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Australian Football League

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This article is about the sporting league. For the sport itself, see Australian rules football.
Not to be confused with Australian A-League.
Australian Football League
Upcoming season or competition:
Current sports event 2017 AFL season
Australian Football League.svg
Formerly Victorian Football League
(1897–1989)
Sport Australian rules football
Founded 2 October 1896
Inaugural season 1897
CEO Gillon McLachlan
No. of teams 18
Country Australia
Headquarters Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Most recent
champion(s)
Western Bulldogs (2nd VFL/AFL premiership)
Most titles Carlton & Essendon
(16 VFL/AFL premierships)
TV partner(s)
Related
competitions
AFL Women's
Official website afl.com.au

The Australian Football League (AFL) is the pre-eminent professional competition in the sport of Australian rules football. Through the AFL Commission, the AFL also serves as the sport's governing body, and is responsible for controlling the laws of the game. The league was founded as the Victorian Football League (VFL) as a breakaway from the previous Victorian Football Association (VFA), with its inaugural season commencing in 1897. Originally comprising only teams based in the Australian state of Victoria, the competition's name was changed to the Australian Football League for the 1990 season, after expanding to other states throughout the 1980s.

The league currently consists of 18 teams spread over five of Australia's six states (Tasmania being the exception). Matches have been played in all mainland states and territories of Australia, as well as in New Zealand. The AFL season currently consists of a pre-season competition (currently branded as the "NAB Challenge"), followed by a 23-round regular (or "home-and-away") season, which runs during the Australian winter (March to September). The top eight teams then play off in a four-round finals series, culminating in the AFL Grand Final, which is held at the Melbourne Cricket Ground each year. The winning team in the Grand Final is termed the "premiers", and is awarded the premiership cup. The current premiers are the Western Bulldogs.

History

1897: breakaway VFA clubs found VFL

Essendon won the inaugural VFL premiership by finishing on top of the 1897 round robin finals ladder. A new finals system was implemented during the 1898 VFL season in order that a final match, or "Grand Final", determine the premiers.

The Australian Football League can trace its beginnings back to the foundation of the Victorian Football League in 1897 when six of the strongest clubs in Victoria – Collingwood, Essendon, Fitzroy, Geelong, Melbourne and South Melbourne – broke away from the established Victorian Football Association to establish a more professional competition. The six clubs invited two more VFA clubs – Carlton and St Kilda – to join the league for its inaugural season in 1897. Among the notable initiatives established in the new league was an annual finals tournament, rather than awarding the premiership directly to the team with the best record through the season; and, the formal establishment of the modern scoring system, in which six points are scored for a goal, and one point is scored for a behind.

Although the Victorian Football League and the Victorian Football Association continued to compete for spectator interest for many years, the VFL quickly established itself as the premier competition in Victoria. In 1908, the league expanded to ten teams, with Richmond crossing from the VFA and University from the Metropolitan Football Association. University, after three promising seasons, finished last each year from 1911 until 1914, including losing 51 matches in a row; this was in part caused by its players' focus on their studies rather than football, particularly during examinations, and it was partly because the club operated on an amateur basis at a time when player payments were becoming common – and as a result, the club withdrew from the VFL at the end of 1914.[1][2]

Beginning sporadically during the late 1800s and consistently from 1907 until World War I, the VFL premier and the premier of the South Australian Football League met in a playoff match for the Championship of Australia. Port Adelaide was the most successful club of the competition winning three titles during the period along with an earlier victory.

1915–1945: three VFA clubs join VFL between World Wars

In 1924, Footscray, the premiers of the VFA, defeated Essendon, the VFL premiers, in the Championship of Victoria. The result played a large part in Footscray, Hawthorn and North Melbourne gaining entry into the VFL the following year.

In 1925, the VFL expanded from nine teams to twelve, with Footscray, Hawthorn and North Melbourne each crossing from the VFA. North Melbourne and Hawthorn remained very weak in the VFL for a very long period. Although North Melbourne would become the first of the 1925 expansion sides to reach a Grand Final in 1950, initially it was Footscray that adapted to the VFL with the most ease of the three clubs, and by 1928 were well off the bottom of the ladder.

Between the years of 1927 and 1930, Collingwood became the first, and only VFL team, to win four successive Premierships.

1946–1976: Victorian postwar pastime

In 1952, the VFL hosted 'National Day', when all six matches were played outside of Melbourne. Matches were played at the Sydney Cricket Ground, Brisbane Exhibition Ground, North Hobart Oval, Albury Sports Ground and Victorian country towns Yallourn and Euroa.

Footscray became the first of the 1925 expansion teams to win the premiership in 1954.

Melbourne became a powerhouse during the 1950s and early 1960s under coach Norm Smith and star player Ron Barassi. The club contested seven consecutive grand finals from 1954 to 1960, winning five premierships, including three in a row from 1955 to 1957.

Television coverage began in 1957, with direct telecasts of the final quarter permitted. At first, several channels competed through broadcasting different games. However, when the VFL found that television was reducing crowds, it decided that no coverage was to be allowed for 1960. In 1961, replays (in Melbourne) were introduced although direct telecasts were rarely permitted in Melbourne (other States and Territories, however, enjoyed live telecasts every Saturday afternoon).

