Contributed by: Shane Hendrickson
Representatives of 14 Australian Rules football clubs from around Asia have met in Bangkok for the inaugural Asian Presidents’ Summit to discuss a game plan for the future of the sport in the region. Presidents of 13 clubs, plus representation from a Pakistan programme still in its infancy, were present, with a further four clubs having their say without being able to attend.
The most agreed upon issue was the future of coordination and structure of footy in Asia. The result was the creation of an Asian Council for Australian football, to deal with issues such junior development and sponsorship, with Phil Johns, president of the Vietnam Swans, receiving the presidency for the new body as well.
Another big issue was the development of local players. Expatriates can only take the game so far, and cannot stay indefinitely, so it is important that locals learn the game and become actively engaged to keep the clubs moving forward, and to be able to field a national side in (non expat) competitions such as the International Cup. China, Japan, India and Timor-Leste have fielded teams in the past, but it is hoped that that number from Asian sides will significantly grow.
The development of youth was also highly agreed upon, to develop the future talent that will eventually fill these national teams. Indonesia has been successful, with over 10,000 kids having gone through their youth programmes, while Hong Kong and Singapore both currently have more than 300 kids each in their programmes. Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Macau and Borneo have smaller, but still promising youth programmes. There is a joint aspiration to create junior tournaments, to give something for young players to strive for and maintain interest.
More AFL involvement was also high on the agenda, hoping for more funding from the AFL and for clubs to develop individual relationships with AFL clubs. There was also a push for more games to be played in Asia, such as the exhibition matches that have been played in Japan and China in the past.
Footy in Asia is developing in the right direction, with the Asian Championships, the recently launched East Asian Australian Football League and now this organisation, the possibilities seem endless. With four billion potential players on the continent, anything seems possible.
World Footy News