Contributed by: Michael Christiansen
In early February Richmond Football Club CEO Brendon Gale spoke to Melbourne sports radio station SEN and without prompting took discussion down the path of playing an exhibition game in India. Not often do things move so quickly – that now, 3 weeks later we see reports of plans coming together for Richmond to ‘host’ Greater Western Sydney Giants in Mumbai perhaps as soon as February 2013.
Reported on AFL.com.au; When Gale spoke to SEN, he was expanding on Richmond's efforts at running an Indian members program which has seen champion Indian cricketer, Rahul Dravid join the program as the patron. Richmond also ‘hosted’ the Indian International Cup team (who were resplendent in their Richmond Tigers playing gear) during 2011’s 4th AFL International Cup held in Sydney and Melbourne.
Richmond was seeking to build on the synergy of the iconic Tiger symbol, and no doubt have been buoyed by the large numbers of Indian attendees (including the Swami Army) at the International Cricket held around Australia this summer.
In truth, there were hopes held earlier for a game in India, and included talks last April (2011) looking at a potential Richmond v Essendon match up this year (2012). With any such proposal, the costing of the event has to be sorted out and importantly Richmond was represented on a week-long Baillieu (Vic Govt) Trade mission to India. Noting this is no ordinary trade mission but is touted (reported in Melb Herald Sun) as the state's biggest-ever trade mission to India which includes representatives from over 220 companies and organisations. With Indian student welfare in Melbourne a relatively recent talking point; the roughly 300 strong delegation includes some 6 university vice-chancellors.With the support of Austrade Commissioner Peter Linford (remembering that the AFL and the Aust Govt signed an MOU in August 2011); the talk is now clear that the match would be Richmond v Giants and would be a pre-season, rather than post-season match.
In this case Linford stated that “ground access and logistics” were a key reason for the February timeslot.
The Age reported Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu as having a kick – decked out in Richmond gear which would be hard enough for an avid Geelong man - with some Mumbai locals, and quoted as saying “Hats off to Richmond who have been prepared to make this commitment.”
Richmond has been represented on the trade delegation by Simon Matthews, who was initially reluctant to confirm GWS. Subsequently though, GWS spokesman Nick Johnston confirmed that the club was interested and would also be interested to go as far as playing for premiership points. The Giants are said to have an active interest in increasing links to the Indian community within their western Sydney zones.
The AFL website reminds us that Giants coach Kevin Sheedy has already been on the record suggesting that the opening match of season 2013 should be played in China, but, obviously is only too willing to support this proposal. Along with former AFL development manager Dave Matthews (who has been a firm supporter of the growth of AFL interests in international footy) – it should be no surprise that the Giants are showing interest.
Sheedy quoted in the Melbourne Herald Sun “We’ve already expanded nationally with our game now it’s time to grow it internationally.” Matthews too “We’ve got two kids in our academy from Indian heritage and you only had to be in the crowd at ANZ Stadium for the Twenty20 international to see what sort of an atmosphere an Indian crowd creates”.
The likely venue appears to be the DY Patil Stadium in Mumbai which amongst other events has hosted IPL (Indian Premier League) cricket matches and has a reported capacity of 55,000. The official website reports fabric roofing imported from Germany; 250 tons of clay from South Africa for the field and includes luxury suites as well as 60 corporate boxes. The ground was in 2009 voted the 6th best cricket stadium in the world as judged by the Architects’ Journal of Britain, just pipped for 5th by the MCG.
World Footy News