India, it appears, is the next big lucrative market for AFL clubs, thanks to the massive sports viewership for League matches in that region. Cricket is by far the most popular sport in India. When League matches called the IPL was launched for this popular game, it saw unprecedented success, spawning an entire media industry. Similar League games in other popular sports in India such as Football, Badminton and traditional games such as Kabbadi, have seen roaring market success and sports media houses have gained high TRPs.
AFL clubs are exploring their participation sensing the likely potential in such as a market. Aiding their entry into the subcontinent is largest Indian sports conglomerate, Star Sports.
AFL and Clubs visit India
According to Australian sports media reports representatives from Australian clubs Essendon, Richmond, Greater Western Sydney as part of an AFL contingent which visited India to last week.
There would be no immediate premiership points play in India next year, said David Stevenson who is the AFL general manager for the Chinese and Indian region.
However, the success of the trip has been the allying of fears among members of the club. According to Stevenson, “There was a bit of concern from clubs on the health of players and any risk around player health. You hear all the stories.”
But their concerns about conditions of play and the possible health issues which players can suffer in the subcontinent were allayed after meeting sporting professionals operating in India.
Their concerns were dispersed after discussions with a physiotherapist, John Gloster, who has been with the Indian cricket team and one of the Indian IPL cricket teams Rajasthan Royals. Gloster recommended some effective management which meant stomach bugs would not be an issue when playing in India. Gloster’s remarks to Stevenson, “you can count on one hand the number of lost days that foreigners have had in the 10 years of IPL,” appear to have convinced the visiting Aussies.
The visitors were impressed by Gloster’s principles. Stevenson said, “That was all of a sudden a bit of wake-up call for the clubs to say, ‘actually if you do the right things and you prepare accordingly then there’s not a risk.’”
Gold coast and Port Adelaide are all set to play each other in China towards the end of May. Stevenson said, “We had those same concerns heading into China. We were a bit unsure about food, pollution, what’s it going to look like.”
The conclusion on this concern by Stevenson said it all, “I think if you prepare enough, you’ll be OK. So that was really encouraging.”
Star Sports in Australia
In the meanwhile, Stevenson said officials of Star Sports, which owns $AU3.2 billion IPL rights for five years, visited a couple of AFL games on Monday. The results have been very encouraging as talks have ranged from hosting of games and their telecast with a 700,000 strong Indian origin viewership in Australia.
Stevenson said, “We’re not going to be taking a regular season game over there next year. We’ve got a lot of work to do. But we’re feeling pretty optimistic about what those opportunities could be in India.”