Aussie Rules UK
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Aussie Rules UK was a United Kingdom organisation set up in April 2005 to introduce children in the UK to Australian rules football via an adaptation of the sport for use in schools. From 2007 until 2009, Aussie Rules UK also ran a senior competition, entitled the Aussie Rules UK National League, although all leagues are now run by, and affiliated to AFL England.
It was part of Aussie Rules International.
Schools Program and Junior Development
Two of the stated "major aims" in introducing Aussie Rules Football to the UK were to:
- Combat the growing rise of obesity amongst children in the UK (under the slogan "Get a Kick out of life!")
- Reduce the number of underprivileged children who get into trouble with the law ("Kids in Sport are not in Court")
Aussie Rules UK was based in the offices of Sport England, the Government agency responsible for providing the strategic lead for sport in England. The Aussie Rules Schools program is an introduction to the sport in UK schools.
Trained Aussie Rules UK coaches visit schools for a day or part of a day to deliver PE lessons using a form of Australian football that can be played by boys and girls of all ages, and offer an alternative to traditional team sports. Alternatively, an inset programme can be delivered to teachers so that they may add Aussie Rules to their curriculum.
Carnival Days/Youth Games
Aussie Rules UK also offers Carnival Days, which usually involve a minimum of 4 schools and are the culmination of a program of 4 weeks duration to introduce the sport. It is intended that the skills and interest that might be inculcated are encouraged to continue beyond the initial 4 weeks of the program.
Aussie Rules was included as a demonstration sport in the London Youth Games at the Crystal Palace National Sports Centre on Sunday, 3 July 2005. Four teams competed for the right to hold aloft the inaugural 'Aussie Rules Cup.' Aussie Rules was also included in the London Youth Games in July 2006.
The Aussie Rules UK National League was launched in 2007 featuring three 9-a-side local leagues located in northeastern England, southern England and Wales.
The Northern Division began with four teams, the Middlesbrough Hawks, Hartlepool Dockers, Durham Swans and Newcastle Centurions. In 2009, new team Gateshead Miners entered the league, whilst the Durham club changed its name to the Durham Saints. The league has now become the AFL Britain North East Division.
The Southern Division initially featured the Southampton Titans, Bournemouth Demons, Thanet Bombers and two sides affiliated with the London Swans, one as the Brighton Black Swans, and the second keeping the club's original name Sussex Swans and playing in the club's original home of Crawley. Thanet folded after the 2007 season, but were replaced in 2008 by the Chippenham Redbacks, a new club who were based largely around players from the recently defunct Swindon Devils. The league gained new side the Portsmouth Pirates for 2009, but lost Brighton. The league is now the AFL Britain Southern Division. In 2011 the league grew again to six teams with the addition of the Guildford Crows Aussie Rules FC.
The Welsh division began with four sides in south Wales and the Swindon Devils from England's West Country, but the Welsh sides struggled initially for player numbers in 2007 and games were held irregularly. 2008 saw the league restructure as an organisation called the Welsh Australian Rules Football League, independent from Aussie Rules UK.
The Central Division began play in 2009, with the Birmingham Bears, Huddersfield Rams, Leeds Bombers and Liverpool Eagles competing. Some of these clubs still compete in the AFL Britain Central & North West Division, together with former BARFL Social League clubs Manchester Mosquitoes and Nottingham Scorpions and new clubs Wolverhampton Wolverines, Hull Mariners and Sheffield Thunder.