Contributed by: Troy Thompson Tuesday, December 16 2008 @ 08:29 pm ACDT
The AFL today confirmed the speculation in the past week that the Cape Town NAB Cup match between Collingwood and West Coast would be called off due to the global financial crisis, which has seen financial backers withdraw from the venture. Perhaps conveniently this news is swamped by the ongoing saga of one man, Ben Cousins who today was picked up in the Pre-Season Draft by the Richmond Football Club.
While the loss of this match is a massive blow to those in South Africa, in the past week there have been both media articles and posts on football forums by both Collingwood and West Coast supporters who see the match being played in Australia as a big bonus for them. On a positive note for football development in South Africa, it was confirmed that the AIS AFL Academy would tour South Africa for the third year in a row in 2009.
The following is the statement released by the AFL this afternoon: The Australian Football League today announced it would defer its plans to play a pre-season NAB Cup match in South Africa for 12 months, and would now play a competition game in the Republic in the lead-up to the 2010 season.
AFL Chief Executive Officer Andrew Demetriou said the impact of the global economic crisis had led to the AFL revising its timetable to play NAB Cup matches in developing overseas markets.
"Organisations everywhere are revising their plans due to the global economic crisis and we are not immune to what is happening in the broader community," Mr Demetriou said "In the current economic climate, we have not been able to generate the level of funding needed to stage the game. We are not prepared to take the financial risk in this climate.
"We will continue to invest in the game locally and we remain very strongly committed to ongoing investment in the development of the game in South Africa which we believe has the potential to build a very large participation base during the next 10-20 years and perhaps within five years, be a new source of players for AFL clubs".
The opening match of the 2009 NAB Cup had been scheduled for Sahara Park, Newlands in Cape Town in February next year, with the West Coast Eagles to meet Collingwood. Mr Demetriou said the AFL would now take the match to South Africa 12 months later. "The AFL and four of our clubs in the West Coast Eagles, Collingwood, Fremantle and Carlton have invested considerable development work into South Africa in recent years, in the first step to introduce people to our game," Mr Demetriou said.
"The second stage of our development plans has been to take a full-scale match into South Africa, but we need to stage these games at a time when our current partners and potential new partners are able to join us." Mr Demetriou said the development work in South Africa, aimed at mass participation for children, and the initial talent identification of skilled junior athletes, would continue in 2009 to build on the current tally of more than 17,000 participants.
The AIS AFL Academy will tour South Africa for the third successive year in April, 2009. "The global economic crisis is a challenge for all sections of the community, not just sport, and we must act prudently and responsibly and defer our plans for 12 months," Mr Demetriou said.