Saturday, July 15 2006 @ 05:54 am ACST
Contributed by: Brett Northey
For the second year running English schools have fielded Australian Football teams in the London Youth Games, with the Carshalton team scoring a narrow win over Hackney's side this year. Hopefully the high profile event will help boost interest in footy amongst children in the UK.
According to the Games website: "Every year over 20,000 young Londoners from the 32 London Boroughs and the City of London, compete in over 30 different sports competitions". The footy teams were organised by Aussie Rules UK (ARUK), and competing were the Carshalton Swans, Downside Dockers, Hackney Hawks and LNS Lions, with the Swans getting up on the day.
ARUK, a body funded by Sport England to introduce non-contact Australian Football to British children, has been active in several schools in the last couple of years. Run by Brian Clarke, the program leverages the growing desire to fight rising obesity levels, as well as focussing on participation by kids from a cross-section of the community. We'd like to bring you more details of the junior development work but Clarke declined to speak with WFN regarding this, and a previous story on his program was also declined. We remain open to future consideration of stories related to ARUK and Aussie Rules International (ARI).
Clarke is a former member of the International Australian Football Council (IAFC). The Council was involved in footy in several countries from 1995 to 2002, the year of the first International Cup, before a unanimous vote sought to wind it up to work instead with an AFL committee. Clarke, the IAFC's publicity officer, felt there were irregularities in the process and decided to continue a version of the IAFC, but it didn't gain support or recognition from the leagues themselves, limiting his ability to be involved in the mainstream. In 2005 the AFL and an International Development Committee (including other members of the former IAFC) ran the second International Cup. In the same year Clarke created another organisation, ARI, apparently letting go of the controversial IAFC name and relinquishing claims to governing body status. Having also created ARUK he had his biggest breakthrough, securing funding from Sport England for his youth program in the UK. Encouragingly these changes seem to have brought improved relations with the mainstream international footy community, opening up the opportunity to work with the British Australian Rules Football League and the DAFL.
Next up for ARUK's footy kids will be their proposed tour of Denmark for an international juniors match. The Danes have been the most active European country in terms of unofficial junior internationals, with a match against Swedish children this year and reciprocal tours with Geelong College in Australia. The UK tour has been re-scheduled, with September 16th/17th now a possibility. If these three European nations can continue their growth then each will benefit from the interaction and competition with the others.