Is the OAFL growing Footy?
Well here I am again, with another rant voicing my opinion on a topic that I feel is important to bring up. Now remember as your reading, this is my opinion and my view point so take that into account. It may not be factual but it’s just the view of someone in the league.
So the issue I'm bringing forward in this article is one which has been on my mind since participating in the league a few years back. Is the Ontario Australian Football League (OAFL), or AFL Canada for that matter, growing football in Canada?
Australian Rules Football, or footy, is without a doubt the most popular sport in Australia. With large crowds, passionate fans and extensive media coverage it has become the premier winter sport in Australia. But will it ever become popular here in Canada?
Thanks to the success of the AFL International Cup last year, more people have become aware that 'Footy' has also become a worldwide sport. With competitive leagues being formed in more than 20 countries and the sport growing in stature with each passing year. But has anyone run with it to help promote the game here? Or have we missed the boat?
Now apparently Ontario has the largest league outside of Australia, yet no one seems to know this. The OAFL has twenty years of history and yet funding is nearly nonexistent. The United States get a larger amount of funding from the AFL than Canada, yet their football league is nowhere near as structured as it is here and apparently the standards not too great either. So what is being done to change this?
This brings up the question, how is our sport being promoted? I'm not sure if I've seen any promotional material for the league recently. I know a few clubs have promoted their brand to recruit new players and events, but is it just the teams responsibility? Or does the OAFL have to participate as well?
Personally, I'm surprised that universities and college aren't bombarded with promotion material from the OAFL to create interest in the sport. Or even OAFL promoted functions to help create awareness in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).
Now most of you will be thinking that’s all good but things like that cost money, something the league doesn't have much of. This brings up another question, why isn't the league making any money? It seems the only source of income the league makes is from club fees. (I'm not using the Trillium grant as that is for other uses)
What incentives does the league have in motion to create funds? Why can't the league, instead of charging the clubs so much money, charge a small player registration fee to create some income. For example, a $10 league registration fee for players would provide a yearly income for the league of around $3300 (if you take into account 2006 statistic). Just something for people to think about.
It seems no one really knows what’s going on in the league. Unless your part of the executive and participate in their meeting, no one seems to know what's being done.
Of what I have gathered, it seems that following an Australian model of how to run a football league has been lost along the way and things have become more North American. For instance, have a look at the new finals series. Ever since the leagues inception they have followed the same tried and test structure of the AFL.
Now we have a new structure more in line with the North American sports. Is this to make it more accessible to Canadians? Make it fairer? I'm not sure, as it wasn’t broken in the first place.
Now lets have a look at the clubs in the league and how the seasons going so far. Glancing at the league ladder, it's pretty apparent to most, that things are much the same as they have been for the past few years. The top teams are still the same and the bottom teams are still struggling. Now is it just the team’s responsibility to improve their club? Or should the OAFL be there to assist them in getting back on track?
Some clubs seem to be really struggling this year both on and off the field and it only seems to be getting worse. Should the OAFL be helping them in some way so that their club doesn’t fall apart? I think this issue needs to be on the agenda.
Another issue that is affecting every club is the age issue. It’s no secret that the average player in the league is aged between 25 and 30. So what is the OAFL doing to help solve this issue? Are they just putting the onus on clubs to solve the problem? Or do they have a plan to help remedy the situation?
Now 'The Aussie X' has been doing a great job promoting football around the GTA both in schools and in the camp environment. Being associated with the program, I would say that it's a great way to introduce our great game to Canadian youths. Here comes the but, but what happens after?
After all the great work to get kids interested in football what happens after? Do they have to wait until their school or camp books another clinic? Do they have to wait till the following year? With no junior league there’s no outlet for these kids who have an interest.
Well the leagues working towards that in the future Cappa, I hear you say. But why haven't we already? The west coast has the North Delta junior football league which has been running since 2003, almost 6 years. The league has three divisions (Under 13, 15, 17), each has four teams and there are over 100 kids playing. Why has the OAFL not followed suit? Isn’t youth the future of the league?
This leads me into Canada’s national program. Now I've had the privilege of playing against the Northwind on two occasions representing the Australian All-stars. Now obviously both times we defeated the Canadians but quite large margins, but they were competitive.
Now the major issues I find with the National team is age and funding/sponsorship. Let’s face it, the national team isn’t getting any younger and with the AFL International Cup a few years away their only going to get older. Youth needs to be injected into the team and unfortunately it doesn’t seem to be here in Ontario.
In regards to funding, I know that it’s a hard task to sell a sport to a Canadian company, as they don't have any knowledge of the sport. But is that an issue that needs to be addressed sooner rather than later?
In my opinion, for the national program to be successful money is needed. Things such as training facilities, equipment, apparel, and travel expenses cost a lot of money. Without proper funding I can see the program struggle to improve.
Now you may think I'm bringing up obvious arguments and just being negative, but these are things that people who care and are associated with the league think about. I think the OAFL and even AFL Canada are moving in the right direction, it just seems to me that it's happening at an extremely slow pace.
Now before I go, I guess I should clear something up for some. Apparently there is a 1930's superhero parading around as a football analysis and some of you out there think it’s me. Sorry to disappoint but I'm not the one wearing the spandex. Till next time, take care.