The Australian Football League confirmed on Thursday that clubs St Kilda and Port Adelaide will again face off in Shanghai next year, as part of a long-term agreement to hold regular fixtures in China.
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.
AFL’s general manager for China David Stevenson said to 7news that the league was hopeful of “unlocking” the market.
“More than a game, the AFL’s increased presence in China including an office opened earlier this year, extends beyond the match day, with Festival of Australia in partnership with the Australian government in the lead up the game,” Stevenson said.
The Shanghai office is their fifth overseas base, joining AFL offices in New Zealand, the US, the UK and South Africa.
Growing the AFL’s broadcast product and media rights values in China is also a long-term goal, and Stevenson added:”It’s a wonderful opportunity to give the local AFL fans a match in their home town, encourage Australian-based football fans to travel to China and continue to introduce footy to a new set of fans.”
The AFL has staged regular-season fixtures in Shanghai since 2017, with Port Adelaide facing the Gold Coast Suns for the first two years. From 2019 to 2021, Gold Coast has been replaced by St Kilda, who will play next year’s fixture against Port Adelaide on May 31, 2020.