Australian rules football in Europe
Australian rules football is played in Europe at an amateur level in a large number of countries. The oldest and largest leagues are those in the United Kingdom, Ireland and Denmark, each nation having a number of clubs, organised junior programs and women's football. The governing body for Australian Football in Europe was founded in Frankfurt in January 2010; the body was initially called the European Australian Football Association, but changed its name to AFL Europe at a general assembly meeting in Milan in October of the same year. It currently has 19 member nations.
The sport has grown from a few clubs and leagues started mainly by expatriate Australians and returning nationals in the late 1980s and early 1990s, to now having established leagues in over 15 nations, with the majority of players being non-Australian.
The two main cup competitions played between nations in Europe are the 16-a-side European Championships in Australian Football, which are played under rules requiring teams to be composed entirely of locals, and the nine-a-side Euro Cup (formerly known as the EU Cup), where expat Australians can be included in the squads under a handicap system.
Cup competitions held in the past have included the Atlantic Alliance Cup and Central European Australian Football League Championships. In addition, there are tests matches played between Great Britain and Ireland, a tri-series (European Australian Football Tri-nations Tournament) between Germany, Denmark and Sweden, and a tri-series between Croatia, Austria and the Czech Republic.
- 1 Andorra
- 2 Austria
- 3 Belgium
- 4 Croatia
- 5 Czech Republic
- 6 Denmark
- 7 Finland
- 8 France
- 9 Germany
- 10 Iceland
- 11 Ireland
- 12 Italy
- 13 Netherlands
- 14 Norway
- 15 Russia
- 16 Spain
- 17 Sweden
- 18 Switzerland
- 19 United Kingdom
- 20 European performance at International Cup
- 21 External links
- 22 References
Andorra made its first appearance at the WAFF (World Australian Football Federation) World 9s in September 2008, which was played in Valls, Catalonia. The first ever international goal for the Andorran team was kicked by Sumra Sallis and the team went on to defeat Spain in their first international match. Andorra finished equal third in the competition which included teams from Senegal, Catalonia, Argentina, France and Spain. France went on to win the final which was played against Catalonia.
In 2009 the Andorra Crows made their debut in the Catalan AFL. The team's Catalan name is Corbs d'Andorra, which translates at "Ravens", but they use the name Crows when referring to the team in English.
Australian rules football in Austria has been played since 2004, when the nation's first club was founded in Vienna. The club began life as the Vienna Dingos, changing their name to the Vienna Kangaroos in 2006. In the same year and doubling as the National Team, the Kangaroos competed in a tri-nations series against Croatia and the Czech Republic.
A second club was formed in Graz in 2008, named the Styrian DownUnderDogs. The first game between the two Austrian clubs was played on 25 October 2008 in Zwaring, Styria. The first Austrian premiership series was contested between the two teams in 2010, with Vienna winning the series 3-2.
In 2013, the first game between the two clubs in three years was held, which the Styrian DownUnderDogs won with 74:59. Furthermore, the national team of Austria, the Austrian Avalanche (consisting just of players from the DownUnderDogs), made it to end 9th (Plate Champion) out of 12 teams at the EU-Cup in Bordeaux. 2013 was a turning point in Austrian football with the establishment of a local metro league in Graz the home of the Styrian Downunder Dogs. The Styrian Downunder Dogs compete against 5 other Croatian clubs in the Croatian league. Graz and four of the Croatian clubs benefit greatly with an association with their respective universities.
Australian rules football was first played in Chatelet in 1919 by Australian soldiers in World War I.
Australian rules football has been played in Belgium since 2004, with a team based in Brussels. The Brussels Saints have played matches against the Paris Cockerels and teams from around Europe, including winning the 2005 EU Cup, although since this era, the club has gone into recess and is not currently active.
A new Belgian club played matches against Dutch sides Amsterdam and The Hague in late 2012, the first Australian rules football match played by a Belgian team in over five years.
Australian rules football in Croatia began with the first official team, known as the Zagreb Giants, in January 2006, although there had been efforts for many years before this to found a team in Zagreb.
In 2006, the team began a tri-nations series against the Czech Republic and Austria, winning the first event. In late 2006 plans were laid for a new team in Rijeka called the Sharks, although these did not come to fruition.