In 1959, the VFL planned the first purpose built mega-stadium, VFL Park (later known as Waverley Park), to give it some independence from the Melbourne Cricket Club, which managed the Melbourne Cricket Ground. VFL Park was planned to hold 155,000 spectators, which would have made it one of the largest stadiums in the world – although it would ultimately be built with a capacity of 78,000. Land for the stadium was purchased at Mulgrave, then farmland but predicted to be near the demographic centre of Melbourne's population.

The VFL Premiership Trophy was first awarded in addition to a pennant flag in 1959; essentially the same trophy design has been in use since.

In the 1960s, television began to have a huge impact. Spectators hurried home from games to watch replays and many former players took up positions as commentators on pre-game preview programs and post-game review programs. There were also several attempts at variety programs featuring VFL players, who generally succeeded in demonstrating that their skills were limited to the football ground.

The VFL played the first of a series of exhibition matches in 1962 in an effort to lift the international profile of the league.

The 1970 season saw the opening of VFL Park, with the inaugural match being played between Geelong and Fitzroy, on 18 April 1970. Construction work was carried out at the stadium as the 1970s progressed, culminating in the building of the now heritage listed Sir Kenneth Luke stand. The Queen of Australia, Elizabeth II was a guest at the game and officially opened the stadium to the public. The 1970 Grand Final between traditional rivals Carlton and Collingwood, arguably the league's most famous game which saw Carlton recover from a 44-point deficit at half-time to win the game by ten points, featured a famous spectacular mark by Alex Jesaulenko, and was witnessed by a record crowd of 121,696.

1977–1981: VFL leaves Australian National Football Council

In 1976, the National Football League, which was the national administrative body for Australian rules football at the time, established the NFL Night Series to succeed the Championship of Australia. Played concurrently with the premiership season, the Night Series was contested among twelve clubs from the VFL, SANFL and WANFL invited based on their finishing positions from the previous year. The event was mostly played on Tuesday nights, with night games at Norwood Oval in Adelaide, and all games were televised live in colour on Channel 9, which opened up unprecedented revenue streams from television rights and sponsorship opportunities for the sport.[3] The NFL began plans to expand its Night Series to incorporate more teams from the VFL, SANFL and WAFL, as well as state representative teams from other states.

In November 1976, the VFL announced that it was withdrawing from the NFL's competition, having arranged more substantial television and sponsorship deals for its own Night Series for 1977 to be based in Melbourne and feature only the VFL clubs. Light towers were erected at VFL Park specifically for the event.[4][5] The VFL established a proprietary limited company called Australian Football Championships Pty Ltd in 1978 to run the Night Series, and offered shareholdings to the other state leagues in an attempt to lure other states into the competition.[6]

For the three years from 1977 until 1979, the NFL and AFC competitions were run separately as rival Night Series. In 1978, the Tasmanian representative team competed in both the NFL and AFC series, but all SANFL and WAFL clubs and the minor states teams remained in the NFL Night Series. In 1979, the WAFL clubs and the New South Wales and A.C.T. representative teams defected from the NFL Night Series and joined the AFC Night Series, leaving the NFL Night Series mostly composed of SANFL teams. The NFL Night Series was not revived in 1980, and the SANFL clubs joined the AFC Night Series.[7] Although the NFL itself continued to exist as an administrative body into the early 1990s, the power gained by the VFL as a result of its Night Series take over was one of the first significant steps in its spread interstate and ultimately its take-over (as the Australian Football League) of administrative control of all football in Australia.[8]

In 1980 and 1981, the first years after the NFL Night Series had ended, the AFC Night Series competition was at its largest, with all VFL, WAFL and SANFL clubs plus the four minor states teams (selected under residential qualification rather than state of origin qualification) competing for a total of 34 teams. The size of the competition was reduced from 1982, and thereafter only the top two or three teams from the SANFL and WAFL and the winner of the minor states' annual carnival were invited.

In 1987, the Night Series reverted to only the VFL teams. The competition was pushed earlier into the year, with the final played on 28 April.[9] The following season, the competition did not overlap with the day premiership season at all, and became entirely a pre-season competition. The Night Series is generally considered to be of equivalent importance as the pre-season competition and the VFL Night Series (1956–1971), and records relating to the three competitions are often combined.

With the number of players recruited from country leagues increasing, the wealthier VFL clubs were gaining an advantage that metropolitan zoning and the Coulter law (salary cap) restricting player payments had prevented in the past. Country zoning was introduced in the late 1960s, and whilst it pushed Essendon and Geelong from the top of the ladder, it created severe inequality during the 1970s and 1980s. Between 1972 and 1987, only six of the league's twelve clubs – Carlton, Collingwood, Essendon, Hawthorn, North Melbourne and Richmond – played in Grand Finals.

1982–1989: professionalism, bankruptcy and expansion

The South Melbourne Football Club became the first VFL club to move interstate when it relocated to Sydney in 1982. It was officially renamed the Sydney Swans the following year.

