Port Adelaide Kicks a Goal in Shanghai

SHANGHAI. Port Adelaide is adding China’s most vibrant city to Australian football’s long list of international adventures … but with a strategy that is unlike any other attempt to take Australia’s game to the world.

London. Vancouver. Toronto. Miami. Dubai. Wellington. Even Shanghai, six years ago. For the past four decades there have been exhibition VFL-AFL matches across the world and attempts to win primetime space on foreign television networks. But the “greatest game in the world” has stayed locked on our island continent.

The Port Adelaide Football Club is back in China today. Almost four years ago, Sydney-based television personality David Koch was called to AFL House in Melbourne on the eve of the grand final to accept a commission to save the league’s commitment to two national league teams in Adelaide.

Simply, the deal was: Make sure Port Adelaide was sound enough to hold up the AFL’s television contract to deliver nine games each weekend of the six-month home-and- away series, including one in Adelaide every week. Considering the state of the Power, on and off the field in 2012, that should have kept Koch and his new board more than busy at Alberton.

On Thursday evening, Koch and his board met at the Portman Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Shanghai to extend their vision beyond making the Power a “national brand”. The Port Adelaide Football Club is now to be Australian football’s (and Australian business’) diplomat in China.

Last night, Koch — and his ambitious administrative team — celebrated a partnership with a Chinese billionaire, Guo Jie Gui, whose personal vision is paramount to sparing Port Adelaide, the AFL and Australian football from the same mistakes that have stopped Australia’s game from finding its place on the world stage.

Generally, for the past 40 year, Australian football has put on exhibition games — and even Anzac Day premiership matches in New Zealand — and then packed up the show, hopefully with some cash from a city’s tourism budget, a brewer or a multi-national company looking for a link to Australia.

Port Adelaide wants to play an AFL game for premiership points — the first in the northern hemisphere — next season in Shanghai. The Power has its local financial backer, Gui’s Shanghai Cred Real Estate empire that is pumping $3 million in Port Adelaide’s coffers for the next three years. And there is a television deal with China’s CCTV network that is now taking an AFL game every week and commanding 3.8 million viewers.

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