AFL Europe announced today that His Royal Highness, The Prince of Wales, has accepted an invitation to become Patron of the organisation for the next two years, lending his name and support to programs to develop the game, particularly for young people.
Prince Charles has a strong interest in developing young people and it is this passion, combined with his long held fondness for Australia, which led to his decision to support AFL Europe.
Chairman of the AFL Commission, Mike Fitzpatrick, who is in Ireland as part of the 2013 International Rules Series, warmly welcomed the support of the Prince of Wales.
“The AFL Commission is dedicated to the long-term growth of our game, not just in Australia, but internationally. To have the support of someone as highly regarded as the Prince is a fantastic opportunity for AFL Europe to develop the game,” Fitzpatrick said.
“Prince Charles spent a year studying in Australia in 1966 and has been here many times since. He clearly has a great affection for Australia so we know this is the beginning of a long and mutually rewarding relationship between the Prince and the AFL.”
Speaking about the new role today, AFL Europe CEO Ben MacCormack said “AFL Europe is thrilled to have The Prince of Wales as our Patron. It’s a huge honour and we believe his support will greatly assist us to reach new audiences as we introduce Australian Football into schools and communities across Europe.”
AFL Europe also hopes to stage another AFL Challenge Match in London in 2014 in which The Prince of Wales would be invited to attend.
The past year has been a very busy one for the young organisation, with the Challenge Match between the Western Bulldogs and Port Adelaide in November 2012 drawing a crowd of 10,000 people to the Oval, AFL Europe Combine – Dublin, followed by the Easter Series, to the AFL European Championship held in Ireland in August, the 2013 Axios Euro Cup in Bordeaux this September, and the upcoming 2013 AFL Combine also to be staged in Dublin in early December.
Participation across the 21 member nations has grown over the past three years to more than 5,000 players and the majority are nationals of their own countries rather than Australian expats. This figure also includes a small but growing number of school and junior participants who register for 6 week long programs.
There is also a growing pathway for talented athletes from Europe to test themselves in the elite AFL competitions. Daniel Flynn (Kildare) has just been listed with Port Adelaide as an AFL International Rookie and will move to Australia to join the AFL Club in coming weeks.
Image: Tony Woods (AFL International Development Manager) and Chris Dow (AFL Europe Chairman) present The Prince of Wales with a Sherrin at the pre-Australia tour reception at Clarence House on the 24th October 2012. Copyright Clarence House.