THE BLOG

It's Hard To Believe The AFL Is Having Such Big Trouble With Its Little China Project

Please. They are going to China, not Mars. And they’re travelling by plane, not boat.  

12/05/2017 12:18 PM AEST | Updated 12/05/2017 12:18 PM AEST
Michael Willson/AFL Media via Getty Images
"The game’s demands have apparently become too much. The players must now be wrapped in cotton wool."

The AFL's venture to Shanghai has been met with more than a few raised eyebrows this week.

The cynicism about the Port Adelaide V Gold Coast match has raged on as commentators and retired players muse about why playing a game for premiership points overseas is not a good idea.

Most of them seem to have missed the point.

Wayne Carey reckons if Port miss the finals because of the trip, it will be a massive fail. Paul Roos is staggered that the teams couldn't get a direct flight and that it will take them more than 20 hours to get there. Tim Watson said he thinks the whole venture might derail the season for both the Power and Suns.

Please. They are going to China, not Mars. And they're travelling by plane, not boat.

Soccer teams are required to do it all the time, sometimes in between their domestic competitions and finals. Australia's Super Rugby teams are constantly in the air too, flying to South Africa, New Zealand and even Japan and Argentina.

There was a time, not all that long ago, when AFL players would play mid-week State of Origin games, which were as tough and hard as any game you'd see and then they'd back up and play for their clubs on the weekend. They still do this in the NRL.

At around the same time, players often played in the mid-week night series, which was played in the middle of the year. Come the weekend, they'd play again.

But it seems the AFL has grown past that. The game's demands have apparently become too much. The players must now be wrapped in cotton wool. It is true that the game of Australian Football is as demanding as any other football code in the world and that the players are world class athletes, but that should not exclude them from being able to back up from international travel.

Soccer teams are required to do it all the time, sometimes in between their domestic competitions and finals. Australia's Super Rugby teams are constantly in the air too, flying to South Africa, New Zealand and even Japan and Argentina.

Plus, Shanghai is not some backwater, crusty old town, it's a vibrant, modern city of over 24 million people. And it's no stranger to Australian sporting teams. The Brisbane Roar and Western Sydney Wanderers both played there in February this year.

But then there are those in the AFL world who just don't think the idea of playing overseas is worth it. They can't ever imagine that the game could one day be exported overseas. These people are short sighted and inward looking. To play it safe in the short term can cost you dearly in the long run.

Put simply, the game between the Power and Suns is an exercise in more than just football. It's also about business. Many might not like it, but football is business and the need for money to survive and thrive in an overwhelmingly busy Australian sports market will only become more profound.

ALSO ON THE BLOG:

The AFL Women's League Has Changed My Life Forever

And that's where Shanghai comes in. Not only is it China's biggest city, it's also one of the biggest financial hubs in the world.

The AFL, Port Adelaide and the Gold Coast Suns are not just there to play footy. They're there to do business, to meet companies who want to promote their products and services to Australian audiences. They want to talk about how big the AFL is back home and encourage these multi-million dollar Chinese organisations to do business with the AFL, sponsor their clubs and bring their money to Australia.

In doing so they are looking beyond the crowded and relatively small Australian market to help ensure the league and clubs are financially self-sufficient. I think this is a good thing.

Perhaps the project won't work and the naysayers will be right. But if it works, don't be surprised if other clubs look abroad to other parts of the world to promote the game, and, importantly, introduce themselves to international companies who want to do business with popular sporting organisations in Australia.

Some may consider this a little money-centric, but the reality is, if we want our favourite clubs to survive for decades and centuries to come, these measures may be necessary.

Plus, in doing so, it may help the AFL world to broaden its horizons and toughen up a little. The players may be tired when they get back, but it just might be worth it.

ALSO ON HUFFPOST AUSTRALIA

More On This Topic