The Zagreb Giants formed an alliance with Australian Football League club the Hawthorn Hawks, changing their name to the Zagreb Hawks. Croatia's second club was created in 2008 under the name Kapitol Saints, with a series of domestic matches played between the Saints and the Hawks. This series has continued in 2009, with the Saints changing their name to the Agram Power, Agram being an old name for the city of Zagreb.
In 2010, the Velika Gorica Bombers became the third club founded in Croatia, based in the little town of Velika Gorica near Zagreb. They won the Croatian national league (HLAN) in 2011. They were followed in 2012 by the nation's fourth club, in the Zagreb city district of Zapruđe. They formed alliance with AFL club GWS Giants, taking on the name Zapruđe Giants. In 2013 the Slovenski Brod Tigers joined the league and the league started constriction of their home ground at the University of Zagreb.
Croatia is one of the stronger International teams, having come 1st (2010), 2nd (2008 and 2011) and 3rd (2009) in the four previous EU Cups. Croatia ended on 5th place on first European championship in Malmo and Copenhagen in 2010. The 2009 EU Cup was hosted by the Croatian Knights, in the town of Samobor, 25 km from Zagreb.
In 2014 there are four clubs playing out of Zagreb, the Zagreb Dockers, Zagreb Giants, Zagreb Hawks and the Zagreb Dragons. Also there is a new team playing in Slavonski Brod roughly 200km from Zagreb. Almost all of the Zagreb players have/had a connection with the Zagreb University which maintains their oval. So do the Styrian Downunder Dogs from the university town of Graz in Austria who also play in the Croatian Australian Football League.
The first lasting club was founded in 2005, known as the Czech Lions. The Lions remained the only team in the Czech Republic for the next three years, playing mainly in tournaments against other European teams, hosting the CEAFL Championships in 2006.
In 2009, the Czech AFL took steps to create a domestic competition in the Czech Republic, with the creation of two sides known as the All-Stars and the Marauders. As of July 2009, the two sides had around 30 active playing members, of which around one half were Czechs, one third expatriate Australians, and the remainder from other nationalities. The national representative side of the Czech AFL still competes under the name Czech Lions.
For the 2010 season, CAFL has expanded to four teams. The All Stars have been re-branded as the Vinohrady Hawks, the Marauders are now the Prague Cats and two new teams Prague Dragons and Prague Kings have been created. As well as significantly expanding the local league, The National team, The Czech Lions will be playing more international games this year. Making 2010 a significant year of expansion for C.A.F.L.
Along with these changes C.A.F.L. games are now played at the Sparta Rugby Field a new facility in Prague.
For the 2011 Season, CAFL has been re-branded as CAAFL (Czech Association of Australian Football) to comply with member ship requirements of the Czech Sports League. This is part of a long term plan to have Australian Football recognized as an official sport in The Czech Republic.
The Czech Lions now have an official "Home" ground, the Petrovice Rugby Club in Petrovice-Prague.
In 2012 CAAFL the Czech Lions expanded their international activities by participating in more European football matches, starting with Berlin in April 2012. 2012 looked to be a turning point for Czech Football, with more Czech than non Czech players involved in the sport leading to a strong National team.
2013 saw the CAFL expand to five teams, with the successful addition of a side from Dresden, the Dresden Wolves in Germany.
Australian rules football in Denmark is governed by the Danish Australian Football League (DAFL). The league has grown to over 300 senior players and has one of the most successful junior programs outside Australia with a few hundred young players playing regular club football annually. The DAFL is often considered the largest Australian rules football competition outside the English speaking world.
The national team, the Denmark Vikings, competed at the 2002 International Cup, finishing in fourth place. They withdrew in 2005 due to financial reasons, but returned for the 2008 event.
The large acceptance of Australian Football by Denmark has seen Australian Football spread to neighbours Sweden, Finland . Iceland and Norway.
Australian rules football in Finland is controlled by the Finland AFL, who formed in 2006 after the creation of Finland's first Australian football club around a year earlier. Domestic matches began in 2007 with two teams, the Helsinki Heatseekers and Salo Juggernauts. A third team, the Espoo Roos was created in 2008.
