Greetings from New York, where we know we’re a little late on getting to round 11, but we have some exciting connections to report. Like us, but some 106 years ago, Harry Bromley, an umpire and an ‘enthusiast of the Australian game of football’, travelled to New York to try to introduce AFL to the locals (Kalgoorlie Miner 2 June 1911, p1).
Bromley arrived in New York during the summer, when colleges and schools were closed and people vacationing, so it took Bromley ‘fully 10 weeks’ before he could meet with ‘the gentlemen I desired to see’. Bromley’s plan appears to have been motivated by a number of deaths of men playing American football, he saw this as an opportunity for Australian football to be played in America. Colonel Hugh L Scott, superintendent of West Point Military Academy had ‘tabooed’ American football the previous season and was reportedly interested in Australian football, if it was ‘more attractive to watch, more humane to play, and a better athletic experience than the American game’.
James E Sullivan, heavily involved in the Amateur Athletics League of the United States, reported that the situation in America may have been misunderstood and the ‘fatalities have not been in as large numbers as it has been made to appear’. But possibly more significantly Americans play sport ‘in a strenuous manner. That is the American spirit, and our game is a rough, hardy one.’ Sullivan talked about the importance of rules and good strong officials for games. But he cautioned Bromley that while he believed the Australian game was a good one, ‘it is impossible for you to come to the State of New York, now, and say to the football enthusiasts, Here is a new game, drop your own game and play this to-morrow. You cannot do it. You cannot expect a country to drop a sport that has been identified with its history and take a new game up immediately.’
While Bromley’s reports were on the front page of the Kalgoorlie Miner, our research did not reveal any mention in the American press. We applaud Bromely’s desires for footy and his dreams of footy finding a place in America, but it seems his plans largely failed.
Today while we have Americans playing in the AFL and sports people from Americans leagues in the AFLW, as well as teams including the New York Magpies and the United States Australian Football League it doesn’t seem likely that Bromley’s plans stand a chance of future great success. Alas.