The following article is not formal minutes but give a bit of an insight into the many issues discussed by a body that covers a relatively large number of clubs and leagues.
The meeting started with key dates for the 2012 season. Key events to be considered included the Olympic Games which will be held in London from July 28th to August 11th, and the AFL Grand Final on September 29th. Next came important Australian Football events in Europe, including the AFL-AIS Academy’s European training camp on March 31st, the AIS Academy vs European Legion game on April 7th, the Brit Cup on July 7th, the AFL London Grand Final on August 4th and the EU Cup on October 6th. Then the dates for other events such as an overseas GB Bulldogs game on August 25th and the Haggis Cup and ANZAC Cup on April 21st were finalised.
After the calendar was decided, there was a brief discussion on the Brit Cup and the AIS Academy:
The Brit Cup was re-designated as a regional event, though as previous, top performing clubs would be invited as stand alone participants. A suitable venue would need at least 2 quality pitches, with consideration for facilities such as changing rooms, a bar and BBQ, nearby accomodation and access by roads and public transport. Clubs would be allowed to bid for the right to host the cup, which is to be re-branded as AFL England’s showpiece event.
Understandably, discussions about the AFL-AIS Academy’s European tour caused much excitement, with AFL Europe’s plans including a possible game against a European national team, a game against an Australian expat team, and a warm-up game for the European Legion against a European national team.
After those discussions, the meeting moved onto a brief AGM where positions were decided for next year. Adam Bennett retained the position of President, Donald Eastwood was put down tentatively for Secretary post, as was Rick Shrowder for the Juniors post, and the Umpires post was left vacant, as were two new posts - Events and Promotion.
Then there was a brief run through of the GB Bulldogs performance at the International Cup: The total cost was £58,700, mostly contributed by players. A 26 man squad had been selected from 60 applicants, which included 19 players from domestic leagues and 7 eligible expats based in Australia. The squad was coached by Head Coach Mark Pitura, and Assistant coach Rob Fielder. The team recorded wins against 2 higher ranked teams (Denmark and Canada) and only lost against the top 4 ranked teams, and went on to its highest ever finish - 7th, up from 9th in 2008.
After these presentations, the main discussion of the conference got underway:
(1) National Governing Body Status-
NGB Status applications are made through Sport England and cover England only. If granted, it would allow AFL GB/England to apply for grants. This could help get people in paid positions to support volunteers.
Sport England is very interested in development with juniors. Current volunteers working with juniors or in schools around the country need to be ascertained for use in the application.
AFL GB/ England is already recognised as the governing body for the sport in England by AFL Europe as a consolidation of the previous BARFL and Aussie Rules UK.
(2) AFL GB/ England-
AFL GB was formed from the BARFL and Aussie Rules UK in 2006. It is still largely based around London and is separate from the WARFL (Wales) and SARFL (Scotland). The only times the three nations co-ordinate is for the PLI payments, the Brit Cup and the GB Bulldogs. Outside of this, AFL GB only represents England.
Therefore a name change from AFL GB to AFL England was proposed. The name change would possibly help support the application for NGB status with Sport England, and would be a more accurate description of the area of coverage and representation.
There was however concern that the name change might affect the future of the GB Bulldogs. The AFL might wish AFL England to submit an English team for the International Cup, and the Bulldogs cannot compete under an AFL England logo.
AFL Europe General Manager Ben Mc Cormack suggested that the AFL would likely have no problems with the three countries continuing to compete as the GB Bulldogs. Other points raised were having a minimum amount of players from Scotland and Wales, and members of the SARFL wishing to put forward a Scottish team into the International Cup, though it was decided by members present that this was a long way off.
The proposed name change was put to a vote, despite concerns that no-one from WARFL or SARFL was there to voice their opinions or concerns. This in the end proved to be the reason why most people thought a vote should go ahead, and the motion was carried, opposed by 1 member from AFL London’s Wandsworth Demons.
(3) AFL Europe-
AFL is now interested in Europe as a regional development option for talent and future fans etc.
