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AFL Canada 2023 Annual Report

November 20, 2023

Congratulations to those elected to the Board of Directors for 2024, at the 2023 AGM held on November 19th, 2023.

  • Chair: Lachlan Griffiths (Calgary Kangaroos – AFL Alberta)
  • Vice Chair: Kyle Mundell (Grand River Gargoyles – AFL Ontario)
  • Treasurer: David Smith (Sydney Giants- AFL Nova Scotia)
  • Athletes Rep (Women): Charlotte Biot (Ottawa Swans – AFL Ontario)
  • Athletes Rep (Men): Jim Oertel (Burnaby Eagles – AFL British Columbia)
  • Director at Large: Greg Bridges (Ottawa Swans – AFL Ontario)
  • Director at Large: Caroline Leduc (AFL Quebec)
  • Director at Large: Haley Jones (Central Blues – AFL Ontario)

Footy in Canada saw arguably its biggest year in 2023. Well supported international and domestic events, new teams, leagues and junior centers, combined with explosive member growth, saw one of the busiest Footy years in Canada on record.

Overall membership saw a 42% increase compared to 2022. Efforts from our volunteers at club and league level, in recruiting and growing our game are primarily to thank for the growth. AFL Canada recognizes all of the hard work that goes into the running clubs each and every day. 

Junior participation saw a large spike in 2023 also and no doubt contributed to the overall jump in membership. Eight cities across Canada ran junior leagues in the spring and fall this year, leading to a 33% increase in junior membership in Canada. This is not to mention the almost 16,000 kids who participated in school programming in 2023, thanks largely to the school program run by the Calgary Kangaroos, as well as the BC Schools Program.

The Canada Summer Jobs again was a big player in junior growth in 2023, but clubs and leagues also started to expand the scope of use for the program, hiring videographers, website managers, and various other positions. In 2023 AFL Canada member clubs utilized close to $70,000 of funding from the government, to hire 14 staff members to help grow their clubs and leagues.

Hiring staff to facilitate growth across the country was a key goal of the strategic direction document released by the Board of Directors shortly after the 2022 AGM. In December of 2022 AFL Canada hired Jack Bailllie as a BC Development Manager in the first step in fulfilling those strategic goals. Jack enjoyed a successful year, seeing over 5,200 kids in schools and overseeing the introduction of a Footy 9s Social league in Vancouver this fall, not to mention significant contributions to other national events and projects throughout the year.

Nick Duguid was hired in the role of Toronto Development Manager in the spring on a short term basis, with the goal of introducing a social, non contact, midweek league to Toronto, as well as adding to the existing junior landscape in Toronto. Nick ran a successful summer 9s league and was able to grow junior registration in Toronto to almost 100 members in a short time. AFL Canada would like to thank Nick for his contributions to the growth of Footy in Canada this summer. 

As well as staffing, events were identified as a key part of strategy to continue to grow footy in Canada moving forward and 2023 saw a number of events supported by AFL Canada, on a varying scale. The event calendar kicked off in March, with the Kin Games in Winnipeg, Manitoba. This was the first time Footy had been involved in the Kin Games since 2018, introducing Footy to 500+ University students. AFL Canada is pleased to announce that Footy is confirmed to be a part of the 2024 Kin Games, in Windsor, Ontario.

The second annual AFL Canada Cup followed in May of 2023, and was hosted in Hamilton, Ontario. The weekend long event saw some high quality women’s footy in a carnival atmosphere where players representing nine women’s teams fought it out for the title of AFL Canada Cup Champions. This title was ultimately taken out by a combined Calgary and Burnaby team. AFL Canada wants to thank EMM Consulting and Maxwell Merchant Solutions for their support, as well as the Hamilton Wildcats and their members, for hosting an amazing event.

Domestic events run by AFL Canada member clubs also had significant placement on the events calendar and were well attended by various clubs and players from all across the country. AFL Canada was pleased to support the following events, through the introduction of the Event Hosting Grant in 2023:

  • The Pony Platter – Ottawa, ON. May 2023
  • The Kelowna Cup – Kelowna, BC. June 2023.
  • The Montreal Women’s Tournament – Montreal, QC. July 2023.
  • The Halifax Cup – Halifax, NS. October, 2023.

Inclusive of the event hosting grants, and taking into account the provincial grants program and the new club grant, AFL Canada’s Grants program disbursed over $5,500 worth of grants to member clubs this year. The grants program being just one of many member benefits that clubs had access to again in 2023. 

To highlight some of those benefits,13 clubs have signed up to be part of AFL Canada’s microsite system this year, taking advantage of free templated websites to promote their clubs via AFL Canada. AFL Canada again was able to procure the cheapest digital memberships through the AFL Canada x Geelong Cats Watch AFL membership, and the cheapest Sherrin footballs in the world, inclusive of Australia, were once again available through AFL Canada. Member clubs received even further discounts. AFL Canada would like to thank Tribal Sport for coming on board as the Football Sponsor for 2024 and 2025 ensuring AFL Canada can continue to pass those savings on to members for the next two years. We are excited to distribute the Sherrin’s currently in production prior to the 2024 season with the Tribal Sport Logo.

AFL Canada’s National Teams enjoyed active 2023 seasons through in person camps, virtual sessions and the expansion of high-performance staff surrounding the teams. Both the Northern Lights and Northwind capped off the year taking on the USA in Racine, Wisconsin for the 49th Parallel Cup. The Northwind fought gallantly and ultimately went down by 3 points in one of the most tightly contested games in Parallel Cup history. The Northern Lights, who were suiting up for their first international hitout since 2017, came away as victors in another tightly contested match, overcoming the USA by 9 points.  AFL Canada would like to thank Head Coaches, Tricia and Sean, as well as their staff, for representing AFL Canada to a high standard, and for maintaining the high-performance standards of the National Team program. 

AFL Canada would like to extend a thankyou to EMM Consulting and True Blue Swim School for their support of the National Teams in 2023.

While it was disappointing that the International Cup was postponed again in 2024, AFL Canada was thrilled to be selected as the host of the 2024 Transatlantic Cup. This tournament will take place in Toronto in August of 2024, and is a brilliant opportunity to not only show off the strength of our National Teams, but the high standard of Footy all across Canada. 

In closing, AFL Canada is extremely grateful for the efforts of all volunteers, members, staff and footy fans across the country, making these levels of success possible in 2023, and we look forward to an even bigger and better year in 2024.

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