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AFL announces plans to open China office

The Australian Football League is set to continue its push into the Chinese market with the opening of an office in Shanghai in June.

David Stevenson, the AFL’s general manager for China, told Melbourne-based daily The Age that the league is set to appoint two full-time Shanghai-based employees in the next few weeks. The new hires will oversee the development and growth of Australian rules football in China, with a primary focus on “driving commercial outcomes and building long-term partnerships with either Australian companies trying to grow into China or Chinese companies trying to grow into Australia,” Stevenson said in an official statement. 

Growing the AFL’s broadcast product and media rights values in China is also a long-term goal. 

The AFL has staged regular-season fixtures in Shanghai sine 2017, with Port Adelaide facing Gold Coast for the past two years. Form 2019 to 2021, Gold Coast has been replaced by St Kilda, who will play their first game on Chinese soil vs Port Adelaide on 2 June.

The AFL has long faced the challenge of breaking Australian rules football out of its home market, but has targeted China as a priority growth territory. 1.2 million people of Chinese descent currently live in Australia, something the AFL believes it can build on. Next week, it will host a session of its Auskick youth programme, in the Sydney suburb of Hurstville, conducted entirely in Mandarin for the first time.

The Shanghai office will become its fifth overseas base, joining AFL offices in New Zealand, the US, the UK and South Africa.