The hybrid game of ‘International Rules’ football (the rules somewhere between Gaelic football and Australian Rules football) played between teams representing the Gaelic Athletic Association and the Australian Football League hasn’t been able to hold the attention of supporters in Australia or Ireland.
The contests date back to 1967 with the first three game series taking place between the teams in 1984. Since then it has had more downs than ups. In 1990 the series was suspended due to crowd ‘lack of interest’ but was resumed in 1998 in a different format with the matches reduced to two. This also failed to interest crowds as did the selecting of an all Indigenous team to represent Australia in 2013. In 2014 the two game format was reduced to one game with the Australian team featuring players selected as All Australians in that year.
That format seemed a first step back from the abyss with the game played at Subiaco where a 30,000+ crowd was attracted. The sensible next step would be to build on the format that had met with approval by the population.
It comes as a surprise then that, notwithstanding the relative success of last year’s format, it is rumoured the next game is set to be played in November in the USA, possibly in New York. The venue mentioned – Central Park…..really? There is no stadium in Central Park…..does the AFL really intend a team of All Australians play an international in a park? As for a stadium to play in, clearly the AFL has forgotten the problems in staging exhibition games there in the past due to the relatively small playing fields in US stadia.
The AFL’s treatment of the concept with such a suggestion indicates to me they don’t really care about international football. One thing for sure, there will be fewer people interested in a hybrid one off game in New York, especially as it will be played at the peak of the NFL season. In addition, I doubt anyone from Australia will pay any attention to it. The only beneficiaries here will be the players and coaches who get a junket to the USA.
The observations made by the GAA’s Paul Earley are close to the mark when he says “I don’t see the logic in playing it in the US to be perfectly honest. I think it has got to establish a foothold again in Ireland and Australia first of all before you take it internationally.”
Now there is a person who should be listened to, if anyone cares!