Aussie Rules Football Returning To ESPN

Australian Rules Football, which helped ESPN grow during the 1980's before it had the money or muscle to acquire basketball, baseball or football, is returning to the network.

ESPN and the Australian Football League have inked a deal to televise the matches through 2011, including the Toyota AFL Grand Final, in the U.S. and Canada.

In the U.S., the matches will be available on, the company's digital platform, with select matches-including the AFL Grand Final- being televised on ESPN2.

The last Australian Football League event to air live on ESPN was the 1997 Grand Final. 

"AFL presents a great opportunity for us as a company and is in line with our commitment to covering the world sports scene through our media platforms," said Tim Bunnell, senior vice president of programming, ESPN International. "The AFL and ESPN have a long relationship, stretching back to the early years of our company. We look forward to bringing the excitement and passion of Australian football back to fans in North America."

The deal kicks in immediately, with the first game available live to ESPN subscribers Friday August 7. The 2009 Grand Final will be televised live on ESPN2 September 26 from the Melbourne Cricket ground.