new Aussie rules development

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new Aussie rules development

Postby uibhfhaili » Fri Jul 11, 2008 5:47 pm

THE AFL is considering a radical proposal to launch an Irish-dominated team in Sydney's western suburbs, which would perform before an international audience under the Celtic brand name.

Commission chairman Mike Fitzpatrick confirmed last night that the Irish option was being explored as a possible basis for the competition's 18th team, to debut as early as 2012.

The "Sydney Celtics" plan was first put to AFL chief executive Andrew Demetriou 18 months ago by Gaelic Players Association executive Donal O'Neill. It has gained momentum in recent weeks following player agent Ricky Nixon's talent-spotting tour of Ireland

Nixon has contacted Demetriou and Fitzpatrick in recent days and put forward a revised template for the AFL's 18th licence.

Mr Fitzpatrick said last night: "It's been put to us and while it's not without its issues it's something we'll explore. Ricky has made a reasonably compelling case and we are not discounting anything at this stage."

The Celtic proposal would bring an expanded television audience in Ireland and across Britain. The Celtic brand could also open a marketing bonanza given the international cache afforded the Boston Celtics (a basketball team) and the Glasgow Celtics (a soccer team).

Australia's Irish heritage and the AFL's historic relationship with Gaelic football add to the proposal's selling points. Currently nine Irish players feature on AFL club lists. The AFL's most famous Irishman Jim Stynes was recently appointed chairman of Melbourne.

The proposal originated at the International Rules series in Ireland in late 2006 where O'Neill put forward a plan to purchase an AFL licence in Sydney.

O'Neill came to Australia and in January 2007 met Demetriou and his football general manager Adrian Anderson, along with AFL Players' Association chief executive Brendon Gale.

The talks were kept secret largely because of domestic political concerns in Ireland, where players remain amateur despite the fact that the Irish governing body, the Gaelic Athletic Association, boasts $4 billion in assets.

Demetriou yesterday confirmed the meeting with O'Neill, who reportedly put forward a detailed business plan involved millions of dollars in funding emanating from the US and Britain as well as Ireland.

The AFL chief executive said yesterday: "To call this embryonic is an understatement. We are looking at several proposals and we have been forwarded all sorts of ideas."

Gale said of the proposal: "When it was first raised I saw it as a soft but effective way of internationalising our game and growing it domestically. Clearly there are some incredible structural challenges but I saw it as worthy of referring on … As a blank canvas I think it has merit."

While the AFL has started construction on its new home base for its team out of western Sydney — a boutique stadium in Rooty Hill near Blacktown — it is not expected to grant its 18th licence for about 12 months.

The western Sydney working party devising player rules and draft concessions for the second Sydney team is due to meet next on July 22.

At this stage the Irish proposal has not been officially discussed by the AFL's NSW-ACT operation. One misgiving among senior league executives is the fall-out associated with creating a team heavily based upon a national or cultural identity, something which has caused deep divisions in soccer in the past.

Nixon, a former teammate of Fitzpatrick at Carlton, launched his talent-spotting project earlier this year across all 32 Irish counties. He has signed five AFL clubs (each at a cost of $30,000), with the promise of identifying at least one Irish youngster for each club's senior list.

Recently engaged in a war of words with Sydney premiership player and Listowel native Tadhg Kennelly, who accused Nixon of plundering Irish talent, Nixon has workshopped the Celtic proposal with at least two AFL club chief executives.

this is a truely shocking development and should send off all sorts of alarm bells within the GAA.
uibhfhaili
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