DRAFT picks may already be in place but the AFL is tomorrow to announce a major re-signing, of sorts, with heir to the throne Prince Charles to remain patron of the game in Europe for another two years.
His Royal Highness, who fell in love with the game while attending Geelong Grammar School in 1966, has agreed to extend patronage of AFL Europe for two years as it looks to expand its influence particularly in schools in Britain.
AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan, who was in Ireland as part of the 2015 International Rules Series, warmly welcomed the support as a “huge honour”.
“The Prince of Wales has a strong interest in the development of young people,” he said. “It is this passion, combined with his long held fondness for Australia, which makes us so pleased that he has extended his patronage and that he continues to lend his support for AFL Europe.”
With an ambitious program to extend the game beyond the 8500 registered players in Europe, newly appointed AFL Europe CEO Megan Hession said the re-signing was important.
“We believe his ongoing support will greatly assist us to reach an even broader audience as we further introduce Australian football into schools and communities across Europe,” she said.
As well as pushing the game through AFL Auskick further into British schools, Hession also hopes to develop and strengthen a youth and female AFL competition in Europe, have games on free-to-air UK TV and Europe’s champion hand-ballers and Gaelic footballers to switch codes to AFL.
Prince Charles’ support is also seen as important to back two exhibition matches, one on Anzac Day at Villers-Bretonneux in France between ex-pat Australians and a local French club and another to be played, post season, in London in October to commemorate a game played 100 years ago before Diggers were shipped to the Western Front.
The 1916 game is recorded as the first official AFL exhibition match to be played outside Australia and New Zealand and featured Prince Charles’ namesake in the English side, the Prince of Wales later King Edward VIII.
The Collingwood Club is in talks to field the players for this historic match.