In 2009, the Finland AFL saw a three team domestic competition kick off (as the Espoo Roos combined with the Helsinki heatseekers), with the creation of the Turku Dockers. The Finland AFL hopes to have a team from Tampere or other larger cities to commence in future with a team being developed in Vaasa.
2010 saw three teams once again battle out for the season, with the once powerhouse Helsinki going winless for the year, the grand final was played between Salo and 2009 winners, Turku. Once again, Turku was too strong for its opposition on the day and ran out comfortable winners 19.17 131 to 8.4 52.
The Finland Icebreakers are the representative Australian rules football team of Finland, formerly known as the Finnish Lions. They have twice won the Central European AFL Championships, going back-to-back in 2006 and 2007. While the team was started by Australian expatriates, it has been captained by a Finn ever since the 2nd match with different captains including Kimmo Heikkilä, Jani Saarinen, Fredi Romar and Ville Voivunen. The Icebreakers are now almost exclusively Finns.
The Icebreakers have appeared at the EU Cup in 2007, 2008 and 2009 as well as making their first trip to Australian for the 2008 Australian Football International Cup. Finland also appeared in the first ever 16 a side tournament held in copenhagen and Malmö in 2010.
As of 2008, Australian rules football was played in France by four clubs in Strasbourg, Paris, Montpellier and Bordeaux, with the Paris Cockerels winning the inaugural national club championship tournament that year.
The national league commenced on 28 March 2009 with those four clubs, although new sides are also under formation in Perpignan, Toulouse and Aix en Provence. The newly formed Perpignan Tigers will compete in the Catalan league in 2009.
In 2013 there are six clubs that play in the national super league and compete for the Coup de France and three clubs that play in the developmental league and play for the Coup de Sud.
The Australian Football League Germany plays a home-and-away season featuring clubs based in Berlin, Munich, Cologne, Frankfurt, Stuttgart and Hamburg. The official German national team (the Black Eagles) first appeared in the EU Cup 2005 in London, although ad hoc German representative teams had appeared at other events in the past.
In 2013 three of the six national league clubs run city metro leagues with one regional metro league being established.
Australian rules football has been played in Iceland since 20 May 2009, when Friðgeir Torfi Ásgeirsson, who had played in the Danish Australian Football League, rounded up friends in a local park to kick some footy. Before the first club was founded in Iceland, a national team, known as the Icelandic Ravens, was assembled for the 2009 EU Cup. The first teams were founded in April 2010 and are known as the Dragons, the Eagles and the Bulls. The team names come from Iceland's coat of arms. The 3 teams play in a 9-a-side league and finished their inaugural season on 18 May 2010 with the Bulls as the first premiers of the IceAFL (Icelandic Australian Football League).
Australian rules football is a fairly recently introduced team sport in Ireland but the country has a long history of interaction with Australian rules leagues. There has been some awareness of Australian rules football in Ireland since the first International rules football tests took place in late 1967.
Since 1982, the Irish experiment has seen Irish players becoming professional Australian rules footballers in the Australian Football League. High profile players include Jim Stynes and Tadhg Kennelly among others. As GAA sports are primarily amateur competition and the AFL competition is professional, there is a strong financial lure.
The Australian Rules Football League of Ireland was formed in October 2000.
The Irish national Australian rules football team, first appeared at the Atlantic Alliance Cup in 2001, going through the tournament undefeated. Their berth in the Grand Final created a small amount of interest in the Irish media. They then went on to win the 2002 Australian Football International Cup, and have since remained in the top four, despite not having kept the pace with other emerging nations.
The International Rules Series between the AFL and GAA generated a high amount of media interest in Ireland, although this is more due to the similarity between International rules football and Gaelic football than anything related to Aussie Rules. In terms of Australian rules football, the media has covered with interest the successful recruits of the Australian Football League. Television coverage of the sport has grown in Ireland and highlights and game packages are now regularly shown on the ESPN channel through British Sky Broadcasting and cable television operator UPC Ireland.
Australian rules football in Italy was first played in 2004 with an attempt to start a league based around the city of Naples, under the name Federazione Italiana di Football Australiano (FItAF). Four teams in Salerno, Naples, San Giorgio a Cremano and Barra were created, but the league ultimately did not get off the ground.
