Internationalisation &100 Yr Development of Footb

The recent debate on the relationship between the international and the national in Australian Football has several scenarios which might encourage fear in Australia.

This 100 Year Plan (below) which I wrote first in the late 1990s and has appeared on various sites and is now slightly revised: (1) shows those fears are groundless and more importantly (2) shows how far internationalisation has come – most of the first 8 points have already been achieved (see also the World Footy News Timeline).

Here I present the revised version.

The beginning of international Australian Football in the current era is as recent as the VFL international matches and the TV coverage of 1987 and 1988, the year of the Australian Bicentenary (200 years since European settlement). Since then, more has been achieved in only 30 years than even the visionaries who support the international game such as Kevin Sheedy, Brian Dixon and Ron Barassi would have expected.

Now, as we celebrate Australian Football’s 150 years, and as the AFL and the different nations discuss the future and the assistance which will be most helpful for development, we need to see the details in the context of the larger picture. The list below speaks of football but draws parallels to the spread of people and culture throughout history.

THE 100 YEAR PLAN 1980s - 2080s

1. Land in a far-away place but find fellow compatriots with which to practice customs/religion etc.

2. Expat Aussies recruit some locals and have organised games and competition (some 1980s stimulus from television, international VFL matches)

3. Locals become predominant although pioneers, ‘colonists’ still lead, partly because of knowledge and because of their perceived links with Mecca, Rome, Jolimont etc. At this stage the metropolitans (footy central, AFL, Oz media) still dismiss the ‘colony’ as irrelevant and assume it's just a few drunken homesick expats - an appealing, but erroneous, perception

4. Locals play international matches against other embryonic leagues eg Danes and Brits, Yanks and Canadians. Some players come to metropolis on scholarships eg Danes, Americans, Japanese - standard improves. Increasing local and national identification with the representative teams and later with the sport.

5. Computer/email connections developed sophisticated connections (eg across Europe, across US from East Coast to Mid-West to California and across the world).

6. School competitions develop as this is the only method of reproduction of the competition as originals get older.

7. One or two overseas players recruited for AFL/ VFL etc trials - some succeed.

8. Serious international carnivals at level of higher division of amateurs.

9. Colony (cf USA, Canada, Australia and ‘mother country’ Britain in other fields).

(a) influences way things are done in metropolitan or mother country by bringing new ideas on and off the field
(b) sends talent to the centre (cf older story of Australian expatriates in UK in journalism, arts, professions, business, sport etc, Australian actors and directors in Hollywood), to the AFL. (This process is happening in other sports now eg baseball, soccer.)

10. Some ‘colonies’ become as strong as the original metropolis or mother country, due to local media and spectator interest in the game - over 50, 100, 200 years. This also adds to the activity's national and international appeal.

Result: Australian Football becomes an international high profile, rather than low profile, sport in a globalised world, which strengthens its hold at the original metropolitan centre (Melbourne and southern capitals of Australia). Its international aspect becomes all the more important given two yearly world cups in other sports including rugby, soccer, cricket, American football, baseball and basketball and the rise of Asian leagues in which most Australian sports have competing clubs.

• Stephen Alomes is Associate Professor of Australian Studies at Deakin University Victoria. He also wrote a book on Australians going the other way, exporting talent rather than Australian culture to London in the period from the late 1940s (When London Calls). One of his most recent forays onto a footy field was to umpire a scratch match at the Helsinki Heatseekers training while passing through Helsinki en route from Japan to France. He is currently researching nationalism and expatriates in Paris, and occasionally contributes to


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