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Asian footy future - East Asia Australian Football League kicks off

Asia

We've been discussing the future of footy in Asia and in particular calls to involve more locals.  One proposal was a peak body to help promote and coordinate the game, including with more internationals and quotas to ensure most players are locals.  The difficulty of getting that started is the cost of travel, something expats normally find more viable.  As it turns out several Asian clubs have already committed to a league in 2013, inevitably to be expat dominated, but hopefully a basis on which to build deeper roots in their adopted countries.

The Vietnam Swans have put forward a proposal to the Asian footy community of an East Asia Australian Football League (EAAFL) in an effort to bring structure, uniformity and increased credibility to Asian football. The eventual objective is to be able to play a home and away series throughout the year, have a ladder and be able to state a premier at the end.

With clubs existing in Malaysia, Singapore, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Hong Kong, Indonesia, China, the Philippines, East Timor, Japan and Vietnam, the potential number of teams able to participate is considerably high. Teams of expatriates are generally better funded and would most likely make up the majority, but there is also reasonable growth of teams with local talent.

Malaysia, Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand earlier confirmed their participation for the 2013 season, and in late breaking news Jakarta (Indonesia) and Singapore have joined in the last week and and just in the last couple of days Laos became team number seven.  More teams may follow suit in the coming weeks.

The rules would be the same to those used by the AFL, with only a few exceptions. There will be no time on, so the quarters will end at 20 minutes, sides may consist of between 14-18 players on the field, depending on the size of the ground and the interchange bench will be uncapped.

There are planned to be two home matches and two away matches for every team in a season, with the ability to nominate already important annual matches, such as the Changi Cup between Malaysia and Singapore, as an official EAAFL match.

If there is more than one match played between the two teams in a year, as is the case between Cambodia and Vietnam, the teams then designate amongst themselves which game becomes the official EAAFL match.

The proposal is moving rapidly, but still in its infancy, so a set of interim rules are being proposed for the 2013 season, to test the waters with teams, schedules and rules, before the official EAAFL is launched in 2014.

On Australia Day, 2013, the first EAAFL match of the inaugural 2013 test season was played when the Cambodian Eagles hosted the Vietnam Swans in Phnom Penh. Due to multiple matches being played between the teams each year, both teams agreed that the match would be the designated EAAFL match, which the Eagles won convincingly 91-45.

The second match of the EAAFL is set to take place between the Malaysian Warriors and Thailand Tigers on 23 February, in Kuala Lumpur.

The EAAFL is a promising step in Asian football, which has struggled for a centralised body and with players generally confined to expatriate communities. Hopefully the new league will be successful and gain interest from the locals and sponsors able to make the event even bigger.  Questions yet to be answered include whether it will strongly push for local involvement, perhaps incorporating some of the ideas discussed in our ongoing Asian series, and will it seek to be a formal peak body. 2013 will be a good indicator to gauge interest, but we will have to wait until 2014 to see how successful the league really is.

Editor's note:  Events are moving very quickly.  We've been in ongoing discussion with Darrell Egan from the Dongguan Blues in China (see our earlier articles), including about the EAAFL and he has told us that he's commenced discussions within China and with the EAAFL organisers to include sides with predominantly local players.  More information to follow when details become firmer.

Editor's Update 4 March 2013:  Unfortunately we've become aware of a controversial newspaper article in which Darrell was interviewed and the article appeared to imply some racist taunts had been made at an Asian tournament, with the implication that Darrell believed there had been racism, though the cited video did not appear to support the accusation.  This appeared to damage the prospects of Darrell working within Asia and put the South China AFL into damage control.  We're lead to believe that Darrell has since withdrawn from footy altogether but apparently unrelated to the above issue.  No word yet as to whether this will adversely impact the Dongguan football program.  In terms of the EAAFL, that is a hopefully long term project involving many clubs and countries.


Cambodian Eagles versus Vietnam Swans (courtesy of Phnom Penh Post)

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Asian footy future - East Asia Australian Football League kicks off | 4 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
Asian footy future - East Asia Australian Football League kicks off
Authored by: sverik25 on Monday, February 11 2013 @ 04:42 pm ACDT

Whilst I acknowledge that this is great news for Asian football, I can't help but wonder if these are empty steps forward if only expats continue to play the game in many of the South-East Asian countries. Perhaps, there should be some limit on the number of expats allowed per team in the EAAFL - say no more than 50% of the players on a team?

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Asian footy future - East Asia Australian Football League kicks off
Authored by: Brett Northey on Monday, February 11 2013 @ 09:40 pm ACDT

That's the kind of thing Darrell Egan would like to see and is now discussing with the EAAFL organisers.  Hopefully we'll have more on this later.  Of course initially it's hard to put tight quotas on - you'd basically be telling the expats that they have to pay for themselves and the other half of the team to travel.  Maybe a quota of 2 or 3 locals in the first year or 2014 would be more realistic?

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Brett Northey - Co-founder and Chief Editor of WFN
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Asian footy future - East Asia Australian Football League kicks off
Authored by: dongstrong99 on Tuesday, February 12 2013 @ 11:01 pm ACDT

Currently Japan, East Timor, Laos, Borneo, India, china and indonesia most probably have enough local players to field a national team of 16 locals out of a 22 squad team to play alongside a an expat national team.

However such a plan needs a structured formal document the EEAFl can run with and attract large sponsors to get over the travel issues for some locals. 

The most realistic thing I can see to empower the game with locals so they feel part of the process is maybe to showcase some of these 16/22 team of locals national team matches in 2013. 

We work on sponsorship and the building up of a national team of locals for other interested countries in 2013.

These well pondered and structure teams can be formalized in the Asian cup in 2014 to play alongside the expat teams. So there can be two cups up for grabs for each nation. There will mutual support for the expat and locals team to take home two cups.

If countries just want to field an expat team that is still okay. Domestically countries can still play mixed games of 50/50. This is not a huge shake up of the current system. Including locals more in the process will attract more local people to know and support the sport. More volunteers and more support. 

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Asian footy future - East Asia Australian Football League kicks off
Authored by: Grant Keys on Wednesday, February 13 2013 @ 11:26 pm ACDT

A great initiative that will hopefully lead to good outcomes for footy in Asia. There are already many games being played between traditional rivals around the region, such as the annual China Cup between Shanghai and Beijing. I see no harm in these games also being recognised as EAAFL games if the clubs commit to making at least one or two additional away games a year. In regards to the question of locals I'm of the opinion that if we are to seriously grow the sport in Asia we need to all lift our game in this area and the EAAFL should have a role to play here. Perhaps reward teams that have a commitment to playing local players or penalising those that don't. I think making it compulsory for at least 3 locals to be on the ground at any time in 2014, with a commitment to increase that number over time would be a good start and ensure that some of the more established expat dominated clubs around Asia start to focus on that aspect of their development a bit more. As it wouldn't be feasible for every team to play every team throughout the year, wondering how a ladder might work. What if a club wants to play more or some clubs play less? How would you determine a premier? What will happen to Asian champs? Lots of questions to be answered yet but overall i think it's a big positive for Asian footy.

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