OPINION: Why an AFLW game in the USA makes sense
Tuesday, January 28 2020 @ 09:00 pm ACDT
Contributed by: WFN Administrator
Peter Holden of Women's Australian Rules Football Radio tells us why he thinks the AFLW should take the elitel level game to the USA.
Back on June 24th last year, Jake Niall of The Age broke a story that the GWS Giants, with the support of financial backers, had floated the idea to Tourism Australia about an AFL (men’s) match for premiership points being played in the United States of America.
The Giants saw the opportunity to plant a flag in the USA, much the same way Port Adelaide had done in China with its games against the Gold Coast and St Kilda respectively.
In the article, GWS Giants Chief Executive said of the proposal “There's significant enough interest from investors and supporters, locally and in the US, to explore the possibility.”
The obvious hurdle to the proposal was finding a venue suitable enough to host an AFL match; not just accounting for the large oval shaped field, but also crowd size with exhibition matches in the late 80s during attracting crowds of between 7,000 and 14,000 fans.
UCLA’s Intramural Field was the last venue in the USA to host an exhibition match between two AFL clubs (Sydney v North Melbourne in 2006) but is no longer available due to a change from grass to an artificial surface. Although Central Broward Stadium in Florida, a USA Cricket venue, might fit the bill, it’s believed the Giants are keen for something closer to a major market like New York or Los Angeles with California preferred, according to The Age article.
Taking the above into consideration, along with when should a game be played in the USA, who is available to promote the game in the USA at that time, and what benefits are there for the AFL’s commercial partners, it’s surprising that the most logical decision isn’t made...
Play an AFL Women’s match for premiership points in the USA in particular California.
The original AFL (men’s) match proposal floated the idea of the game being played in March, as a Round 1 game, ahead of Round 1 being played in Australia (allowing adequate rest for the travelling teams). From a promotional sense, a pretty non eventful time of year.
However, if we applied the same theory to an AFLW match, the game would roughly land on the weekend before Australia Day.
This would allow the AFL to tie in with Tourism Australia’s annual G’Day LA events, and the ability to attract celebrities in town with the Grammys and Oscars on around that time. Also, with the NWSL and WNBA in off season mode, the red carpet treatment could be rolled out for their stars, who no doubt would use their social media influence to talk about the event and our game.
At this time of year many USAFL clubs host fundraisers on/around Australia Day, which with this game on they can then turn into a watch party.
Also, the American sports broadcasting industry has an eye on Australia during this time due to the Australian Open an ability to continue the Aussie theme with “A piece of Australia comes to the States” stories.
With the focus on all things Australian at this time, it’s perfect for the AFL’s commercial partner Virgin Australia to run advertisements promoting flights to Oz.
On the subject of an appropriate field, with an AFL (men’s) match, the league would feel the pressure of having to find a venue that can host 10,000 plus and selling it out to make the venture look like a minor success. Considering the smaller attendance of the AFL Women’s matches, a crowd of about 3,000 (the same number that saw the last exhibition match in the USA) would stand up as very reasonable when compared to crowds back home.
That would give the AFL more flexibility to find a field/venue where they could put up a small number of temporary seating on one side, and on the other marquees to schmooze the celebrities and sports stars invited.
Finally, the obvious point. The growth in Australian football is on the women’s side of the game. As American interest continues to grow in women’s sport, especially Soccer (NWSL) and Basketball (WNBA), no women’s contact sport has truly grabbed their interest. I’m certainly not suggesting that there’s millions of viewers and billions of dollars to be had for Women’s Aussie Rules in the USA, but there may be room to find a niche space and help further boost numbers at the amateur level (USAFL).
Ideally, the game would be the Greater Western Sydney Giants against Melbourne. The names of the two capital cities would stick out for Americans. Timing of the match would be best for late Saturday afternoon (US West Coast time), meaning the game would air before Sunday lunchtime on the Australian East Coast, avoiding any clashes with Channel 7’s Cricket (BBL) coverage.
There’s also one more advantage for the AFL. An AFLW match being played at a smaller venue, with potentially less club and league personal required than an AFL (men’s) match, it would allow league headquarters to test logistics of hosting a match in the USA at a lower cost