Hangin’ With … Arena Football League Global President David Niu
- Updated: September 2, 2016
Published September 2, 2016
Former National Rugby League side St. George Illawarra Dragons player and official DAVID NIU has championed the growth of rugby teams and leagues in the U.S. since his retirement from the game, but is now helping grow American Arena Football around the world as the president of Arena Football League Global. Founded by MARTY JUDGE and backed by former NFL head coach DICK VERMEIL and former NFL player RON JAWORSKI, AFL Global is kicking off its inaugural China Arena Football League season this October. Niu’s experience growing rugby in the U.S. has significantly helped AFL Global tackle many of the same roadblocks American football found in getting started in China. Niu spoke to SBD Global about the building blocks of the CAFL and AFL Global’s plans to expand throughout the world.
On getting involved with AFL Global …
David Niu: Four years ago I joined forces with Marty Judge, Ron Jaworski and Dick Vermeil and the team of part owners of the [AFL team] Philadelphia Soul to work out a plan and process, which is a big plan and vision, to take arena-style football to China. We have plans to expand, over the next couple years, into South Korea, Vietnam, Japan and into India and build that Asian footprint. The general position from my side of the business is to build it such that we build by region and by territories … and create a regional competition following the rugby and soccer models, so we can have a city-based championship where we have the top teams from China play the top teams from Japan, etc. So we can have a Champions League, and ultimately an international competition where we would see China play against Japan and Japan play against the USA, so that there is a global footprint of the game.
On AFL Global’s affiliation with the AFL …
Niu: We are a separate entity. Most of the guys that own our company own a team in the AFL. We have heard interest in either acquiring or cooperating with the league here as we expand our business. In ’13 we did an All Star game where we took the best players here from the AFL to deliver a sample of what the highest-end football would look like in China. So we took 40 players from the U.S. and hosted the game in Beijing and had 10,000 fans show up and live television with Beijing TV and BTV Sports that produced the content online. So we have already held an All Star game there and shown the players that we have been working on a six-team university league for the past three years. We played our university championship last November, and we had 5,000 fans attend that game. So the response from in-stadium audiences has been good. The response from commercial drivers around the property, as far as sponsors and television, has been significant as well.