The Australian Football League Germany grew to 5 clubs in 2004 with the commencement of the Düsseldorf Lions, and in that year over 120 players pulled on the boots in the course of the season. This year they're on track for as many as 150 having played at least one match and have at least two potential new clubs for the coming seasons. However, despite having more players actually playing than Spain (who attended the International Cup) and Sweden (who've started playing internationals against Denmark), the Germans have generally kept to themselves, with only 'scratch' national teams having played any outside opposition.
World Footy News spoke with German footy pioneer Malte Schudlich about how the scene is developing in this relatively reclusive footy nation.
The new boys in US footy, the Bakersfield Barbarians, are all set to have their first match, with the Orange County Bombers and a rejuvenated Inland Empire set to travel to the Californian city in October for some matches.
In the BARFL London Premiership Grand Final held last Saturday, September 3rd, the West London Wildcats overcame a three-goal defecit at the last break to the defeat the Wimbledon Hawks by seven points, 9.14.68 to 9.7.61.
In the Conference Grand Final, the Shepherds Bush Raiders hung on for a three-point win against the Clapham Demons, 11.12.78 to 11.9.75.
The Australian is Australia's major national newspaper and on 18th August 2005 ran a story previewing the Round 21 AFL match between Sydney and the Kangaroos. The first half focused on the non-Victorian domination of recent AFL grand finals, but of interest on the international front was a discussion of Aussie Rules as an important potential product in promoting "Brand Australia", and was put in the context of the upcoming match in Los Angeles between the two sides.
The Ontario AFL, one of the biggest leagues in the world, outside of Australia, is gearing up for the 2005 finals. Toronto Downtown Dingos will be favourites to go all the way having finished top with just one loss. The league has also announced its major awards and all-star team.
The 2nd US Collegiate Invitational is coming up, and the event is being used to promote a new plan for college footy, aimed at taking Aussie Rules a step further. Australian football in the US is growing steadily but many of the recruits are already in their 20s when they take up the game, and with so many new skills to learn, they often don't reach their peak until around 30. An obvious place to attract younger players is the university system, which is also a key part of professional US sports. The USAFL has funded a report, by Belmont University Sports Administration masters student, Adam Bishop, into how to develop the college game, and it will be presented to the ANZACC National Business Conference, being held from September 9 to 11.
10am this Sunday, 11th of September will see the Paris Cockerels and Strasbourg Kangaroos clash in the first club match between two French sides beyond scratch games played in the late 90s. The match will be a friendly held as a closer to a training session at the Hall Omnisport Rugby Grounds in Cergy-Pontoise for the French side heading to London for the 9-a-side EU Cup.
The Paris Cockerels have played occasional games in recent times against opposition as the Brussels Saints and in the Central Europe AFL championships, but have not played a match thus far in 2005. The Strasbourg Kangaroos are reportedly hoping to join the AFL Germany to give them the possibility of regular league play, situated as they are on the German-French border and closer to three of the five German clubs than to the French capital.
In a major upset - significant in result, but gargantuan considering the margin, the South Sweden Saints defeated favourites the North Copenhagen Barracudas by 102 points last Saturday to give themselves a home final against the Copenhagen Hawks in Port Malmö next weekend and eliminate the Barracudas from the DAFL Premier League finals entirely.
Saturday evening also saw the DAFL individual player honours awarded, with the Sitch Medal for best and fairest awarded to Jutland's Frederik Schulin.
Over the past couple of decades traditional sports in Australia like Aussie Rules have found themselves in competition with new non-contact games like touch football (effectively touch Rugby). Social games such as that aren't likely to threaten the mass appeal of Australian football at the highest level, but they can undermine player numbers. As more people play them, particularly enjoying the flexibility of shorter games on weeknights in mixed sex environments, there can be a slow leak of numbers from traditional sports. Furthermore the players and their families become more familiar with related sports such as Rugby Union. The AFL's answer is Recreational Football.
The AFL's Community Development Manager Ed Biggs, who was also Tournament Director for the 2005 Australian Football International Cup, has responded to World Footy News' review of the event - see Opinion: Report card on IC2005 for our article. In his detailed email Ed also mentions the AFL's own review of the tournament and tantalisingly suggests that they hope to see as many as 20 nations competing in 2008.