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How to take Australia’s game to the world

Nick Symonds Roar Rookie

By Nick Symonds, Nick Symonds is a Roar Rookie


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    Aussie Rules is an obscure and little-known sport abroad and the AFL could do more to promote it.

    These are some ideas that I think might help.

    Grand final time slot
    Moving the grand final to a night or twilight time slot would help spread awareness in Europe so people can watch it in the morning.

    Not everyone who watches it will become a fan, but some will. In a continent the size of Europe even small percentages add up quickly.

    In the same way that some people watch the Super Bowl out of curiosity people might tune into the grand final once a year.

    People in England already watch the BBL so maybe they would also take interest in the AFL grand final if the start time was better.

    As a theme song the AFL should go back to using That’s The Thing About Football.

    Songs like One Day in September, Holy Grail and Up There Cazaly might all be popular but That’s The Thing About Football has the most universal lyrics.

    If the AFL was featured in tourism brochures millions of people visiting Australia will become aware of the sport.

    How can you tell people about Australia and not even mention the nation’s biggest sports league?

    ‘AFL world cup’
    Soccer has a world cup, cricket has a world cup, rugby has a world cup, but Aussie Rules has an ‘International Cup’.

    If players win the competition they want to be able to sing “we are the champions of the world”, not “we are the champions of the international community”.

    Prince Charles is the patron of AFL Europe but I think there could be room for more such roles.

    Princess Mary could be made patron of the DAFL in Denmark and Daniel Ricciardo could be made patron of a new AFL Italia.

    Think of the publicity it would generate if he had a game of kick to kick with the other drivers in the pit lane at Monza.

    Daniel Ricciardo for Red Bull

    British league
    The BBC have a section on their news website called ‘Australia news’.

    This could help spread awareness of the sport to a global audience if they cover the AFL and a new league in Britain.

    Teams could come from London, Dublin, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Birmingham, Glasgow, Manchester and Liverpool.

    European league
    A European league could also help to spread the game.

    It would be good if players in Europe could compete in a league that has proper ovals without having to travel all the way to Australia.

    Teams for a European league could come from London, Dublin, Paris, Berlin, Madrid, Copenhagen, Rome and Zagreb.

    They could start by playing AFLX on a pair of rectangular pitches at their club and then turn them into ovals when circumstances allow.

    It would also be a good idea for AFL Europe to work with the European Cricket Council to lobby for oval grounds.

    The return of cricket in Germany is a story in itself. The sport is booming because of refugees.

    USA v Canada Super Bowl
    If there was a match between the USA and Canada before the Super Bowl it would get plenty of attention.

    It might even become America’s new favourite sport.

    Euro games
    A final program of sports to be contested at the next European Games in 2019 has yet to be decided.

    If the AFL make a big push maybe Aussie Rules could be included in the list of events.

    World Games
    The World Games are held for sports which aren’t included in the Olympics as a kind of audition.

    Some of the sports include Orienteering, Body Building, Dance Sport, Sumo, Ultimate Frisbee, Tug of War, Korfball and Fist Ball.

    Surely Aussie Rules can compete with sports like Korfball and Fist Ball.

    Commonwealth Games
    Since the Gold Coast is hosting the games next year maybe they can sneak in Aussie rules at the last minute without telling anyone.

    Obviously having Olympic status should be the main objective in spreading the sport globally.

    But should it be in the summer or winter games?

    People in Iceland have played the sport in temperatures of minus 20 degrees Celsius so cold conditions shouldn’t be an issue.

    It’s also becoming quite popular in Scandinavia to the point that it even drew the attention of Al Jazeera who did a story about it.

    Aussie Rules might not take off internationally overnight but one day it will. The AFL just need to do more to promote it.

    Maybe it will still only be a niche sport but it should at least be a niche sport that people know about and can associate with Australia.

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    The Crowd Says (86)

    • April 16th 2017 @ 7:24am
      I hate pies said | April 16th 2017 @ 7:24am | ! Report

      Why do we need it to become an international sport? I couldn’t car less. It’s our sport, and it’s a great thing about being an Australian that we are so passionate about our own sport. It’s one of the few things that we don’t have cultural crime about

      • April 16th 2017 @ 10:19am
        Norad said | April 16th 2017 @ 10:19am | ! Report

        Stopping Fox Footy commentators referring to records as “World Records” in AFL matches would be a good place to start.

    • April 16th 2017 @ 7:27am
      Gurudoright said | April 16th 2017 @ 7:27am | ! Report

      I thought April 1st was a few weeks ago.

