Australian Rules footy in Germany dates back to 1995 when the Frankfurt Redbacks and Munich Kangaroos were founded. AFL Germany was created with these two teams in 1999 and consisted of two teams until 2003, when the league expanded to include sides from Hamburg and Berlin.
The current president of AFL Germany is Fabian Cordts, who played Australian football in Adelaide for the Unley Jets when he studied there in the early 2000’s, was one of the founders of the Hamburg side and supports Carlton in the AFL. He says that there are around 250 players in Germany now, with expatriate Australians making up about 1/3rd of that number.
There are 6 major teams in Germany with teams joining from Cologne (Rheinland) and Stuttgart. An additional side based in Dresden competes in the Czech AFL league. In addition several cities have 9 a side metro teams that feed the major sides.
Distance is a challenge for the amateur league with clubs having to travel up to 800km between cities for matches (comparable to a Melbourne district club traveling to Adelaide to play a game). Cordts explains that there are teams in the Danish league that are just 3 hours away from Hamburg.
They play 16 a side, or 18 a side if agreed to by the other side. The field is an oval in shape, but generally in parks marked out with cones.
In 2009, AFL Germany was reported as being set to ally themselves with American Football in order to gain better access to facilities and funding. Cordts explains that hasn’t happened yet for a variety of reasons, but says that the league is still exploring the option.
The same year, former President and Frankfurt founder Malte Schudlich, complained that the AFL was neglecting its overseas leagues. “Since 1995 we have been asking the AFL for support on a regular basis, mostly concerning material. Apart from a few footballs, there was basically no support. We would be in exactly the same situation today if we would have never had any contact with the AFL.”
Fabian Cordts says that the AFL still doesn’t contribute funding, but says that AFL Europe has been great with administrative assistance, including arranging international competitions like the 9 a side EU Cup. Clubs with partnership agreements do receive limited amounts of gear.
Oddly enough, Cordts says that Hamburg Dockers merchandise is popular in Australia with a large proportion being sent to supporters in Australia.
Germany hasn’t sent a team to the International Cup, although Cordts is very keen on the idea, but says its all dependent on sponsorship. AFL Germany is currently trying to arrange sponsorship through German companies with branches in Australia. Germany has competed at the 9-a-side EU Cup competition, finishing 4th at the inaugural competition in 2005, coming runner up in 2007 and third in 2008. Unfortunately, they “proudly came last” in 2013.