The 1980s was a period of significant structural change in Australian football around the country. The VFL was the most popular and dominant of the state leagues around the country in terms of overall attendance, interest, and money, and began to look towards expanding its influence directly into other states. The VFL and its top clubs were asserting their financial power to recruit top players from interstate. As a result of this, rising cost pressures were driving some of Victoria's weaker clubs into dire financial situations. South Melbourne became the first VFL club to relocate interstate with the club moving to Sydney to become the Sydney Swans in 1982. Under the private ownership of wealthy Dr Geoffrey Edelsten during the mid-1980s Sydney became a successful team on-field.

Throughout the 1980s approaches were made by SANFL and WAFL clubs to enter the VFL. Of particular note were approaches by the East Perth Royals in 1980,[10] the Norwood Redlegs in 1986[11] and 1988,[12] and an East-South Fremantle merger proposal in 1987.[13] None of these attempts were successful despite Norwood trying again in 1990 and 1994.

In 1986, the West Australian Football League and Queensland Australian Football League were awarded licences to join the VFL as expansion teams, leading to the establishment of the West Coast Eagles and Brisbane Bears who both joined the league in 1987. These expansion team licences were awarded on payment of multimillion-dollar fees which were not required of the existing VFL clubs. In 1989 financial troubles nearly forced Footscray and Fitzroy to merge but a fundraising event from Footscray supporters stopped the proposed merger at the eleventh hour.

The 1980s first saw new regular timeslots for VFL matches. VFL matches had previously been played on Saturday afternoons but Sydney began playing its home matches on Sunday afternoons and North Melbourne pioneered playing matches on Friday night. These have since become regular timeslots for all teams.

The first National Draft was introduced in 1986 and a salary cap was introduced in 1987.

1990–2005: a national competition

The West Coast Eagles and Sydney Swans line up for the national anthem during the 2005 AFL Grand Final. Between 1992 and 2006, non-Victorian clubs won ten out of fifteen AFL premierships.

The league was officially renamed the Australian Football League in 1990 to reflect the new national perspective;[14] the VFA later took over the Victorian Football League name in 1996. Functionally, the AFL gave up control over its Victorian-based minor grades at the end of 1991 – clubs continued to field reserves teams in the independent Victorian State Football League.

In 1990, the SANFL's most successful club, Port Adelaide, made a bid for an AFL licence. In response, the SANFL established a composite South Australian team called the Adelaide Crows, which was awarded the licence and joined the league in 1991 as the fourth interstate club. The same year saw the West Coast Eagles become the first interstate club to reach the Grand Final, losing to Hawthorn. The Eagles would then win the premiership in 1992 and 1994. In 1994, the Fremantle Football Club was formed in Western Australia, and joined the AFL in 1995, becoming the fifth interstate club.

In 1996 several Victorian clubs were in severe financial difficulties, most notably Fitzroy and Hawthorn. Hawthorn proposed to merge with Melbourne to form the Melbourne Hawks but the merger ultimately fell through and both teams continued as separate entities. Fitzroy, however, was too weak to continue by itself. The club nearly merged with North Melbourne to form the Fitzroy-North Melbourne Kangaroos but, after the other clubs voted against it, the club merged with Brisbane to become the Brisbane Lions.[15] Fitzroy played its last match at the end of 1996. With the Brisbane-Fitzroy merger, Port Adelaide was awarded an AFL licence and joined the league in 1997.

Through the 1990s there was a significant trend of Melbourne-based teams abandoning the use of their small (20,000–30,000 capacity) suburban venues for home matches in favour of the larger MCG and Waverley Park. The 1990s saw the last matches played at Windy Hill (Essendon), Moorabbin Oval (St Kilda), Western Oval (Footscray) and Victoria Park (Collingwood) and saw Princes Park abandoned by its long-term co-tenant Hawthorn. The transition to the use of only two venues in Melbourne was ultimately completed in 2005 when Carlton abandoned the use of Princes Park. In 1999, the league sold Waverley Park stadium and used the funds in a joint venture to begin construction of a brand-new stadium situated at Melbourne's Docklands. Representative state football came to an end, with the last State of Origin match held in 1999.

2006–present: new frontiers

In the late 2000s, the AFL looked to establish a permanent presence on the Gold Coast, which was fast-developing as a major population centre. North Melbourne, which was in financial difficulty and had played a few home games on the Gold Coast in previous years, was offered significant subsidies to relocate to the Gold Coast but declined. The AFL then began work to establish a club on the Gold Coast as a new expansion team.

Early in 2008, a meeting held by the AFL discussed having two new teams enter the AFL competition.[16] In March 2008, the AFL won the support of the league's 16 club presidents to establish sides on the Gold Coast and in Western Sydney. The Gold Coast Suns were established and joined the AFL in 2011 as the 17th team.[17] The Greater Western Sydney Giants, based in both Western Sydney and Canberra, were then established and entered the league as the 18th team in 2012.

On 25 April 2013 the Westpac Stadium in Wellington, New Zealand hosted the first ever Australian Football League game played for premiership points outside of Australia. The night game between St Kilda and Sydney was played in front of a crowd of 22,183 on Anzac Day to honour the Anzac bond between the two countries.[18][19]

A national women's league comprising a subset of AFL clubs is due to begin in 2017. Thirteen AFL clubs placed bids to participate in the women's competition. Eight clubs - Adelaide, Brisbane Lions, Carlton, Collingwood, Fremantle, Greater Western Sydney, Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs - were granted licences to participate in the inaugural season.

