Club History ‘Port Adelaide to Shanghai’ by Andrew Hunter - Published by Wakefield Press, Friday 20 November 2020

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Lockhart Road

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Port Adelaide to Shanghai

Taking Australia's game to the world

Andrew Hunter

Port Adelaide to Shanghai


They said it couldn't be done. Port Adelaide's rivals called it a 'sideshow'. Yet within five years, Port Adelaide had attracted major sponsors from China, played three in-season AFL matches in Shanghai, and featured in a series of significant moments in the Australia-China relationship. This is the inside story.

It was not easy. Port Adelaide's engagement with China coincided with a period in which on-field performance fell below expectation, as well as a rapid deterioration in the Australia-China relationship. It took leadership, creativity, and resilience to see the job through.

Port Adelaide's China Engagement guru Andrew Hunter tells the story with its challenges and joys, disappointments and triumphs. PAFC captain Tom Jonas, journalist Michelangelo Rucci, and cheersquad leader Ian Wilson contribute their tales of the long journey from Port Adelaide to Shanghai.

Andrew Hunter worked as General Manager (China Engagement) at Port Adelaide Football Club between 2015 and 2020. He holds a Master of Philosophy (Asian Studies) from The University of Adelaide. A professional athlete and national team representative in indoor volleyball, he has written over 100 opinion pieces for the Adelaide Review, InDaily, Adelaide Advertiser, Canberra Times and the Australian. Andrew and his wife Sally have two children, Theodore and Aurelien.

Praise for Port Adelaide to Shanghai

'Taking Australian football to China, is one of Port Adelaide’s boldest achievements. This is the fascinating inside story of an epic journey.' - Keith Thomas, Chief Executive Officer, Port Adelaide Football Club.

https://www.wakefieldpress.com.au/search.php?mode=search&page=1&keep_https=yes
 

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Lockhart Road

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Per Wakefield Press:

Port Adelaide Football Club ... fans have a lot to be excited about this season as the semi-final approaches this Friday ... and here’s one more big event to look forward to!

With PORT ADELAIDE TO SHANGHAI, a new book (published 16 November 2020), Port fans can commemorate the club’s historic victory in taking Australia’s game international, playing three games in Shanghai, China.
Port Power captain Tom Jonas says of the inaugural AFL game played for premiership points in China, that it ‘felt like one of the most important games I’d ever played’.

This compelling inside story of Port’s push to take AFL to China is told by Andrew Hunter, who was general manager of China Engagement at the Club - with a foreword by Tom Jonas and an introduction by Michelangelo Rucci.
The book will be published 16 November 2020, but you can register your interest and pre-order now. Just visit the link below or call 08 8352 4455.


https://www.wakefieldpress.com.au/product.php?productid=1647

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RussellEbertHandball

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An extract from the book in today's SAWeekend Magazine. I'm sure that The book has more of this background stuff that the average Port fan never heard about.

Shanghai express: How Port Adelaide tamed China

Despite local police concerns about crowd violence and the Port Adelaide hierarchy overcoming a last-minute alcohol ban, the first AFL game in China in was a resounding success, writes Andrew Hunter.

For those at Port Adelaide involved in the organisation of the game in Shanghai, the lead-up through April and May was exciting but exhausting. Working over weekends became the norm, as Port Adelaide and the AFL faced the incredible complexity of arranging an official AFL match in China. We arrived in Shanghai with equal measures of excitement and fatigue.

The players seemed happy to be in Shanghai, and it was great to see them there. AFL offers many opportunities and perks for those good enough to make it – but one thing our sport does not yet offer is the opportunity to perform internationally. Hopefully, we have taken a step to remedy that. The players were positive about the experience when talking to the media.

Challenges, there were many. We were informed upon arrival that there would be no alcohol available at the ground, and a requirement for a minimum police presence of several hundred (for which we would be obliged to financially compensate). The Taste of Australia festival – stalls serving Australian food and wine in the precinct just outside the game – was to be reduced, hemmed in by a fence, and devoid of alcohol. There would be no access for supporters to the planned open training session the day before the game.

The overwhelming sentiment in the Port Adelaide camp was that the experience of Port Adelaide people, who had spent good money to travel halfway around the world to support their team, would be diminished by these changes. In retrospect, we perhaps undersold the supporters’ understanding of the significance of this day. They understood and, I think, were proud that they were part of a historic moment – and an absence of alcohol on game day was not going to diminish what the supporters were experiencing together.

