AFL Asia aided by the support and directive feedback and advice from the Thailand Tigers, would like to officially announce to the wider football community that the AFL Asia 2019 Asian Championships will be held on Saturday August 31st 2019 at the Thai Polo & Equestrian Club, Pattaya, Thailand.

2019AFL Asian Championships official poster

The 2019 AFL Asian Championships poster was designed by X Digital – AFL Asia’s official digital media partner.

Please note that this decision wasn’t been made lightly and has been made in the best interests of the tournament and up-keeping the high standards that have been set and maintained in the past, by providing the best possible venue and facilities available. AFL Asia is by no means looking to change the date of the Asian Champs beyond this year and this year’s decision is purely based on circumstances and the lack of available options. AFL Asia’s decision has been based on the strategic reasoning presented below.

One option was for the Asian Champs to be played at the Patana Golf & Country Club on October 12th. This particular venue has a small stadium that has a field with 140m x 70m dimensions, which is slightly skinnier than what has been previously used for Division 1 & AFLW games. The Patana Golf & Country Club also has another 2 ovals that are 5-10mins walk away from the main stadium, which is separated by a small lake. Although this venue has not been previously used for an Asian Champs, the AFL Asia Committee and the Thailand Tigers felt that the distance between the main stadium and the 2 other fields would pose too many logistical issues for the hosting country, as well as for teams, players, umpires, catering, medical and communication purposes. The quality of the playing surface is also inferior compared to the option that we’ve selected.

The option we have chosen as mentioned above is the Thai Polo & Equestrian Club on August 31st, which was previously the Asian Champs venue back in 2012 & 2013. We were hoping to book this venue on October 12th, however the Thai Polo & Equestrian Club wouldn’t allow us to book it on that particular date as they’d like to preserve their grounds for a Polo Tournament they’re hosting in early November. The Thai Polo & Equestrian Club has enormous playing fields that will allow us to have larger dimension playing fields than in previous years and the capacity to even have playing 4 fields if needed. It has an outstanding playing surface and as far as the AFL Asia Committee and the Thailand Tigers were concerned, it clearly ticked all the boxes as the best available venue that we can access, despite the date not being ideal.

Whilst statistics never played a part in the decision made by AFL Asia, the motion survey collated prior to the 2018 AFL Asia AGM indicated that 46.67% of clubs believe that the Asian Champs should be held in October, whilst 26.67% of clubs wanted the Asian Champs to be held in either August or during the Bye Round prior to the AFL Finals Series, which happens to be August 31st. Once again we must reiterate that our decision was not swayed by these statistics and was actually an afterthought, but worthy of noting for those who are ‘traditionalists’ and those looking at the bigger picture.

Given that the AFL Asia 2019 Asian Championships will be held on the Bye Round prior to the AFL Finals Series, this year’s new date potentially gives us a free hit to gain better media exposure and greater value for potential sponsors, considering it is the most uneventful weekend during the AFL season. AFL Asia and it’s yet to be appointed AFL Asia GM will be strategically focusing on those particular aspects as part of their roles to commercially grow the game.

The AFL Asia Committee is excited about the growth of the game, particularly the increased participation of Women and Local players. With that in mind and potentially the need for a Masters Division in the future, we feel that there is a need to address the format of the Asian Champs moving forward, as our increased growth is restricting the amount of countries that are capable of hosting the Asian Champs. The current state of play suggests that only Malaysia, Thailand and potentially Vietnam have the capabilities of hosting the Asian Champs with 3 playing fields. We feel that there is a need to be more open minded about having the Asian Champs over a day and a half as it would open up opportunities for clubs that would like to potentially host the Asian Champs, but only have access to 2 playing fields. Whether one round of games were to be played on the Friday afternoon or alternatively all of the finals were to be played on the Sunday, it would allow other clubs to put their hands up to host our major tournament. No doubt this particular dilemma will be discussed in greater detail throughout the season within Asian footy circles with an eye on the bigger picture.