I got into a rant the other day. A rant all about how the AFL (Aussie Rules) is such a great game and that people in England weren't going to give it a chance. A game that people would love and the perfect summer sport for the action sport enthusiast for whom cricket simply doesn't cut the mustard. A high tempo, tough sport for the likes who love rugby and football.
I was all set to say that its the AFL's fault, they haven't done this that and the other to promote themselves over here. However, due to my journalism training, I fact checked (a rarity these days I might add judging by some of the rubbish written on here). I was set to say that it should follow the wonderful NFL model.
For those of you that don't know, the NFL and Sky Sports have put a lot of time and resources into promoting the game in the UK. They made the fantastic NFLUK website, and filled it with journalists and personalities that new fledging NFL fans could get to know and trust, and had articles written in a way that made it seem easy enoguh for the new person to follow but not so simple it patronised the experienced follower. All leading to the NFL climbing up that 'most watched' tree, at a startling rate too.
Now after my research I found that the AFL (or at least people trading under the AFL banner) have put steps in place to copy their American counterparts. A website, AFLGB, and the formation of many different leagues for people to play the game, including, I found, a team near me known as the Redcar Bombers.
All good steps in the right direction to get new fans, and even existing ex-pat Aussies, in touch with the game.
However, these are baby steps, there are still a few more, I feel to get it going.
First of all, ESPN, you need to pull your finger out. Sky did a wonderful job getting Kevin Cadle and Nick Halling as the faces of the NFL in this country, you need the same. Don't get me wrong, the Channel 7 and One teams are great, and they remind me fondly of my time in Oz, but they are talking to Australian audiences who have the relevant knowledge (or at least someone at hand to explain) so this may sweep over the head of the new viewer. Whereas if they cut to a studio with personalities who are knowledgable, fun and geared towards a British audience it would come through better. Also they need to back and give credibility to the sport and the efforts the league are doing to make people aware of the sport. You do these steps and more people would then watch their exclusive coverage.
Another thing is for AFL to get a game out over here! I have a mate who wants to get into the game after catching some while we were in the pub one night. He has successfully learnt NFL through watching the coverage and and wants to do the same with Aussie Rules. The way he learnt, and I am sure other people have found this beneficial, is through Madden NFL. So he asked me to find a game for AFL. I was astounded to find that although one exists, there are no plans to release it anywhere other than Australia, which I think is a shame as it is a great platform to get people into the sport.
One criticism may be that the live games aren't as convenient to watch as the NFL, but I would argue otherwise. The NFL filled the void of the sports fan without anything to watch at 6pm on a Sunday evening, therefore when they have watched a season of that, they don't mind staying up late for the Superbowl. AFL has a game on a Saturday morning, filling the football or rugby fans void, who are bored of Soccer Am and haven't been out the night before. If they have watched all the Saturday morning games I am sure they wouldn't mind staying up for the Grand Final.
So if you want this stuff happening, give me a shout AFL, I will help you out. I would love to see this great game take off in this country.