A new group started playing under the name AFL Italia in Milan in July 2009, who created the first national league in Italy in 2010, with the Rome Blues, Genoa Dockers, Milan Aussie Rulers and Lugano Steinbocks.
A friendly match between Rome and Milan in June 2010 became the first match played in Rome. The new league which also includes teams from Genoa and cross Switzerland border city Lugano was supported by prominent Australians Tim Fischer and Amanda Vanstone.
The 2010 AFL Italia premiership was won by the Rome Blues, who defeated Milan in the Grand Final, held in Rome.
Italian community in Australia
A large number of Italian Australians have played professionally in the Australian Football League, including Ron Barassi, Sergio Silvagni, Stephen Silvagni, Robert DiPierdomenico, Saverio Rocca and Peter Matera.
A team representing the Melbourne Italian community also competed at the Australian Football Multicultural Cup in 2005.
Australian rules football was first played in the Netherlands around 2003, with the creation of the Dutch Australian Football Association (DAFA). This organisation later disappeared but was re-formed in 2007. There was still no formal team or league in the Netherlands, but by late 2006 some steps had been taken with a group training and playing regularly in The Hague and the national team being nicknamed the Flying Dutchmen (de Vliegende Hollanders). 2009 saw the successful establishment of a four team league.
2009 has saw the beginning of rapid growth for the DAFA, with 6 scheduled home and away international games, plus plans for the establishment of 4 domestic teams, in Utrecht, Den Haag, Eindhoven and Amsterdam. The first domestic match played in the Netherlands was a friendly between the newly formed Utrecht Saints and the Rest of the Netherlands played on 9 May in Utrecht. Training sessions are held weekly in various locations around the country. The DAFA Premiership was first contested in 2010, featuring the four city teams established in 2009.
In 2008, the DAFA partnered with the Amsterdamse Cricket & Hockeyclub Veni Vidi Vici (A.C. & H.C VVV or simply VVV) to establish a home ground for Australian Football in The Netherlands. While games have been played in both Utrecht and The Hague, most games are played at the VVV. In August 2012, permanent goal posts were erected, believed to be only the second permanent set of goal posts in Europe.
The Netherlands National Australian Football Team, The Flying Dutchmen, compete regularly in international friendlies, and participate in the annual Eurocup tournament.
2005, London, England: Third place
2006: No competition held.
2008, Prague, Czech Republic: Ninth Place (Bowl Champions) In 2008 the Flying Dutchmen established a home ground in Amstelveen, near Amsterdam and fielded a team in the 2008 EU Cup in Prague, finishing as bowl champions in 9th place overall.
2009, Zagreb, Croatia: Runners Up At the 2009 EU Cup held in Zagreb, Croatia, The Flying Dutchmen surprised the other 14 competing teams by finishing as Runner-Up, losing to England in the Grand Final.
2010, Milan, Italy: Runners Up At the 2010 EuroCup tournament, The Flying Dutchmen again made the Grand Final, defeating England in the Semi but losing to Croatia in the Final.
The Oslo Trolls formed in 2005 as Norway's first Australian rules football club, but didn't play their first match until hosting the Karlstad Dragons from Sweden in August 2008. Prior to this, players from the Trolls had travelled to western Sweden to play in club matches with the teams in Karlstad and Gothenburg.
The second club to form in the Oslo area were founded in early 2009 in the town of Ås. This club is nicknamed the Ås Battlers, after the Australian expression Aussie battler, due to the name of the town sounding similar to the first syllable of Aussie. The Oslo Trolls and Ås Battlers played their first match against each other in August 2009.
The Oslo Trolls changed their name to Oslo Crows in 2010, with an affiliation agreement with professional club the Adelaide Crows from the Australian Football League. In 2012 they split the team in Oslo East and Oslo West to make a 3 team cup with Ås. It was called Kenguru Cup (Norwegian for Kangaroo) and was played over 5 rounds where all teams met each other once in each round. (Similar to home and away season in AFL) The first winners of the Keguru Cup was Oslo East.
