AFL's push into China building momentum

The AFL continues its push into China when Port Adelaide play St Kilda in Shanghai next Sunday.
The AFL continues its push into China when Port Adelaide play St Kilda in Shanghai next Sunday.

The AFL is growing in confidence with its push into China, having secured the crucial thumbs-up from local government.

Soon after Port Adelaide host St Kilda at Jiangwan Stadium on June 2, the league will open a small office in Shanghai.

This is the third year of premiership games in China, the flagship of Port's ambitious project to break into the market.

When Port and Gold Coast first played in Shanghai, the point was made privately that to a great extent, it did not matter what the AFL or the clubs put into the risky venture.

Given China's centralised society, the project would live or die depending on what key government officials thought of the idea.

"The role the government plays in China is absolutely critical and without their support, the game wouldn't go ahead let alone be successful," said AFL China boss David Stevenson.

"They're really supportive of it.

"They've gone past that initial first year of trepidation, where they were just a little bit nervous about it was.

"Now they see the benefit of it and they've jumped right on board."

After two years of the Power playing the Suns in China, the Saints have replaced Gold Coast on a three-year deal.

While grateful for Gold Coast's initial involvement, Stevenson said having the Saints involved was a step up because they offer exposure to Melbourne's large Chinese community.

The AFL has also signed a deal with the federal government, linking the game to trade ventures.

Stevenson said apart from Port Adelaide's enthusiasm, the other big driver for the Shanghai game has been trade.

"There's a strong commercial tail wind, to come and make this game a success," he said.

Australian Associated Press