Clubs

Australia Melbourne Inner Locator.PNG

The AFL operates on a single table system, with no divisions, conferences nor promotion and relegation from other leagues.

The league was founded as the Victorian Football League (VFL) in 1897, consisting of eight teams only based in the Australian state of Victoria. Over the next century, a series of expansions, a relocation, a merger and a club withdrawal saw the leagues teams expand to the 18 teams there are today.

The current 18 teams are based across 5 states of Australia. The majority (10) still remain in Victoria, including nine teams located in the Melbourne metropolitan area. The states of New South Wales, Queensland, Western Australia, and South Australia have two teams each. In 1990 the national nature of the competition resulted in the name change to the Australian Football League. Tasmania, Australian Capital Territory, and Northern Territory are the only states or mainland territories not to have AFL clubs although games are regularly played in each of those areas.

Current clubs

Club Moniker State Stadium Est. Former
league
First season Seasons VFL/AFL
Premierships
Most
recent
Adelaide AFL Adelaide Icon.gif Crows South Australia Adelaide Oval 1990 1991 25 2 1998
Brisbane AFL Brisbane Icon.jpg Lions Queensland The Gabba 1996 1997 19 3 2003
Carlton CarltonDesign.png Blues Victoria MCG 1864 VFA* 1897** 119 16 1995
Collingwood AFL Collingwood Icon.jpg Magpies Victoria MCG 1892 VFA 1897** 119 15 2010
Essendon EssendonDesign.svg Bombers Victoria Docklands Stadium 1871 VFA* 1897** 117 16 2000
Fremantle AFL Fremantle Icon 2011.png Dockers Western Australia Subiaco Oval 1994 1995 21 0
Geelong AFL Geelong Icon.jpg Cats Victoria Kardinia Park 1859 VFA* 1897** 116 9 2011
Gold Coast AFL Gold Coast Icon.jpg Suns Queensland Carrara Stadium 2009 2011 5 0
Greater Western Sydney AFL GWS Icon.jpg Giants New South Wales Sydney Showground 2009 2012 4 0
Hawthorn AFL Hawthorn Icon.jpg Hawks Victoria MCG 1902 VFA 1925 91 13 2015
Melbourne AFL Melbourne Icon.jpg Demons Victoria MCG 1858 VFA* 1897** 116 12 1964
North Melbourne AFL North Melbourne Icon.jpg Kangaroos Victoria Docklands Stadium 1869 VFA* 1925 91 4 1999
Port Adelaide AFL Port Adelaide Icon.jpg Power South Australia Adelaide Oval 1870 SANFL* 1997 19 1 2004
Richmond AFL Richmond Icon.jpg Tigers Victoria MCG 1885 VFA 1908 108 10 1980
St Kilda AFL St Kilda Icon.jpg Saints Victoria Docklands Stadium 1873 VFA* 1897** 117 1 1966
Sydney Swans AFL Sydney Icon.jpg Swans New South Wales SCG 1874 VFA* 1897^** 118 5 2012
West Coast AFL West Coast Eagles Icon.png Eagles Western Australia Subiaco Oval 1986 1987 29 3 2006
Western Bulldogs AFL Footscray Icon.jpg Bulldogs Victoria Docklands Stadium 1877 VFA 1925 91 2 2016
^ denotes that the club has relocated at some point in its existence.
** denotes that the club was a founding member of the VFL
* denotes that the club was a founding member of its former league.

Former clubs

Since the Australian Football League commenced in 1897 as the Victorian Football League, only one club has left the competition, the Melbourne University Football Club. It last competed in 1914 and withdrew because, as a strictly amateur club, it became unable to remain competitive in a time when player payments were becoming common;[1][2] the club still competes to this day in the Victorian Amateur Football Association (VAFA). Two other clubs, the Fitzroy Football Club (Fitzroy Lions) and the Brisbane Bears, merged in 1996 to form the Brisbane Lions. However, after a coming out of financial administration in 1998, Fitzroy resumed its playing operations in 2009 and currently competes in the VAFA.

Club Moniker State Est. First VFL/AFL
season
Last VFL/AFL
season
Premierships
Fitzroy AFL Fitzroy icon.png Lions Victoria 1883 1897 1996 8
Melbourne University AFL University icon.png Students Victoria 1859 1908 1914 0
Brisbane Bears Brisbane Bears design.jpg Bears Queensland 1986 1987 1996 0

Venues

Below are the venues used during the 2016 AFL season.

