The Greater Western Sydney Giants and the AFL are exploring the novel concept of playing a game for premiership points in the United States.
The Giants have confirmed that they are interested in playing one of their home games in the USA, as a way of growing interest in the club and the game.
While the Giants say the American dream – with California among the favoured locations – is very much in the "preliminary stages" and is a long way from being realised, they have strong support for the concept from financial backers and have tested the waters with Tourism Australia.
'There's significant enough interest from investors and supporters, locally and in the US, to explore the possibility," Giants' chief executive David Matthews said of the American proposal.
Matthews said the club's preference would be to play a game for premiership points – as has previously happened in New Zealand and China – on the basis of offering an overseas market the best version of the game.
"My view is that when we take our game away to new markets you really want to take the product that is best," Matthews said.
"Our preference would be a premiership game. That said, like a lot of clubs we're in discussions with the AFL about their aspirations for AFLX."
The AFL is considering America as a potential venue for their modified version of the game.
The bye round or a game at the opening of the season appeal to the AFL and the Giants as the ideal options for an American game – and the bye round opens up greater geographic options due to the summer climate.
The preference is for a major world city such as LA or New York, but the Giants and the league are open to different locations. The AFL's official airline, Virgin, flies directly to LA. But the chances of playing a 'real' game in the US will depend heavily on whether the AFL and the Giants can find an appropriate ground, since most of the stadiums have smaller rectangular fields.
The USA push has come, in part, at the suggestion of a small group of Americans who have become generous patrons of the Giants.
Our preference would be a premiership game.
David Matthews, GWS chief executive
Matthews has raised the idea with AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan and with head of game development Andrew Dillon, while the executive responsible for overseas markets and games in Shanghai, David Stevenson, has just started examining the feasibility of a game in America.
Whereas Port Adelaide has had to find another club willing to give up a home game to host the Shanghai match (initially Gold Coast, now St Kilda), the Giants' contractual deal is for seven games at Giants Stadium and three in Canberra, leaving them the possibility of playing a home game elsewhere.
"In contractual terms, we've got a spare game," said Matthews.
The AFL has previously played exhibition games in the USA, most recently between North Melbourne and the Sydney Swans at UCLA in Los Angeles in 2006.
But the UCLA field has since changed to artificial grass, meaning it is no longer a viable option for a game worth premiership points.
In the event that the logistics of a game in the USA prove too challenging, the AFL has an interest in exporting AFLX to America, where the modified rules can be accomodated on a smaller field.
"USA is an attractive prospect based on their love of sport, connection to Australia and significant trading partner," said Stevenson.
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