The Norway Polar Bears (Isbjørnene in Norwegian) made their first test match appearance against Sweden in Karlstad, Sweden on 3 October 2009. The side involved players from all three Australian football clubs in Norway, with around 50% local-born players, the Norwegian side defeating Sweden on the day.
With the Oslo club becoming known as the Crows, the Trolls name has since occasionally been used for the Norwegian national team.
Norway Trolls played in their first Euro Cup in 2012 and won the Plate final, finished at 13th place and received credit by a number of people who watched them play.
The first Australian rules football clubs in Russia were created in May 2011, with groups starting practice matches in Moscow and Krasnoyarsk within a few weeks of each other. Both fledgling clubs have been started by an expat Australian, but with the remainder of the playing group consisting of local Russians.
Russia competed at the 2011 AFL 9s Euro Cup in Belfast, finishing in 10th place (out of 18), with wins over Catalunya and Denmark and losses to Croatia and Wales.
In 2013 there are five Australian Football clubs playing in a Moscow competition almost exclusively Russians. They are the Bees, Cherkizon, Shooters, Cosmic Pirates and Slava.
Australian rules football in Spain is currently played in two regions, with an emerging local league in the Autonomous Community of Madrid and the LFAC in the region of Catalonia. Spain's national Australian rules football team is nicknamed the Bulls, their guernsey showing a Bull, a well known national symbol of Spain, in the national colours of red and yellow. The Spanish national team entered a team into the 2005 Australian Football International Cup, successfully raising the money to travel to Melbourne, Australia. The team failed to win a game and finished last, but was widely commended for its spirited performance. This team was drawn exclusively from players from the Madrid Bears and Spanish nationals resident in Melbourne, the Catalan league not taking part in the squad for various reasons.
Australian rules was first played in Madrid at a social level in 1997. In 2003, the Madrid Bears club formed and quickly grew in player numbers. In a minor international championship in 2003 hosted by Spain and with Germany and England also involved, Spain defeated Germany in the final.
In October 2003 the Australian Convicts played their second match of their European tour against the Bears in Madrid, Spain.
The Bears' level of activity dropped off in the season following the 2005 International Cup, although the creation of a second team known as the Kangaroos in the town of Móstoles near Madrid and the commencement of a championship series between the Bears and Kangaroos has seen a resurgence in playing numbers.
Australian rules football in Catalonia is currently played by two teams in Barcelona and Valls organised as the Lliga de Futbol Australià de Catalunya (Catalan Australian Football League). The sport began in Catalonia in 2000, when a group of people begun to play in Valls. The LFAC was officially created in 2005, teams that have competed in this league include Belfry Valls, Barcelona Stars, Gabas Tarragona, Lleida Coiots, and Wendells Salou. Salou marged with Tarragona for the 2006 season, then in 2007 the teams from Lleida and Tarragona elected to withdraw from the league, hoping to rebuild.
The Catalan team played at the 2005 EU Cup in London and also appeared at the EU Cup in 2007.
In 2008 the league kicked off the season with four teams; Belfry Valls, Cornella Bocs (previously the Barcelona Stars), Valls Fire and Picamuixons Birds. A team from Andorra had planned to compete, but were forced to withdraw due to problems with the stadium they had planned to use. The Andorrans competed in other matches outside the LFAC season.
In 2009, the league spread to cover teams from the Catalan regions of Andorra and France, with the inclusion of the Andorra Crows and the Perpignan Tigers.
Australian rules football started in Sweden with the creation of a club nicknamed the Saints in the southern city of Helsingborg to play in the Danish AFL. For the next decade, Scania was the only area in Sweden where the sport was played, clubs in Gothenburg and Stockholm being created in the early 21st century. Scania, Gothenburg and Stockholm remain the three largest centers for the sport in Sweden, although clubs have also been created in Falun, Karlstad and most recently Uppsala in 2007 by Australian and other Students studying at Uppsala University.
The Swedish national team, the Elks, have become increasingly competitive in the last few years and appeared at the 2008 Australian Football International Cup.