Dave Stevenson, now the project lead, worked closely with JUSS Events Company. Once we had introduced the organisation to the AFL, they remained the focal point of the relationship. We believed that JUSS, a state-owned organisation that ran the Formula One, Masters and various other international sporting events in China, was best placed to navigate the complex government system. Under extremely difficult and tense circumstances, Dave, with JUSS, negotiated a range of concessions.

The “open” training remained closed to supporters, as we had not applied for the appropriate permit, but there would be alcohol served in hospitality tents at the game. As tickets to the premium hospitality areas went for as much as $600, it was a relief that there would be alcohol available! Taste of Australia would go ahead, but in a diminished form with alcohol “sampling” only.

The meeting at the Shanghai Public Security Bureau (PSB) headquarters, at which one representative each from JUSS, the AFL and Port Adelaide was present, was even more interesting. As most of the travelling fans were there to support Port Adelaide, I was asked by the Police Bureau whether Port Adelaide supporters were of good character, and whether there was a history of violence between the supporters of Port Adelaide and Gold Coast! I had to pause for a moment to keep a straight face before I explained that there were seldom, if ever, violent incidents at Australian football grounds and the rivalry we had with the Gold Coast was too young to elicit tension, let alone violence. You’d more likely see the chairmen of the respective clubs come to blows than the supporters!

The PSB may have assumed that Australian football supporters would be similar to soccer fans in China, who see themselves as representing fashionable counterculture, unconstrained by the mores of society. Supporters of Australian rules football, if anything, reflect positive aspects of Australian culture. Certainly, in Shanghai, they were open-minded, vibrant, and inclusive – Australia at its best.

On Friday, the events schedule was well underway with a cocktail party held at the Portman Carlton Ritz. The big event was held the following night: a $600 per head gala dinner, at which political, business and sporting figures were in attendance.

With a lived, rather than preconceived, experience of China, and Shanghai in particular, the Australian media were now far more positive. Some experienced football journalists likened the build-up to the game with that of a grand final. The vibe wasn’t the only noticeable element on the night of the gala dinner – there was also a lot of money in that room! There were premiers, ministers, billionaires and one player of the century, Leigh Matthews. Not a bad gathering for an event, which had been for so long the subject of ridicule and ignorance.

The week, while both tense and exhausting, had some nice moments. On Saturday, a press conference was held at the top of the Peace Hotel. It aimed to promote the memorandum of understanding, signed a day earlier in Ji’nan. I enjoyed standing there with Jay Weatherill, my former boss, and my current boss Keith Thomas, as two streams of my career merged.

But generally, the week had been tough. As game day approached, the nights were longer. Four hours sleep had turned into three and then into two. When I woke up on Sunday morning, I was tired but happy that Port Adelaide was on the cusp of an extraordinary moment, and those who had the vision, leadership and energy to make it happen would be there to enjoy the moment together. Vincent van Gogh once wrote that “great things are done by a series of small things brought together”. The accumulation of effort and risk-taking over many hours had given Port Adelaide the chance to be a part of the first official AFL match to be played in China.

This is an edited extract from Port Adelaide to Shanghai by Andrew Hunter (Wakefield Press, $29.95). Available from November 20.
 

Ford Fairlane

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I was there for the second year and it was an extraordinary experience. Saw the Great Wall, Terracotta Warriors, Forbidden City and Summer Palace in the week before the game, then a week in Shanghai for the match. The combination of eons of history and new age modernity was incredible.

I'm still in awe of the whole country and my time there. It is such a shame that Covid19 has put a temporary stop to the match as it is something Port supporters should experience. Political tensions may have eased by the time we can travel again.

To think, Port Adelaide organised and played matches for premiership points in China. It is a feat worthy of unbridled appreciation, no matter the uneducated derision from some quarters, especially uninformed eastern states media.
 

MALTSY

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Would prefer to grow the game in a democratic country which respects human rights.
What's happening to more than a million Uighurs is truly frightening and heartbreaking.
 

Lockhart Road

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Sorry guys but this pipedream of China and investment into the club and game is over. Time to cut and run while we are still ahead and focus on other markets. AFL got a lot of exposure in the US during their pandemic shutdown. Maybe we should focus our efforts their instead?
Contradiction herein: If it’s a ‘pipedream’ how come ‘we are still ahead’?

It’s happened, it’s come off, the Club has benefitted from it ... and now here’s the inside story explaining how the Club has got as far as it has between 2015 and 2019, inclusive. It’s a unique story with a plot never before explained.

For example, the excerpt posted just above by REH introduces the role of JUSS Events in Shanghai in 2017. A couple of years later, Andrew Hunter subsequently reveals, JUSS introduced us to SAIC, from which came the MG logo that in 2020 has appeared so prominently amongst our 150 celebrations - an example of us still being ahead in this particular game, in this challenge. No pipedream anywhere here.