Melbourne, Victoria Melbourne, Victoria Adelaide, South Australia Sydney, New South Wales
Melbourne Cricket Ground Docklands Stadium Adelaide Oval Sydney Cricket Ground
Capacity: 100,024 Capacity: 56,347 Capacity: 53,583 Capacity: 48,000
AFL Grand Final 2010 on the Melbourne Cricket Ground.jpg Aerial view of Etihad Stadium.jpg Completed Adelaide Oval 2014 - cropped and rotated.jpg SCG members.jpg
Perth, Western Australia Brisbane, Queensland
Subiaco Oval The Gabba
Capacity: 43,500 Capacity: 42,000
Patersonstadium.JPG The Gabba Panorama.jpg
Geelong, Victoria Gold Coast, Queensland
Kardinia Park Carrara Stadium
Capacity: 34,074 Capacity: 25,000
Skilled-stadium-geelong.jpg Adelaide v Gold Coast - Carrara crowd.jpg
Sydney, New South Wales Launceston, Tasmania Hobart, Tasmania

Canberra, ACT

Sydney Showground Stadium York Park Bellerive Oval Manuka Oval
Capacity: 24,000 Capacity: 21,000 Capacity: 20,000 Capacity: 13,550
SkodaStadiumSouthernEnd.jpg Hawthorn v Western Bulldogs - 31st May 2008 181.jpg Bellerive oval hobart.jpg Manuka Oval.JPG
Alice Springs, Northern Territory Darwin, Northern Territory Cairns, Queensland
Traeger Park Marrara Oval Cazaly's Stadium
Capacity: 10,000 Capacity: 14,000 Capacity: 13,500
Traeger Park 4916.jpg TIO Stadium.jpg Cazaly's Stadium.jpg

Throughout the history of the VFL/AFL, there have been a total of 42 different grounds used, with 14 used during the 2014 season.[20] The largest capacity ground in use is the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG), which has a capacity of over 100,000 people, and hosts the Grand Final each year.[21] The MCG is shared by five teams as a home ground, whilst the other grounds used as home venues by multiple teams are Docklands Stadium in Melbourne (five teams), Adelaide Oval in Adelaide (two teams), and Subiaco Oval in Perth (two teams). The AFL has had exclusive ownership of Docklands Stadium (commercially known as Etihad Stadium) since late 2016.[22]

Prior to the expansion of the competition, most grounds were located in suburban Melbourne, with Princes Park, Victoria Park, the Junction Oval, Waverley Park, and the Lake Oval each having hosted over 700 games.[20] However, since the introduction of a national competition, each state and territory of Australia has hosted AFL games.[23]

On 25 April 2013 (Anzac Day), a match took place between St Kilda and Sydney at Westpac Stadium in Wellington, New Zealand, being the first AFL match played outside Australia for official premiership points.[24] At the end of 2013 a new five-year deal was announced that will see St Kilda play a match on Anzac Day at the stadium every year until 2018.[25] St Kilda ceased playing games at the venue in 2016.

Players

Jonathan Patton, the first pick in the 2011 AFL draft.

AFL players are drawn from a number of sources; however, most players enter the league through the AFL draft, held at the end of each season. A small number of players have converted from other sports, or been recruited internationally. Prior to the nationalisation of the competition, a zoning system was in place. At the end of the season, the best 22 players and coach from across the competition are selected in the All-Australian team.

The AFL has tight controls over the player lists of each club. Currently, apart from the recently added expansion clubs who have some additional players, each team can have a senior list of 38 to 40 players plus 4 to 6 rookie players, to a total of 44 players[26] (following a reduction by two of the number of rookies in 2012) and up to three development rookies (international, alternate talent or New South Wales scholarship players).[27] Changes to playing lists are permitted only in the off-season: clubs can trade players during a "trade period" which follows each season and recruit new players through the three AFL drafts, the national draft, the pre-season draft and the rookie draft, which take place after the trade period. A mid-year draft was conducted between 1990 and 1993.[28] The national draft is the primary method of recruiting new players and has been used since 1986. The draft order is based on reverse-finishing position from the previous year, but selections can be traded. Free agency player movements have only been permitted since the 2012/13 offseason,[29] having been rejected by the AFL commission previously.[30]

Salary cap

Main article: AFL salary cap

A salary cap (known as the Total Player Payments or TPP) is also in place as part of the league's equalisation policy; this is A$9,130,000 for the 2013 season with a salary floor of $8,673,500 except for the Gold Coast, whose salary cap will be A$9,630,000 with a salary floor of $9,171,500, and Greater Western Sydney, whose salary cap is $9,987,000 with a floor of $9,530,500. As part of the AFL's enhanced equalisation policies, in 2014 the league announced an increase of the TPP for the 2015 and 2016 seasons. TPP increases an additional $150,000 per club in 2015 above previously contracted amounts, increasing from $9.92m to $10.07m in 2015 and $10.22m to $10.37m in 2016.[31]

The salary cap was set at A$1.25 million for 1987–1989 as per VFL agreement, with the salary floor set at 90% of the cap or $1.125 million; the salary floor was increased to 92.5% of the cap in 2001, and 95% of the cap for 2013 due to increased revenues. Both the salary cap and salary floor has increased substantially since the competition was rebranded as the AFL in 1990.

