The AFL has officially confirmed that a match of Australian rules football will be played for premiership points in China during the 2017 regular season.
AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan made the historic announcement on Wednesday afternoon (AEDT), saying the Port Adelaide Power will ‘host’ the Gold Coast Suns in Shanghai on May 14 at Jiangwan Stadium.
“Today we announce that a Toyota AFL Premiership match will be held in Shanghai next year, as part of our commitment to growing sporting relationships with Australia’s biggest trading nation,” McLachlan said.
“We are proud that Australian football will play a bigger role in deepening the historic connections between Australia and the People’s Republic of China.
The match will take place on a Sunday afternoon at 1:20pm local time, meaning the ball will be bounced for the first tie in China at 3:20pm (AEST). Channel Seven will broadcast the match in Australia, while Chinese broadcaster CCTV will show the game in China.
The match is expected to be a serious money-maker for the AFL and Port Adelaide, and is the second major step for the AFL in expanding the sport in China, after CCTV began broadcasting AFL matches during the 2016 season.
“We believe we have the most exciting and athletic game in the world, and the chance to showcase our game in China is too good an opportunity to pass up,” said McLachlan.
“Our game exists in a global sporting marketplace, and this event is part of our broader strategy to reach into new markets, both inside Australia, and across our region.
“We have one million people of Chinese origin living in Australia, we have many students who chose Australia to live and study, and Chinese tourists are our number one visitors here, so reaching out to this community both here and abroad is critical for us as a game.
Port Adelaide chairman David Koch lauded the announcement, saying it put the AFL ahead of all other major sporting leagues in the world in terms of expansion to the largely untapped Chinese market.
“This is a moment many people thought would never happen, let alone as soon as 2017,” said Koch.
“The AFL will become the first elite foreign competition to play a regular season game for points in China, beating the likes of the NBA, English Premier League, Major League Baseball and NFL. That is a monumental achievement in itself and speaks volumes of the strength of the relationship between our two nations.
“The appetite for AFL football in China is even stronger than we could have imagined when Port Adelaide began forging relationships there.”
The remainder of the AFL draw for 2017 is expected to be announced tomorrow.