In January 2015, Australia will host the Asian Cup. It is a prospect that has not only excited thousands of Australian football fans, it also offers opportunities for the commercial, cultural and diplomatic communities of Australia. With tens of thousands of tourists projected to visit Australia to cheer on their country's team, and tens of millions more who will watch the matches, the 2015 Asian Cup could be the platform for a new level of engagement between Australia and Asia.
To discuss these opportunities for engagement, the Lowy Institute, the Local Organising Committee of AFC Asian Cup Australia 2015 and Football Federation Australia will on Friday hold a one-day 'Football Diplomacy' conference to leverage the opportunities that this major Asian sporting event will provide.
It's a continuation of the Institute's work on football diplomacy from 2004/5, in which West Asia Program Director Anthony Bubalo produced a policy brief examining how Australia could best use this new sporting relationship with Asia to enhance its regional image and engagement. More recently the potential of football diplomacy was recognised in the Government's Australia in the Asian Century White Paper, which included a specific reference (p. 269) to the role football has played in building links to Asia since Australia's admission into the Asian Football Confederation.
Although the event is invitation-only, we welcome expressions of interest to attend. The 'diplomatic relations' ( 1.45pm) and 'Social & Community' engagement (3.15pm) sessions promise to be very interesting with excellent panels discussing the diplomatic and community structures that will be needed to maximise engagement opportunities around the Cup. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org if you wish to attend.
For those unable to attend we will tweet throughout the day on the hashtag #footballdiplomacy.
Photo by Flickr user Nina Matthews Photography.