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We don't expect international growth: Demetriou

AAP  May 9, 2013 7:47 PM

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Andrew Demetriou with New Zealand's Prime Minister John Key, before the AFL game in Wellington in April

We are unashamedly an indigenous code. We don't purport to be anything else.
AFL CHIEF Andrew Demetriou admits the code has no pretensions of becoming an international sport despite the initial success of its New Zealand venture.

The league's chief executive said St Kilda's three-year, five-game deal to host games in Wellington, which started with their Anzac Day clash against Sydney, was a sign of things to come on the overseas front.

But the aim is to please clubs' multi-national sponsors and raise the value of the AFL's international television rights, not set the scene for a more substantial form of global expansion.

"We are unashamedly an indigenous code," Demetriou told an American Chamber of Commerce function in Melbourne on Thursday.

"We don't purport to be anything else.

"We don't expect to grow internationally, it's not what we are, we're a bit like the NFL.

"But it is important when you're in a globalised world when most of our clubs, if not all of our clubs and ourselves, are sponsored by international sponsors ... you need to be thinking about playing games abroad."

Demetriou pointed to a 2008 pre-season game between Adelaide and Collingwood in Dubai, which he said was largely driven by the business interests of the clubs' respective sponsors, Toyota and Emirates.

Collingwood president Eddie McGuire has suggested a return to the United Arab Emirates to play for premiership points, although he indicated it would be dependent on scrapping the pre-season competition and extending the regular season.

"Then it opens up the possibility of playing a full-blooded game for points," McGuire told Abu Dhabi's The National newspaper recently.

Overseas games also feed into the AFL's recruiting aims - with talent identification programs in place in the United States and New Zealand - and potential revenue growth.

"Each year our international broadcast rights go up," Demetriou said.

"They may go up only marginally every year but at a point in time they may go up significantly."

The Saints' deal includes two home games in Wellington in each of the next two seasons, with hopes it will become a long-term tradition.

Demetriou said the Anzac Day game succeeded on every measure, with a crowd of 22,546, including at least 4500 travelling Australians, a number he said could have doubled had there been more flights available.

Overseas-born AFL players were also important to reflect Australian society according to Demetriou, with the game "infinitely better" for the recent debut of North Melbourne's Sudanese-born ruckman Majak Daw.

"For our game to be strong it has to pass the mirror test. The people sitting on the other side of the fence have to see the same people on the field," Demetriou said.