Australian rules football in Australia
|Australian rules football in Australia|
Contesting for possession in an indigenous community football game in the Northern Territory
|Governing body||Australian Football League|
|First played||1858, Melbourne, Victoria|
|Registered players||790,905 (total)
120,000 (adult male)
|Single match||121,696 - Collingwood vs Carlton, at the MCG (1970 VFL Grand Final)|
|Season||7,238,858 - 2011 AFL season|
Australian rules football originated in Melbourne in 1858. It has been played continuously in every state and territory of Australia since 1915 and is particularly popular in Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia, Tasmania and Northern Territory where it is the most watched and most played sport. The Barassi Line has been used in reference to the contrasting lesser of popularity of the sport in the states of Queensland and New South Wales.
The only national professional competition is the Australian Football League, which grew out of the former Victorian Football League (not to be confused with the present-day Victorian Football League), changing its name in 1990 after expanding into other states. The AFL now governs the code nationally. Australia is currently the only nation in the world where Australian rules football is played professionally.
Australian rules football in Australian popular culture
Football is the most highly attended spectator sport in Australia. Government figures show that more than 2.5 million people (16.8% of the population) attended games in 1999. In 2005, a cumulative 6,283,788 people attended Australian Football League (AFL) premiership matches, a record for the competition. A further 307,181 attended NAB Cup pre-season matches and 117,552 attended Regional Challenge pre-season practice matches around the country. As of 2010, the AFL is one of only five professional sports leagues with an average attendance of over 30,000 per game.
As well as the AFL attendances, strong semi-professional state and local competitions also draw crowds. The South Australian SANFL drew a record attendance in 2008 of 362,209 with an agerage of 3,773 per game, while the Western Australian WAFL also drew a record attendance of 219,205 with an average of 2,332 per game.
According to OzTAM, in recent years, the AFL Grand Final has reached the top five programs across the five biggest cities in 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2006. Australian rules football has achieved a #1 rating in the sports category in both 2004 and 2005.
A total of 615,549 registered participants are playing Australian football in 2007, placing it ahead of cricket (471,329 total participants) and soccer (389,000 total participants). Participation rose 5.97% between 2006–07 and 7.84% between 2005-06. 6.7 per cent of all participants are from non-English speaking origin. The Australian Sports Commission statistics show a 42% increase in the total number of participants over the 4 year period between 2001-2005.
Amongst children aged 5 to 14 years, football is the third most popular organised sport for children to participate in (beyond soccer and swimming). An estimated 284,200 children aged 5 to 14 participated in football in the 12 months prior to interview in 2003 (13.6% of all children).
Australian and cultural issues
Performance enhancing drug abuse is also rare according to official studies despite some high profile recent cases and criticisms from the media and government of the AFL's own anti-doping code  which allows players to test positive twice to recreational drugs and still continue to play and remain anonymous. This relaxed approach does not comply with the World Anti-Doping Agency protocols. The AFL code bans all drugs listed in World Anti Doping Code. The AFL also has an illicit drugs policy.
Structure and competitions
The most powerful organisation and competition within the game is the elite professional Australian Football League (AFL). The AFL is recognised by the Australian Sports Commission as being the National Sporting Organisation for Australian rules football. There are also seven state/territory-based organisations in Australia, most of which are affiliated to the AFL. Most of these hold annual semi-professional club competitions while the others oversee more than one league. Local semi-professional or amateur organizations and competitions are affiliated to their state leagues.
The last senior national carnival was held in 1988 and the last match between interstate senior sides was held in 1999. Senior interstate competition is no longer contested by players from the Australian Football League. A one-off exhibition match featuring Victoria and a "Dream Team". However, the state leagues continue to compete in inter-league matches.
The AFL National Under 18 Championships are the annual national Australian rules football championships for players aged 18 years or younger and includes teams from each Australian state or Territory. The competition is monitored by AFL recruiters and frequently seen as the second biggest pathway for junior players to the fully professional Australian Football League. The competition is currently sponsored by the National Australia Bank. The competition receives an increasing amount of coverage in the media, however still lags behind the TAC Cup in terms of interest in Victoria.
- excluding Jervis Bay and external territories
- Sports Attendance, Australian Bureau of Statistics, April 1999.
- "Aussie Rules sets attendance record". The Sydney Morning Herald. 2005-08-28.
- 403 Forbidden
- Participation in Exercise, Recreation and Sport Survey 2005 Annual Report
- 4901.0 Children's Participation in Cultural and Leisure Activities, Australia (April 2003)
- Drug doping in senior Australian rules football: a survey for frequency
- Greg Denham, Courtney Walsh. "James Hird's 'green light to supplements'". The Australian Newspaper. Retrieved 12 April 2013.
- AFL bows to federal anti-dope pressure
- "AFL Anti-Doping Code 2010". AFL. Retrieved 12 April 2013.
- "World Anti-Doping Code 2009". WADA. Retrieved 12 April 2013.
- "AFL Illicit Drugs Policy 2008". AFLPA. Retrieved 12 April 2013.
- Australian Football League
- Australian Institute of Sport
- List of Australian rules football clubs in Australia