Salaries of draft selections are fixed for two years. Salaries for senior players are not normally released to the public, though the average AFL player salary at the conclusion of the 2012 season was $251,559[32] and the top few players can expect to earn up to and above $1,000,000 a year.[33] Upon successfully trading to the Sydney Swans in 2013, marquee player Lance Franklin signed a 9-year contract with the club, reportedly worth over $10 million and resulting in subsequent payments of $1.8 million annually in consecutive seasons.[34] The Total Player Earnings (TPE) – or total amount of revenue spent on reimbursement of AFL listed players – at the conclusion of the 2012 season was $173.7 million, up by 13 per cent from $153.7 million in 2011.[32]

The breaches of the salary cap and salary floor regulations outlined by the AFL are: exceeding the TPP; falling below the salary floor; not informing the AFL of payments; late or incorrect lodgement or loss of documents; or engaging in draft tampering. Penalties include fines of up to triple the amount involved ($10,000 for each document late or incorrect lodged or lost), forfeiture of draft picks and/or deduction of premiership points. The most significant breach of the salary cap was that of the Carlton Football Club in the early 2000s.

Demographics

Indigenous player Lance Franklin. Comprising 2.7% of the broader Australian population, Indigenous Australians make up 9% of AFL players.

There were 801 players on AFL club senior, veteran, rookie and international lists in 2011, including players from every state and mainland territory of Australia.[35] As of 2014, there are 68 players of Indigenous Australian descent on AFL club lists, comprising approximately 9% of the overall playing population.[36]

There were 12 players recruited from outside of Australia on AFL lists in 2011, including 10 from Ireland, all converts from Gaelic football drafted as part of the Irish Experiment, and one each from the United States and Canada. There were also another five overseas-born players who emigrated to Australia at an early age on AFL lists.[37]

An international rookie list and international scholarship list were introduced in 2006. The international rookie list includes up to two players between the ages of 15 and 23 who are not Australian citizens. These players may remain on this list for up to three years before they must be transferred to the senior or rookie list. For the first year, payments made to international-rookie-listed players fall outside the salary cap. The international scholarship list gives AFL clubs the option of recruiting up to eight players from outside Australia (other than Ireland). Irish players are required to either be placed on clubs' senior or rookie lists.[38] At the beginning of 2011 there were 14 international scholarship players.[39]

Of the 121 multicultural players, more than half have one parent from Anglophone countries, mainly the United Kingdom, Ireland and New Zealand.[40]

Season structure

Pre-season

From 1988 until 2013, the AFL ran a pre-season competition that finished prior to the commencement of the premiership season, which served as both warm-up matches for the season and as a stand-alone competition. It was mostly contested as a four-week knock out tournament, but the format changed after the expansion of the league beyond sixteen clubs in 2011. The competition has frequently been used to trial rule changes. In 2014, the competition format was abandoned, and practice matches are now played under the sponsored name NAB Challenge. This consists of all 18 clubs playing three matches each, which are played one or two games per day, for most days in late February and early March.

Premiership season

See also: 2016 AFL season

The AFL home-and-away season at present lasts for 23 rounds, starting in late March and ending in early September. As of the 2013 AFL season, each team plays 22 matches, with one bye. Teams receive four premiership points for a win and two premiership points for a draw. Ladder finishing positions are based on the number of premiership points won, and "percentage" (calculated as the ratio of points scored to points conceded throughout the season) is used as a tie-breaker when teams finish with equal premiership points. At the end of the home-and-away season, the McClelland Trophy is awarded to the minor premiers.

Themed rounds and special matches

The Anzac Day clash is one of the marquee fixtures in the AFL home and away season.

Some rounds of the season are named as themed rounds, such as Rivalry Round (in which traditional rivals are matched up against each other), Women's Round and Heritage Round (where teams play in old style guernseys). Some matches are also themed for special events. For example, each year Collingwood play Essendon in the annual Anzac Day clash at the MCG and the game will typically sell out regardless of the positions of the two teams on the ladder due to their strong rivalry and huge followings. Another annual match is the Queen's Birthday game between Melbourne and Collingwood. As of 2006, Richmond and Essendon play in the Dreamtime at the 'G match. There are separate trophies for the matches between several clubs and former rivalries such as the Lake Trophy between St Kilda and the Sydney Swans.

Finals series

The top eight teams at the end of the AFL Premiership season compete in a four-week finals series throughout September, culminating in a grand final to determine the premiers. The finals series is played under the AFL final eight system, and the grand final is traditionally played at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on the afternoon of the last Saturday in September.

The winning team receives a silver premiership cup, a navy blue premiership flag – a new one of each is manufactured each year – and is recorded on the perpetual E. L. Wilson Shield. The flag has been presented since the league began and is traditionally unfurled at the team's first home game of the following season. The Wilson Shield, named after Edwin Lionel Wilson, was first awarded after the 1929 premiership.[41] The premiership cup was first introduced in 1959 and is manufactured annually by Cash's International at their metalworks in Frankston, Victoria.[42] Additionally, each player in the grand final-winning team receives a premiership medallion.

Awards

The following major individual awards and accolades are presented each season:

Other independent best and fairest awards are presented by different football and media organisations.

Team of the Century

To celebrate the 100th season of the VFL/AFL, the "AFL Team of the Century" was named in 1996.