I had the honour, the pleasure, of assisting Andrew by perusing his first draft, mainly detailing for him what happened before he came on the scene in early 2015. His book was always going to be for the Club, not for him, proceeds going to the new Alberton Museum.

A lot of Club people, inside Alberton and out, stretched themselves a long long way to help each other bring off these three matches thus far in Shanghai. It makes me feel very proud to read about it. It makes me feel very proud of the Club for having taken on the challenge ... and to still be ahead of it.
 

Interstater

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My mother rang me this morning to tell me not to buy the book, as she loved the part in the paper and is buying it for me for Christmas.

That's my holiday reading sorted :)
 

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Tibbs

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Sorry guys but this pipedream of China and investment into the club and game is over. Time to cut and run while we are still ahead and focus on other markets. AFL got a lot of exposure in the US during their pandemic shutdown. Maybe we should focus our efforts their instead?
Maybe stick your head a bit deeper into the sand. Stick your bum up a bit higher, and let LR give it another kick!
 

RussellEbertHandball

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Our sponsor of the China games and general China strategy, Auswan Creek have been smart about their China approach - less retribution. Helps they are owned by a Chinese-Australian citizen Wei Li.

 
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Lockhart Road

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Good stuff, Andrew:

Adelaide to Shanghai: Sports diplomacy and the long road ahead | The Interpreter

https://www.lowyinstitute.org/the-i...shanghai-sports-diplomacy-and-long-road-ahead


Trust between Australia and China is at a nadir. Little more than a year ago, the prospects for positive long-term engagement remained strong – not just for business ties, but also for that most peculiarly Australian game. AFL club Port Adelaide had taken Australian football to Shanghai for the first games played for premiership points in Asia. That all stopped with Covid-19. But in a bilateral relationship characterised by increasing estrangement, sport may be called upon again to help pull the relationship back from ruin.

Port Adelaide’s engagement in China from 2015 provided an interesting case study in sports diplomacy. I played a role as a club official in charge of China engagement and have described the experience in a new book, Port Adelaide to Shanghai: Taking Australia’s Game to the World. The club’s decision was commercially motivated. The field of professional sport in Australia is heavily contested, and Port Adelaide made a strategic decision to look beyond our national boundaries for opportunities, sponsors and fans.

Port Adelaide also understood the opportunity to contribute to something far greater than only sport. We believed informal sporting networks and personal relationships, as well as milestone moments during which such networks and relationships could be consolidated, would create opportunities for formal political and diplomacy between the two nations.

... Over the past five years, Port Adelaide participated in – and helped create – some of the more positive moments in the bilateral relationship. It occurred far too often to be coincidence or “dumb luck”.

Port Adelaide to Shanghai describes the discussions that led Malcolm Turnbull to announce Port Adelaide’s intentions to play an official game in Shanghai at his first official engagement on his first visit to China as Prime Minister. Less than a year later, in March 2017, Premier Li Keqiang and Turnbull visited Port Adelaide’s change rooms ahead of our round one match at the Sydney Cricket Ground. As coach Ken Hinkley delivered his pre-match address, Turnbull and Li handballed a footy to each other in a crowded SCG change room. At the sidelines of APEC, Li mentioned in their bilateral meeting several months later that in his office in Beijing, he had a picture of him and Turnbull wearing footy scarves.

... As we look beyond the disruption of Covid-19, the opportunity exists once again to deploy sport in the name of diplomacy. An annual AFL match in Shanghai, as part of a broader platform of events, would deliver positive and ongoing engagement.

It is in Australia’s interests to revisit the Festival of Australia concept, with an AFL game the jewel in its crown. It would serve the bilateral relationship by providing a channel free from influence of third parties,
(read: Trump America) allowing Australia to demonstrate an independent identity and diplomatic posture.

This may not be possible in 2021, not least because of the continuing problem of the pandemic and an AFL industry looking to find its feet after a period of disruption. July 2021 will also mark the 100th anniversary of the CCP, which will no doubt bring a strong inward focus that could overwhelm any positive, outward-oriented initiatives.

But Australia has important decisions to make. The Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China has asked the International Olympic Committee to reconsider staging the 2022 Games in Beijing. This call has been supported by some members of the Australian parliament. But to what end?

Australia’s diplomatic and commercial interest would be best served by participating in the Winter Olympics and reviving the annual AFL match, as part of a Festival of Australia. Sports diplomacy helped forge a path from Port Adelaide to Shanghai, but for Australia and China, there is a long road ahead.


https://www.lowyinstitute.org/the-i...shanghai-sports-diplomacy-and-long-road-ahead
 

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