AFL Europe now covers 21 countries: 16 full members and 5 associates. Full members must have a minimum of 3 clubs and be recognised as the sport’s governing body in that country.
More needs to be done across Europe on junior development. This is a massive challenge and is resource intensive therefore currently not much is being done. However, there is huge potential, especially if the AFL is interested in development in Europe. For now, more reporting needs to be done of current junior programmes with evidence consolidated to get a better idea of numbers.
AFL Europe is planning on increasing awareness of the sport by holding AFL 9’s (rec footy) competitions in London and in Universities.
AFL Europe is creating a startup pack for new clubs to help with equipment and kits. This would at least include footballs, jumpers and support. However, they are waiting on a grant to come through from the AFL and cannot commit to anything until they know how much that will be. (AFL GB also has lots of junior footballs and some other equipment from Sport England)
Recently two coaching courses were held at the International Cup and at the Euro Cup in Belfast. More coaching courses are planned before the start of the season in April, including simple Level O courses for people such as teachers.
AFL Europe will continue to look into developing umpires. The current culture towards umpires is not ideal- a new culture of respect towards umpires is needed. An umpire code of conduct is needed. Training needs to be increased so at least two people from every club are competent umpires within 3 years.
It was great to have a women’s game at the Euro Cup, but women’s football does not appear to be coming together in Europe. More women need to be involved in existing clubs, but there also needs to be an outlet for them to play. (A similar situation exists for juniors)
This discussion ultimately led to the decision that a new post needed to be created for women’s football in AFL England, and being the only female present, WFN’s female football writer and ex-VWFL player Tobietta Rhyman was elected to the post.
A raffle will be held in the European region to help raise funds. First prize would be a trip to Australia including 2 AFL Grand Final tickets, and second place would be a trip within Europe. Individuals and clubs could purchase tickets then sell them on at a profit to help with club funds. The draw would be about a month before the AFL Grand Final.
(4) England Dragonslayers report-
Because the GB Bulldogs squad took precedence this year, there has only been one Dragonslayers training session. The Dragonslayers competed in the Tri-Nations Cup and the Euro Cup.
The Irish teams at the International Cup and the Euro Cup were a good example of development and including players from other sports, such as GAA. NGB status and sponsorship would help with development.
The Brit Cup needs improving. More marketing and funding is needed, including nationwide awareness. Again, NGB status would help with this.
The game needs to move forward, gain awareness and get more people involved in the game, especially juniors and their families. There are also lots of off field as well as on field areas to develop.
(5) Juniors Academy-
An U21 European Legion team play the AIS Academy in Europe as part of a three year commitment- this might be extended into a permanent annual fixture if the AFL is committed to expanding their operations in Europe. In January there will be a trial near Heathrow for juniors wishing to take part in the Legion team.
A facebook page was suggested to keep track of academy players who could meet and train at least once a year. A new meeting should be arranged during pre-season for juniors and junior development enthusiasts.
Umpires are needed for the continued development of the game- cannot expand the game without competent umpires. AFL London can get by with passing expat Australian umpires, but elsewhere umpiring workshops need to be set up. At least 2 players from all clubs should be encouraged to go along, but especially international level players need to attend.
A code of conduct for how players treat umpires is needed. This should also be extended to coaches and captains.
(7) Other points-
Sudip Chakraborty (AFL India president / Indian Tigers captain and also another writer with WFN), now studying in England, reported that most AFL equipment is made in India and can be obtained for as little as 1/6 of the cost.
New ideas for competitions included an Inter-rules competition between the GB Bulldogs and their Gaelic Football equivalents, perhaps held in London, and a touch competition, again in London.
There was also a mention of the four team Movember Cup held in Central-North West Division on Sunday 27th November which raised money for the Movember charity. The cup was renamed the Nathan Blakely Movember Cup in honour of one of the Manchester Mosquitoes players who unfortunately passed away during surgery. The CNW teams which took part were Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield and Wolverhampton and the cup was won by newcomers Leeds.