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Has globalisation helped or hampered Australian football?

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Roar Rookie
20th December, 2018
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It is an interesting question, many punters have said that the death of Australian football would be globalisation, as nothing can supposedly stand in the way of all-conquering worldwide team sports like basketball or soccer.

Footy, the critics say, is an anachronism, a throwback, a tiny indigenous sport centred in the southern part of a parched generally unpopulated continent that is at the end of the world.

Aussie Rules, they say, will eventually submit to the power of global sports, global money, global reach and global media.

Of course, there is also the opposite view. In an increasingly globalised world, a throwback to local identity and local cultural customs and norms is refreshing and a break from modern living.

People relish an opportunity to pass footy culture from old to new generations.

So what is the answer?

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I would say, in the last 100 years AFL has weathered this alleged storm quite nicely, from being a VFL comp in huge financial trouble in the 1980s, to now a national comp owning billion-dollar assets, with record crowds, membership and media rights.

I could quote you hundreds of old newspaper articles stating it is only a matter of time before soccer becomes the number one code, or that footy will never kick on NSW or Queensland because rugby reigns supreme.

Some of that is true, and perhaps it is true that soccer will eventually become the number one code. But plenty of stats point to the fact that, as a code, it is as far away as ever in terms of usurping the traditional codes.

In fact, you could argue that despite globalism pressing in, the AFL has used everything within its power – and some tools of globalisation – to further the game in non-traditional areas, rather than being pushed back to its heartland.

I would also conclude its main competitor in NSW and Queensland – rugby league – has more or less done the opposite, while rugby union continues to shoot itself in the foot.

Rugby, in particular, is now in a battle in Sydney since soccer and, more recently, Australian football have been accepted into the elite private school sports domain.

One should not underestimate the significance of this, it has taken plenty of time and even more money to make this happen.

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Whilst there is no doubt football has lost some traction in the Southern states in a battle not just against other sporting codes but also the wider entertainment industry, it has more than made up for it in the Northern states.

Even internationally, places like Paupau New Guinea and New Zealand have junior structures and talent ID schemes while, even further afield, Europe and North America have amateur adult comps up and running.

Some proof of this push overseas being successful is that there will be a record 14 Irishman on AFL lists next year.

The new version of Australian football – AFLX – would not exist without the pressure of globalisation. It is a direct result of the AFL reacting to a lack of time, space and an increasing hesitation for physical contact from modern generations.

Like indoor soccer, netball and T20 cricket, AFLX is somewhat a ‘fast food’ sport.

It is a game really tailored more for overseas than Australia, if someone was to view the game for the first time, AFLX would be far easier to understand and play than the 18 a side traditional game.

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I would have thought if the AFL ever had any intentions of globalising the game, AFLX would be the platform to use.

So what about the future? How will the game look in 10, 20, 50 or even 100 years?