Contributed by: Brett Northey Wednesday, March 09 2005 @ 01:43 am ACDT
World Footy News has often been criticised for its informal association with Brian Clarke's IAFC. Although we have argued that the only real linkage is the display of their logo and the volunteer work done by this author, the case has obviously not been made strongly enough. And clearly this author was sympathetic to their cause. However, it is our opinion that WFN has been held back by this perception. In this editorial we wish to make the clear distinction and in fact make it clear that even those loose ties have now been cut. I have thought long and hard about whether to air our reasons, but in fairness to all our supporters, and all the people I have lobbied on behalf of Brian Clarke, I feel they deserve an explanation of how this decision has come about over the lifetime of WFN.
This website was founded by myself and Aaron Richard with the intention of providing independent news on international Australian Rules Football, with the aim of promoting the leagues and supporting their bid to grow and be better recognised in Australia. At the time, it was agreed to display the International Australian Football Council logo, as it was felt the organisation was trying to promote the game and deserved support, and some within WFN questioned the AFL's commitment to growing the game outside of Australia. Having said that, we were already conscious that there were football politics involved.
WFN has striven to be independent of such issues, but it quickly became apparent that some (there are those that would argue many) of the major football countries were against the IAFC. As our primary goal is to work with those countries in promoting the game, this created a dilemma. Further, key players in the international football community dispute the right of the organisation to call itself the IAFC. The issue is convoluted and is the source of much acrimony. It is the understanding of WFN staff that our attempts to increase our exposure, and thus that of international Australian Rules Football, has been strongly hindered by the display of the IAFC logo and the relationship of myself with the IAFC, so we felt the need to get to the bottom of the dispute.
Over the past year, and in particular in recent months, some WFN staff have thoroughly investigated the issues around the validity of the current IAFC, the AFL's commitment to international footy, and the wishes of the major non-Australian leagues. The conclusion we have reached is that although there are some aspects of the current IAFC that are worthwhile and deserve to be pursued, we do understand the reasons of international leagues and the AFL for not wishing to work with or promote the organisation. The opinion of those that we spoke to was that the IAFC was genuinely wound up several years ago and that the current incarnation is unrelated and cannot claim the history of the previous organisations bearing the title IAFC. There is far too much ill will in the international football community for the two sides to work together without major compromises from Brian Clarke's council. There is no sign that such compromises will be made, and admittedly even if they were, for some the situation long ago deteriorated to a very personal level of dislike, so no chance to work together is foreseeable.
Further, our research has left us confident that the AFL is indeed serious about developing the game outside of Australia. Funding of over AU$400,000 per year is not insignificant, and there are other one-off payments and in kind support for targeted countries. There are also promising signs for the upcoming International Cup, and serious talk of resuming pre-season matches in New Zealand and holding a community camp there. Like many, we wish they would do more, but are satisfied that they are doing a good job.
Running WFN takes a lot of volunteer time from the key staff. We believe that many in international football feel unable to work with and promote WFN whilst we maintain any link with Brian Clarke's IAFC. Indeed we are uncomfortable with the organisation calling itself the IAFC, thus making it difficult to refer to it in articles, without qualifying the name usage. We also understand that the organisation will make a major announcement regarding future events that we cannot support for several reasons.
As it is clear that WFN will be significantly curtailed in achieving its goals of promoting international Aussie Rules unless it makes a clean break from the current organisation calling itself the IAFC, the decision has been made to make that break. We wish Brian well with promoting the game, particularly in the main area where no organisation seems to have had much success - seeding the game in new countries. Although we believe that one day the Australian Rules Football nations of the world will form an independent organisation to run the sport, we do not think it will be for many years, and are happy to abide by the wishes of the leagues and work with the AFL, by far the major source of funding for the game internationally. As part of this move, I have resigned my position as South Australian Co-ordinator for the IAFC (and Acting General Manager for Africa). These were decisions not taken lightly, but made with the best interests of WFN in mind, which we believe therefore is in the best interests of international footy. For those that have supported us in the past, we hope this continues, and we hope that those who have not will now feel free to do so.
Update April 2005: Upon making the split the international footy community have warmly embraced WFN, further convincing us that our decision was correct. Clarke's organisation appears to have less than the equivalent of two full time staff, to us seem at odds with the wider footy community, and to us has not mounted a convincing case. Thus we would encourage him to stop using the IAFC name, to stop arguing a case for which he has no support, and to work with the international leagues who are striving to spread our great game. We believe it is not too late to remove the politics from the sport and all work together.