THE MISSION AND PURPOSE OF THE NEW RESTRICTED .AFL gTLD IS TO BENEFIT INTERNET USERS BY ENSURING INCREASED TRUST AND CONFIDENCE THROUGH THE ELIMINATION OF USER CONFUSION AND ASSURANCE OF BRAND AUTHENTICITY.
The new .afl will operate as a restricted registry, in which the Australian Football League (AFL) can protect, create and control domain spaces that promote its brand identity and authenticity. .afl will provide the official and authoritative internet space for the AFL, clubs, players and corporate partners that are associated with the AFL brand to provide information, services and resources regarding the game to fans, participants and consumers in a way that promotes trust, confidence and utility. Domain names in .afl will be utilised for communication and marketing purposes with internet users assured of brand authenticity.
The AFL is the administrator, operator and promoter of the elite national league of Australian Football. Australian Football is one of the most popular sports in Australia in terms of match attendances, broadcast audiences and participation rates. In 2011, 7.14 million people attended AFL matches, the national weekly television audience was approximately 4.7 million and there were nearly 800,000 registered participants in Australia and 45,000 overseas. Beginning as a state football league in 1896, the AFL commenced in 1989 as the league expanded into a national competition. The AFL now has 18 clubs located in five States and holds matches across Australia. The AFL generates significant revenue for itself and participating clubs through licensing media and broadcasting rights, club memberships, match attendance, corporate sponsorships and hospitality, events and merchandising. The AFL reached revenue in 2011 of AUD234 million and sold the licence to television broadcasting rights for the 2012-2016 period for an Australian record AUD1.253 billion. The AFL is a brand leader in the Australian sport industry and in the utilisation of its online and digital media content. .afl will strengthen the AFL brand and allow the AFL to lead the way in brand reputation, consumer trust and continuous innovation as well as the development of its online, mobile and digital media, resulting in a greater engagement from its participants, partners and fans.
Since the inception of the current domain name system, the volume of commercial transactions over the internet is constantly growing and bringing benefits of simplicity and lowered transaction costs to businesses and consumers. However, at the same time, criminal activities over the internet including data breach, hacking and phishing activities have also become more sophisticated resulting in loss of consumer trust. The .afl gTLD will facilitate greater trust and assurance from internet users connecting with the AFL online, whilst still allowing convenient and efficient interaction.
AFL’s mission and purpose of .afl share ICANN’s initiatives to promote public interest. The AFL is committed to contribute towards achieving such initiatives in line with ICANN’s Affirmation of Commitments, which includes:
- consumer trust: the .afl gTLD registry will be operated in a centralised manner with a restrictive registration policy. Registration of domain names will only be available to AFL and its affiliate entities, at this stage, which will provide added consumer trust that .afl domain names are trustworthy. As .afl domain names are subject to registration standards, policies and procedures under the AFL’s control, this eliminates the possibility of malicious conduct within the .afl domain space;
- competition: .afl is not intended to instigate competition and consumer choice at the level of registration of domain names among prospective registrants. Instead it is anticipated to contribute to ICANN’s initiatives to promote public interest through its operation focused on promoting consumer trust. Increased trust in .afl will drive existing and new top level domain (TLD) registry operators to make improvements in mechanisms to improve consumer trust of their TLDs; and
- consumer choice: the .afl gTLD will enable user-driven improvements and innovations assisting AFL’s marketing efforts through its ability to create new second and third level domain names on demand. These names will provide the consumers with more choices for interacting with the AFL. As the AFL has effective control over the registration and use of domain names under .afl domain space, this will also contribute towards general service innovations on the internet.
Given the restricted nature of .afl, the projected number of registration is likely to be limited. It is anticipated that between 100 and 300 domain names will be registered in the first few years. However, the number of registrations is likely to increase as the AFL expands and implements new marketing campaigns.
As .afl evolves, the AFL may consider offering the use of second level domain names to its players, clubs, club members, corporate partners and resellers at a later date. In this endeavour, the AFL will continue to comply with all operational, technical and policy requirements, as well as maintaining consumer trust and the stability of the internet. The AFL will keep ICANN reasonably informed of any material developments relating to .afl including compliance with the continued operations instrument obligations as set out in Specification 8 of the Registry Agreement.
The AFL intends to create relevant domain names including products or geographic names within .afl. In accordance with registration policy and the proposed measures for protection of geographic names as outlined in response to Question 22, the AFL will use geographic names to localise its websites in countries in which it operates. It is anticipated that the number of geographic names used at the second level will increase as the AFL expands both within Australia and internationally. The use of geographic names is intended to:
- connect internet users with relevant information as applicable to the local community, state and territory; and
- comply with required rules and regulations in the national territory.
The AFL does not intend to utilise Internationalized Domain Names (IDNs) at the second level initially. However, as the use of .afl evolves, the AFL may utilise IDNs within .afl to allow internet users to engage with .afl in their native language, creating a more positive user experience and encouraging diversity.
The AFL is a well-recognised and respected Australian brand with its trademarks registered in Australia, US, China and South Africa. The AFL owns all trademarks used in connection with the AFL competition, including those used by the 18 participating clubs. As a result, the AFL currently owns 296 trademarks in Australia for 20 categories, including: Paper goods and printed matter including photographs (Class 16); Fabrics (Class 24); Clothing (Class 25); Toys, sporting goods and equipment (Class 28); Advertising and business services (Class 35); Telecommunications services including television, radio and internet broadcasting (Class 38); and Education and entertainment services (Class 41).
The AFL has existing domain names with an exact match to the “AFL” trademark and the applied-for .afl string in the following spaces:
gTLDs: afl.mobi, afl.asia
ccTLDs: afl.com.au, afl.cm, afl.co, afl.to
Additionally, the AFL has 18 gTLDs and 75 ccTLDs containing the “AFL” trademark.
The AFL believes that .afl is unlikely to cause confusion with either a generic term or any existing TLDs. AFL trademarks are a leading brand in the sport industry with a particularly strong reputation in Australia. The Australian Football competition has existed for over 115 years and the AFL has used the term AFL in conjunction with its national football league for almost 23 years. As such, the AFL brand is synonymous with Australia’s premier national sporting competition.