    • April 16th 2017 @ 7:52am
      Norad said | April 16th 2017 @ 7:52am | ! Report

      So the only thing that has held back Australian football is people just need to see a game? What if they see the game & don’t like it?

      Same thing happened with RU in Australia in 2003. Everyone watched the World Cup but few decided to stick with it in the years after.

      Football is the world game. End of story.

      • April 16th 2017 @ 10:50am
        Pope Paul VII said | April 16th 2017 @ 10:50am | ! Report

        Spot on. You can”t make people love it.

        However the world game is like not loveable it ‘s just the common denominator. Even Donny Trumpster understands it.

    • April 16th 2017 @ 7:54am
      mwm said | April 16th 2017 @ 7:54am | ! Report

      Is Nemesis writing under a new name for a few weekend laughs? Lol…. never going to happen.

    • April 16th 2017 @ 8:33am
      Neil from Warrandyte said | April 16th 2017 @ 8:33am | ! Report

      Have the all Australian team tour the states, invite American colleges to form their own team with a $10m winner’s cheque if any can knock over the Australians. Make it an annual event.

    • April 16th 2017 @ 9:34am
      Floreat Pica said | April 16th 2017 @ 9:34am | ! Report

      To me its your last line that is the most relevant- Australian Football is the history and culture of our country with an older, broader footprint than any other code. It ties inextricably with much of our unique lore from its indigenous roots to our efforts to distinguish our own culture as an independent nation, from the gold and coalfields to the ANZAC legend and the soup kitchens of the Depression. We should make the world aware of its cultural strength across the continent, and not shy away from celebrating its parochialism.

      Having been a founding member of an international club myself, I see parallels between the perspective of the Danish and Icelandic players on that Al Jazeera clip to those I have worked with across Asia. Locals who want to take on the game do not do so because of a want to ‘be Australian’, but share a common recognition of the values of the sport that reflects very well towards positive Australian stereotypes (courage, teamwork, self-sacrifice, equality, athletic strength, even ‘mateship’ if you will) and often these very same aspects within their own culture too (note the ‘viking’ reference in the clip).

      Such ‘soft power’ works extremely well for any number of countries where a sport represents so much of their values and history to the outside world- think Union in NZ, Sumo or Karate/Aikido in Japan, Grid Iron or Baseball in the USA, Soccer for England, archery for Bhutan, wrestling for Mongolia. International visitors are drawn to these events as bastions of local culture, and while they may not take up the sport themselves, the experience of having been a part of such an event is a massive positive for both groups appreciating each other.

      There is no need to actively export our game. Organically, at grass-roots it is doing it well enough without support from HQ (small but vibrant leagues across North America, Europe and Asia). What will help our code thrive is to continue shaping the game for all Australians (AFLW has been a huge step in this). Promotion, expansion and consolidation of the game across those regions who are not currently directly represented at the top level would be more beneficial so that they can develop their own powerful ties to the game that can only be achieved through a direct link to a local team.

      • April 16th 2017 @ 10:04am
        Norad said | April 16th 2017 @ 10:04am | ! Report

        That first paragraph is nauseating. You are referring to the VFL & not the AFL. The VFL was popular in Victoria not the whole country. The VFA was nearly as popular as the VFL sometimes too especially on Sundays as i recall growing up in Bendigo.

        • April 16th 2017 @ 10:45am
          Pope Paul VII said | April 16th 2017 @ 10:45am | ! Report

          Absolutely not true. VFA for sure but VFL was the defacto national league.

          • April 16th 2017 @ 11:48am
            Joe B said | April 16th 2017 @ 11:48am | ! Report

            VFL was not the defacto national league… until it introduced teams from outside Victoria, 1987 onwards. But it was officially the national league in 1990 when it became the AFL. Victorians, and others, often fail to understand that WA and SA have their own state leagues, and before teams from these states joined to form the now AFL, the WAFL and SANFL were the most dominant australian football leagues in their states… only vics followed the VFL.

            • April 16th 2017 @ 3:21pm
              Pope Paul VII said | April 16th 2017 @ 3:21pm | ! Report

              I’m NSW.

              It’s common parlance for non footy state people to say “did/do you play AFL?” Back in VFL days it was common for Sydneysiders and Brisbanites to say “Do you play VFL?”

              Not withstanding the fine WAFL and SANFLthey didn’t attract the best players or national attention in comparison to to the VFL.

