The AFL should be thinking big when it comes to both expansion of the league and expansion of the sport.
These are some ideas which I would recommend.
Relocate the Suns and Giants to Beijing and New Delhi
The AFL placed teams in Western Sydney and on the Gold Coast to spread the game and increase revenue, but they haven’t taken off.
If the AFL want the new teams to spread the game and build a bigger audience, and are willing to lose money to achieve this, they should relocate the Suns to Beijing and the Giants to New Delhi.
Since the Suns and Giants are franchise teams that are only there to grow the pie it won’t be as controversial as relocating better-supported teams from Melbourne.
The logic behind the original move was that while they might lose money in the immediate term they would grow the game in the long term. But if that’s the case, then Beijing and New Delhi are much bigger fish to go after, since they will expose the game to an audience of 2.7 billion people.
The matches between these cities will be huge and add a lot more TV revenue than Western Sydney or the Gold Coast ever will.
It’s also worth noting that the Giants already have two of the three colours of the stripes on the Indian flag in their design, while the traditional colours of the Gold Coast are yellow and blue. The red and yellow design of the Suns looks nothing like the Gold Coast, but perfectly matches the national colours of China.
New Delhi can play their matches at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Beijing could play their matches at the Birds Nest if it can be converted to an oval.
Add teams from Auckland and Singapore to bring the competition to 20 teams
There are currently ten players from New Zealand in the AFL, while Singapore has a population of 5.6 million people and a high GDP.
The seating at National Stadium in Singapore can be reconfigured for cricket with a capacity of 52,000 people and it also has a roof.
Also, The Brisbane Lions have previously shown interest in taking a match to Singapore.
Relocate two Melbourne teams to Tokyo and Jakarta
Along with China and India, the other two big nations in Asia that are the most important to Australia are Japan and Indonesia.
Since the market in Melbourne is oversaturated, two teams could be relocated to Tokyo and Jakarta.
Japan has 575 registered players, all of whom are over 18, while 83 per cent are Japanese nationals.
The Japanese national team have defeated amateur Australian teams on a number of occasions and a match in 1986 between Carlton and Hawthorn drew a crowd of 25,000 people.
The Tokyo-Yokohama metropolitan area has 38 million people, making it the largest in the world, while Japan has a total of 127 million people.
Tokyo could either convert its New National Stadium into an oval after the Olympics or build a new one from scratch.
Jakarta has a population of around 10 million and a metropolitan population of around 30 million, making it the second largest metropolitan area in the world.
Indonesia itself has 255 million people and has 133 million internet users.
Its social media footprint includes the third largest number of twitter users and fourth most Facebook users of any country.
Jakarta could either convert Gelora Bung Karno Stadium into an oval or build a new one from scratch.
Start an AFL Asia league and Euro league
With increasing numbers of players in both Europe and Asia, it would be good to set up leagues across both regions.
The lack of stadiums would be a problem at first in Asia, but in Europe you could set up a four-team league in London, Dublin, Cardiff and Amsterdam, which each have oval stadiums for cricket.
You might also be able to add teams in Berlin and Paris if the Olmpiastadion in Berlin and Stade de France in Paris can be converted.
After that, add teams in Madrid and Rome to have eight in total.
Get Aussie rules included in the world games
Aussie Rules was featured as a demonstration sport at the 1956 summer Olympics in Melbourne.
If the sport is ever to become an Olympic event, the AFL should lobby for its inclusion in the World Games, which features sports that aren’t included in the Olympics.
It would also help to get Aussie rules included in other international multi-sport events, such as the Asian Games and European Games.
This could also help governments to justify building new stadiums for their national teams, which could then also be used in the AFL Asia and Euro leagues.
So that’s the plan
As far as I’m concerned, if you’re going to expand the AFL and spread the game, you should put teams in major population centres overseas and go for growth.
Go big or go home.