IC21 – A Deeper Perspective

Wednesday, March 18 2020 @ 07:54 pm ACDT

Contributed by: Wesley Hull


With yesterday’s announcement by the AFL to push this year’s International Cup forward to the same time in 2021, leagues and national teams across the world have been united in their positive acceptance of the decision.

Whilst there are many factors – seen and unseen – which will be impacted by the decision, the footy world has accepted the decision in a realistic and thoughtful way. The USAFL issued a statement to clubs on their website and Facebook page stating, “we support the decision from the AFL to push the Cup back a year and we know our USAFL Freedom and USA Revolution teams will be ready to go in 2021!”

AFL Asia also released details on their social media platforms, highlighting the new arrangements and adding, “that this decision has not been made lightly and that the AFL’s number one priority in postponing the AFL International Cup is the health and safety of the players, coaches and officials of all teams.”

AFL Europe and other leagues across Europe had already been bracing for the decision, making the tough decision to cancel the 2020 Champions League in Amsterdam. Smaller tournaments across Europe have been addressed by local leagues or sporting bodies in line with COVID-19 updates and directives.

AFL South Pacific Nations advised, “Today, the AFL made the decision that the 2020 AFL International Cup will be postponed as a result of COVID-19, with the event to be re-scheduled for July / August 2021. A tough decision to make but the health and safety of everyone at this time is most important. We have no doubt everyone will be ready to go come July / August 2021.”

Whilst the decision is the right one, there will be a range of impacts to play out between now, 2010 and beyond.

Jason Hill is a well-known figure in Europe’s footy scene. The founder and director of CrossCoders has held many roles in the past as the former president of AFL England as well as being the former team manager of Great Britain AFL and former Head of Performance at AFL England. Jason has a multi-faceted view of how the decision to reschedule the International Cup will impact football on many levels.

“I believe the AFL has come to the right decision when it comes to bringing a postponement to the international cup. While most plans would have been in place were still far enough out to make changes, get refunds and sort out the issues we may have. If we had waiting until June and this message had come then we would have been in a much worse place than having to rearrange for 2021. I’d say off the back of the messaging from the Australian Prime Minister around banning international travel for around 6 months, maybe longer, this has further justified the decision.”

“While this will have a small impact on some wallets in 2020 this can be a positive for the game going into IC2021 now. With an extra year to fund raise, an extra year to train, an extra year to plan etc we have time to make the competition even better. That being said this does require the AFL to continue with the same plans for the competition and getting that locked away ASAP. That certainty will help the countries better prepare and plan. My view is this should make IC21 better than IC20 could have been.”

“This being said when you look at the wider implications on the game, the wider implication financially on the world, and the wider implications to society its a sobering thought to think about all the issues that this could raise over the next 12 months.”

“Just now I can think of redundancies in the game, budget cuts in delivery of international operations, increase costs for travel and accommodation, reduction in tourism operations in the area, reluctance to travel if things haven’t passed by the end of the year, and even the desire to play from players if they have to take this year off the game.”

“Right now there are so many unknowns that will only start to rear their heads as we move through this time of uncertainty. One thing that I will say is that budgets will get cut across Australian Rules Football globally and I’d expect this to effect the tournament in some way, shape or form.”

“If I look at this from a perspective of trying to get more internationals playing the game and developing towards the highest levels of the game unfortunately everything we’re seeing unfold will slow this down. I cant imagine a world where we see global combines, talent searches, or the finances to go and acquire this talent. This will probably slow the incredible growth we’ve seen in the AFLW especially in growth markets like the USA, Canada, UK and China.”

“Unfortunately this is a complete unknown right now. There is so much uncertainty in the world that I almost expect regression across all sports, not just Australian Rules football. It’s sad to see but every day I wake up to more uncertainty, more sports being cancelled or postponed and it won’t be long until the impact of this takes it’s first club into administration or financial ruin and if that starts to happen we’ll start to see the real impact on leagues and administrations.”

“If we look for a silver lining I do think this gives us the perfect opportunity to reset. The opportunity to rip up everything we’ve done in the past and rewrite the history of the games we play. With budget cuts, with loss of jobs, with everything that is changing it is the harsh reality that with this comes change. Those looking to continue business as usual will be the first to go. Those who are the quickest to adapt to change will find new business models, new ways of working and new ways to achieve the holy grail of everything we’ve been looking for as a community.”

If you look at the monumental growth the NFL and the NBA have had across the world. Both sports fairly native to their homelands, both sports have failed to grow with previous attempts, and both sports are now finding ways to have flourishing grassroots upstarts in countries not native to the game and this has been rewarded with professional games being played in those nations. If we went back to the drawing board now, with a blank canvas, would we be pushing ahead with the current model? I’m not so sure.”

“Maybe the real silver lining here is an opportunity to do things better.”

When looked at in a relative perspective, footy and the impact of a postponement sits so far behind the greater societal implications of COVID-19 that it is almost invisible. The health and welfare of humanity, economies of nations and stability of the world to endure such a pandemic must dominate the thinking of the best minds available.

However, looked at as a stand-alone decision, the moving of the International Cup will have implications. It is simply a case that these implications must happen, and all stakeholders involved will evolve along with the directions that appear over coming days, months and years.





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