The game of Australian rules football has grown steadily in Stockholm over the past few years with a marked increase in local Swedish players. As of 2012 there are 6 established clubs in the Stockholm Region with over 20 players registered at each club. Södermalm Blues,Årsta Swans,Bromma Vikings, Solna Axemen, Falun Diggers and the newly formed Norrtälje Dockers, established in February 2012. The Stockholm Region is governed by The SAFF (Stockholm Region Australian Rules Football Federation) and its regional team are The Stockholm Dynamites. Stockholm will host the 2012 Swedish Cup which sees all teams from Sweden competing in a 9 a side round robin tournament to determine Sweden's best Australian Rules Football Team.
A team from the Swiss border city Lugano began participating in the AFL Italia league in 2010. From this team developed a Swiss National Team who competed in the 2010 Euro Cup hosted by AFL Italia in Parabiago, Milano, Italy on 2 October 2010.
Switzerland were defeated by England and Germany in the first two rounds, then in the third round defeated the Czech Republic. The Semi Finals for their Pool saw them compete against Scotland, who proved far too experienced for the young Swiss team, and later went on to finish 4th in the overall tournament. The Swiss national team finished 11th out of the 15 Nations competing.
There are a number of leagues operating throughout the United Kingdom, affiliated with the AFL Britain. The Great Britain Bulldogs are the representative team for the whole of Great Britain, although the England Dragonslayers, Scottish Puffins and Welsh Red Dragons have also competed on occasions. Northern Ireland is represented through the Irish national team.
The sport in England has a long but obscure history which dates back to the 1880s. Local competition has grown since 1989 to several amateur leagues.
The only club from Northern Ireland to date are the Belfast Redbacks. The Redbacks were part of the Australian Rules Football League of Ireland and are the ARLI (all Ireland) 2012 premiers. They have contributed players to the Irish national team.
While the current SARFL has only been in existence since 2002, there are stories of a league existing in Scotland prior to the First World War, referred to by Geoffrey Blainey in A Game of their Own, although other historians have claimed that this is probably apocryphal.
Scots living in Melbourne and Victoria in the mid-19th century were greatly involved in the formation of the rules of the game, as well as the formation of a number of early clubs, including the still-existing Essendon Bombers.
The Scottish national representative team is known as The Clansmen.
Australian rules football began in Wales with the formation of Aussie Rules Wales (ARW) on 1 September 2006, associated with Aussie Rules International. The Welsh league later went their own way, rebranding as the Welsh Australian Rules Football League (WARFL).
The first Welsh premiership season was conducted in 2007, with an affiliation with the South Australian National Football League. The four Welsh senior sides in the South Cardiff Panthers, Cardiff Double Blues, Newport Tigers and Swansea Magpies wear the guernseys of South Adelaide, Sturt, Glenelg and Port Adelaide respectively.
Aussie Rules Wales was renamed the Welsh Australian Rules Football League for the 2008 season.
The national Welsh team is known as the Wales Red Dragons, with their first appearance against the England Dragonslayers which was played in Cardiff on 3 November 2007 with England defeating Wales 61-91. Welsh representatives Ed Doe and David James became the first Welsh members of the Great Britain Bulldogs at the 2008 Australian Football International Cup. The WARFL Red Devils are a second representative side of the league, featuring the best players of any nationality.
European performance at International Cup
- AFL Europe
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- Italian Federation of Australian Football
- World Footy News
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- Vienna Kangaroos
- Czech Australian Football League
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- AFL Europe - About Us
- 15 Nations found European Australian Football Association in Frankfurt
- AFL Europe proposed
- France win inaugural "World 9s" in Catalonia
- Catalan league spanning three nations in 2009
- Andorra Ravens impress against Valls on debut in LFAC 2009
- European Roundup Part 4 from worldfootynews.com
- Positive Growth for Footy in Austria, but IC11 off the plan from worldfootynews.com
-  from afleurope.org
- Local Footy building in Prague and Zagreb
- DAFL Old Boys kicking off footy in Iceland
- EU Cup 2009 - Team Profiles on WorldFootyNews.com
- Saga ASÍ
- Meistarar í andspyrnu
- Ireland into Aussie Rules final from rte.ie
- Movements in Italy
- Italian Team of the Century
- Utrecht Saints come up short in Netherlands' first domestic fixture
- nl:VVV (sportvereniging)
- Trolls crush Dragons in Norway's first-ever footy clash
- Footy in Tromsø - the World's Newest most-Northerly Club