AFL Team of the Century
B: Bernie Smith (Geelong, West Adelaide) Stephen Silvagni (Carlton) John Nicholls (Carlton)
HB: Bruce Doull (Carlton) Ted Whitten (Footscray) Captain Kevin Murray (Fitzroy, East Perth)
C: Francis Bourke (Richmond) Ian Stewart (Hobart, St Kilda, Richmond) Keith Greig (North Melbourne)
HF: Alex Jesaulenko (Carlton, St Kilda) Royce Hart (Richmond) Dick Reynolds (Essendon)
F: Leigh Matthews (Hawthorn) John Coleman (Essendon) Haydn Bunton, Sr. (Fitzroy, Subiaco, Port Adelaide)
Foll: Graham Farmer (Geelong, East Perth, West Perth) Ron Barassi (Melbourne, Carlton) Bob Skilton (South Melbourne)
Int: Gary Ablett, Sr. (Hawthorn, Geelong) Jack Dyer (Richmond) Greg Williams (Geelong, Sydney, Carlton)
Coach: Norm Smith (Melbourne, Fitzroy, South Melbourne)


Jack Elder was declared the Umpire of the Century to coincide with the Team of the Century. Since the naming of this side, most AFL clubs have nominated their own teams of the century. An Indigenous Team of the Century was also selected in 2005, featuring the best Aboriginal players of the previous 100 years from both the VFL/AFL and other state leagues.

Representative football

State football

Since 1999 there has been no official state representation for AFL players, despite the concept being well supported among fans and calls to re-introduce a State of Origin series.[43][44]

History of the VFL/AFL's involvement

VFL players first represented the Victoria representative team in 1897 regardless of their state of origin.

Being the dominant league drawing many of the country's best players, the Victoria Australian rules football team (nicknamed the "Big V" and composed mostly of VFL players) dominated interstate matches until the introduction of State of Origin selection criteria by the Australian Football Council in 1977, after which Victoria's results with the other main Australian football states became more even.

The AFL Commission assumed control of interstate football in 1993 and co-ordinated an annual State of Origin series typically held during a mid-season bye round. However, after the 1999 series, the AFL declared the concept of interstate football "on hold" citing club's unwillingness to release star players and a lack of public interest and shifted its focus of representative football to the International Rules Series where it draws a greater television revenue.

The last time AFL players played formal interstate football was in the 1999 State of Origin Series when Victoria inflicted a massive defeat on South Australia in wet conditions in front of a crowd of 26,063. Just 10 years earlier, the same match with a plethora of star players attracted a crowd of 91,960.

A once-off representative match, known as the AFL Hall of Fame Tribute Match was played in 2008 to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the sport. The match was played between a team of players of Victorian origin and a team of players of interstate origin (the "Dream Team")

Some past AFL players participate and help promote the E. J. Whitten Legends Game, however this event is not affiliated with or promoted by the AFL.

International Rules Series

The International Rules Series is an annual competition played twice every three years between AFL listed players from Australia and Gaelic footballers from Ireland. The series is organised under the auspices of the AFL and the Gaelic Athletic Association. The game itself is a hybrid sport, consisting of rules from both Australian football and Gaelic football. The series provides the only outlet for AFL players to represent their nation.

Administration

Main article: AFL Commission

The AFL Commission is responsible for the administration of the AFL. It was established in December 1985, and then granted almost unilateral administrative control over the league in 1993,[45] after the club parochialism and self-interest which came with the traditional club delegate based administrative structure threatened to undermine the competition.

The Commission's chairman is Mike Fitzpatrick, a former Subiaco and Carlton player, and the Chief Executive is Gillon McLachlan, who officially took over from Andrew Demetriou on 4 June 2014.

The Commission's composition remains almost exclusively Victorian based with one exception, Bob Hammond from South Australia.

In addition to administering the national competition, the AFL is heavily involved in promoting and developing the sport in Australia. It provides funds for local leagues and in conjunction with local clubs, administers the Auskick program for young boys and girls.

The AFL also plays a leading role in developing the game outside Australia, with projects to develop the game at junior level in other countries (e.g. South Africa) and by supporting affiliated competitions around the world (See Australian football around the world).

The players of the AFL are represented by the AFL Players Association, the coaches are represented by the AFL Coaches Association, the umpires are represented by the AFL Umpires Association, and the related media employees are represented by the Australian Football Media Association.

Audience

The AFL is the best-attended sporting league in Australia,[46] and averaged 33,461 people per game over the 2013 season, giving AFL the 4th highest average attendance figures of any professional sport in the world.[47] According to market research, the AFL is the second-most-watched sporting event in Australia, behind cricket.[48] Currently, broadcast rights for the AFL are shared between the Seven Network (free-to-air), Foxtel and Austar (pay TV), and Telstra (internet). At the end of the 2014 season, a record 804,480 people were members of an AFL club.[49]

Attendance

The following are the most recent season attendances:

