The International Rules series will not take place this year as the GAA and AFL move to secure a long-term agreement for the hybrid game, writes John Fogarty.
Speaking at the end of last year, former director general Páraic Duffy said he was enthused about the Australians’ support for the series, which returned to a two-test format last year. He also spoke about securing 2018 venues for the competition by February of this year.
However, Croke Park now say 2018 comes too early for the two organisations as they look to securing International Rules’ future and the US is believed to be an integral part of that vision.
The AFL have made no secret of their hopes to bring at least one of the tests Stateside as they believe it would be a significant marketing tool for their own sport. However, there has not been an ability to secure a viable venue.
University of Philadelphia’s home in Franklin Park had been touted as a potential venue for this year before the concluding test in Páirc Uí Chaoimh or Croke Park. Duffy, though, visited the Pennsylvania stadium before Christmas and ruled it out due to the artificial surface. As late as March, the 53,000-capacity venue was still being mentioned as a possibility in the Australian media.
In the same report, it was also suggested New Jersey’s 25,000-capacity Red Bull Arena in Harrison, where Major League Soccer side New York Red Bulls play their home games, was a possibility. However, its pitch dimensions are significantly smaller than the minimum size for an International Rules field - 120 yards x 75 yards compared to 142 x 87.5.
To stage the game on such a surface would require 12 or 13 a side teams, which the GAA are opposed to.
It is a third postponement for the Rules in recent times but the GAA are convinced the AFL are fully behind the initiative.
“The one thing that was absolutely clear was that they want this to continue,” said Duffy after discussions in Adelaide last November.
“They’re very happy that it’s the All-Australians and they want it to continue so there’s no question of it not going ahead. Gillon’s (McLachlan, AFL CEO) attitude has made that very clear. They feel they’ve cracked the issue of players and who plays. The fact that it’s All-Australian now and that the elite players are selected means they’re very happy with that.”