Port Adelaide has claimed a piece of history for the Australian Football League (AFL) with the announcement that it will stage a Premiership game against the Gold Coast Suns in Shanghai, China next year.
Shanghai’s Jiangwan Stadium will be reconfigured to hold 15,000 fans for the game on May 14, with the Aussie rules competition set to become the first major sports league to stage a regular season encounter in China.
The game, which has been the product of more than two years’ effort by Port Adelaide in conjunction with the AFL and the government of South Australia, follows on from Port Adelaide’s successful development of a broadcast rights deal with China’s state broadcaster CCTV to showcase the AFL during the 2016 season.
“This is a moment many people thought would never happen, let alone as soon as 2017,” Port Adelaide chairman David Koch said. “The AFL will become the first elite foreign competition to play a regular season game for points in China, beating the likes of the NBA, English Premier League, Major League Baseball and NFL. That is a monumental achievement in itself and speaks volumes of the strength of the relationship between our two nations.
“This is so much more significant that just playing a game for Premiership points on foreign soil. This is a landmark moment in the development of Australia’s sporting, cultural, political, economic and tourism ties with China. The appetite for AFL football in China is even stronger than we could have imagined when Port Adelaide began forging relationships there.”
The game will represent the first Premiership encounter held outside Australia and New Zealand. Port Adelaide will be the host, having purchased a home game from the Suns. This will allow it to retain 11 home matches at Adelaide Oval, the same number as were held this year.
AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan said: “We believe we have the most exciting and athletic game in the world, and the chance to showcase our game in China is too good an opportunity to pass up. Our game exists in a global sporting market place, and this event is part of our broader strategy to reach into new markets, both inside Australia, and across our region.
“We have one million people of Chinese origin living in Australia, we have many students who chose Australia to live and study, and Chinese tourists are our number one visitors here, so reaching out to this community both here and abroad is critical for us as a game.”
The fixture in China is expected to become an annual event, with Port Adelaide potentially facing other opponents in future seasons. Koch said: “Our supporters and our Chinese financial supporters are committed for three to five years. We see that as a firm commitment for us but would love to do it even longer and for it to become an annual fixture.”
Suns chairman Tony Cochrane added: “China is the number one international tourism market for the city of the Gold Coast, and increasingly both China and the Gold Coast enjoy a strong tourism and business relationship.
“We have strong links to the region through our long-term partner, Huawei, and with the direct exposure this will generate for the city, we look forward to growing our football club and our business relationship with our friends in China.”