            • April 17th 2017 @ 3:41am
              Tricky said | April 17th 2017 @ 3:41am | ! Report

              “Only Vics followed the VFL” lol, even if it were true the VFL was the most attended, watched and for footballers it was the destination league since it’s inception in 1897. So like it or lump it was the league the nation most favoured (should you not like the term defacto national league)

              I can guarantee you as I personally know West Australians still follow their original VFL clubs in the AFL.

              Here is a link for the WA magpies supporters and before you state they’re all from Vic, it would be folly to suggest that there are no interstaters who do not and have not when it was the VFL follow Vic clubs

              Oh and btw surely unless your’e a millenial or been living on mars you’d know that there was a carnival by the name of state of origin – so yeah we all know and knew that the WAFL and SANFL exist(ed)

            • April 17th 2017 @ 11:46am
              Timmuh said | April 17th 2017 @ 11:46am | ! Report

              Those in WA and SA often had VFL affiliations, but they were mostly very much secondary to their local leagues. Victorians had no such interest in the SANFL and WAFL.

              Basically, everyone in Victoria and Tasmania (born after about 1960) followed the VFL first and foremost – and maybe a local league but probably not.

              As for spreading the gamne, its not easy to pick up for someone who hasn’t grown up with it. The amount of time in contests with the ball on the ground just looks messy; and of course the rules having so many interpretations and umpires trying to decide on players’ intent doesn’t help.

              Australian Football is never going to be more than a niche, and usually less than that, in any market its not already a major feature in. The investment in NSW and Qld is about the fact you ned numbers from thsoe states to get national media deals with Australian media, there’s no such incentive to put hundreds of millions into other markets for no return.

              • April 17th 2017 @ 12:49pm
                Norad said | April 17th 2017 @ 12:49pm | ! Report

                The state of Spotless today will no doubt result in the AFL demanding NSW govt ban or move the Easter Show. Left cow dung and V8 ruts all over it!

        • April 16th 2017 @ 8:05pm
          Floreat Pica said | April 16th 2017 @ 8:05pm | ! Report

          @Norad struck by the cultural cringe I see. I’m definately not only looking at Victoria here, but refering to the clubs across the country who make up the sport. Certainly these things are true of many in both the VFL and VFA, but similarly clubs across the former colonies from Fremantle to Newcastle. By goldfields Im not only referring to those in Victoria, but in southern NSW (where it remains entrenched from the Riverina to Broken Hill), and obviously in WA. There has been plenty of press about it being played regularly in the training camps at Giza in 1915 by men from all states, but it was also exported to South Africa during the Boer War. The 1908 Australasian Football Jubilee had teams from across all states and NZ, and was clearly tied to reinforcing the idea that we shared common culture as a Federated Nation at a time when there was still tension between the states about the ‘winners’ and ‘losers’of that process- interesting that would be the foundation year for NSW Rugby League rebelling against the capital’s preferred brand. So yes, you might find the sentimentality nauseating, but so be it, I’m proud of our history.

          • April 17th 2017 @ 9:07am
            Norad said | April 17th 2017 @ 9:07am | ! Report

            So rugby league was invented in an English mining village in 1895 to thwart a VFL carnival in Melbourne in 1908.

            • April 17th 2017 @ 1:25pm
              Floreat Pica said | April 17th 2017 @ 1:25pm | ! Report

              Absolutely not. In both cases you are (deliberatley) confusing local competitions with the codes involved. The decision to develop a local RL competition in NSW was absolutely a political decision in which a significant proportion of the footballers were drawn from formerly Australian Rules local clubs.

              • April 17th 2017 @ 2:01pm
                Norad said | April 17th 2017 @ 2:01pm | ! Report

                1. Then those Australian Rules players can’t have been very loyal to the code then.
                2. So the Sydney RU clubs must have got by with minimal loss of players & RU is still the #1 code today.
                3. Or you’re wrong. As if league started in Sydney to prevent AFL getting on top of soccer and RU.

      • April 16th 2017 @ 10:19am
        I hate pies said | April 16th 2017 @ 10:19am | ! Report

        AFLW will change the game like no other change has in the last 150 years. Once local clubs have women’s teams that track with the men the local footy club will change forever.

        • April 16th 2017 @ 8:16pm
          Floreat Pica said | April 16th 2017 @ 8:16pm | ! Report

          I think that might be true for the top levels, but I think at grassroots the change was already underway. Obviously AusKick has been mixed up until U12 since it started, but up here in Mackay both mens’ and womens’ teams have shared existed for many clubs for some time (nearly a decade for some)- they just train on different days rather than together, but social functions are often together. I dont know if it will be a huge difference to the Footy-Netball club tradition in many country towns.