Year Home and Away Average Finals1 Average1 Grand Final
2015 6,367,302 32,321 518,694 57,663 98,633
2014 6,403,941 32,343 570,568 63,396 99,454
2013 6,372,784 32,186 558,391 62,043 100,007
2012 6,238,876 31,509 538,934 59,882 99,683
2011 6,533,138 34,937 614,250 68,250 99,537
2010 6,494,564 36,901 651,764 65,176 100,0164 and 93,8535
2009 6,375,622 36,225 615,463 68,385 99,251
2008 6,512,999 37,0062 571,760 63,258 100,012
2007 6,475,521 36,793 575,424 63,936 97,302
2006 6,204,056 35,250 532,178 59,131 97,431
2005 6,283,788 35,703 480,112 53,346 91,8983
2004 5,909,836 33,579 458,326 50,925 77,6713
2003 5,876,515 33,389 478,425 53,158 79,4513
2002 5,648,021 32,091 449,445 49,938 91,817
2001 5,919,026 33,631 525,993 58,444 91,482
2000 5,731,091 32,563 566,562 62,951 96,249
1999 5,768,611 32,776 472,007 52,445 94,228
1998 6,119,861 34,772 572,733 63,637 94,431
1997 5,853,449 33,258 560,406 62,267 99,645
1996 5,222,266 29,672 478,773 53,197 93,102
1995 5,119,694 29,089 594,919 66,102 93,678

1 Finals total and Finals average include Grand Final crowds.
2 Record.
3 Capacity reduced due to MCG refurbishment.
4 Crowd for the drawn Grand Final.
5 Crowd for the Grand Final Replay, played one week after the drawn Grand Final.

Television

Australian television

AFL matches are currently broadcast in Australia by the free-to-air Seven Network, subscription television provider Foxtel, and digital content provider Telstra. The 5-year deal, announced in April 2011, covers the 2012–2016 (inclusive) seasons. Telstra won the rights to broadcast one live match per week via IP Television and on its Telstra Mobile service. The deal was confirmed when the Seven Network, Foxtel and Telstra agreed to pay A$1.253 billion to the Australian Football League to broadcast every match of every round and all of the Finals Series across their platforms.[50]

The Seven Network broadcasts four games from every round of the regular premiership season, as well as the AFL Finals Series and the AFL Grand Final. Foxtel broadcasts every match from every round, including simulcasts of all Seven Network games except for the Grand Final (which Seven shows exclusively live). Coverage is also available via Foxtel's IP television service (Foxtel on T-Box).

Telecast history

The 1957 VFL season was the first broadcast after the commencement of television in Australia (introduced in 1956 to coincide with the Melbourne Olympic Games). During the late 1950s and 1960s, all Melbourne stations (ABV2, HSV7, GTV9 and, after it commenced in 1965, ATV0/ATV10) broadcast some games. However, in the late 1950s and early 1960s, the VFL was concerned that direct telecasts may affect attendances and stations were only permitted to telecast a delayed replay of the last quarter of games. In the 1980s, the Seven Network was given exclusive rights to VFL/AFL games. The only year Seven did not telecast games was 1987, when the rights were bought by Broadcom, which on-sold the rights to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC). The exclusive rights were won back by Seven in 1988.

With the launch of subscription television in Australia, AFL match coverage commenced on cable television. Optus Vision bid for and won exclusive pay TV rights from 1996–2001, screening coverage on its own 24-hour AFL channel, branded Sports AFL in Brisbane Sydney and Melbourne (where available). The Sports AFL channel was later closed due to financial issues and relaunched in March 1999 as C7 Sport by the Seven Network with AFL match coverage also transferred to the new channel. C7 Sport became available in regional areas not in the Foxtel or Optus Vision licence area via Austar soon after the re-launch. The AFL coverage was not available through Foxtel at this time as the Seven Network and Foxtel disagreed on the cost of carrying the C7 channel. These issues regarding C7 and AFL broadcsting rights evolved into a court case between not just the Seven Network and News Limited, but Seven against the owners of the Nine Network and Network Ten in the years that followed.

In late 2000, the Seven Network's main rivals, the Kerry Packer led Nine Network, Network Ten and pay-TV's Foxtel set up a consortium which bid $500 million for the right to broadcast the 20022006 seasons inclusive. Seven had purchased a guaranteed right to make the last bid in 1995,[51] but decided not to outbid their rivals.[52] The games were split between the networks, with Nine screening Friday Night Football, a live Sunday afternoon game in the east and, if needed, a doubleheader for WA and SA, Ten screened a Saturday afternoon and a Saturday night match, with the remaining four matches shown on Foxtel. Foxtel set up its own version of a dedicated AFL-only channel, the Fox Footy Channel, which showed every game on replay during the week as well as many news, talkback and general interest shows related to Australian rules football.[53]

When the rights were offered again in January 2006 for the 2007 to 2011 seasons, Seven formed an alliance with Ten and used its guaranteed last bid rights to match Nine's offer of $780 million to win back the broadcast rights in what was the biggest sport telecasting deal in Australian history at the time. After lengthy negotiations, Foxtel agreed to be a broadcast partner and now showed four live matches each week, although no longer on a dedicated AFL channel.[51] Seven took back the Friday night match and only one game on Sunday, while Ten retained showing two matches on Saturdays. Foxtel showed two games on Saturday and two on Sunday, including a late afternoon or twilight game.[54]

International broadcast partners

Historically AFL broadcasts in other countries have varied.

In the 1980s, VFL matches were shown in the United States on ESPN for some time. In the early 1990s, Prime Network, an American regional sports network unrelated to the Australian regional television network, aired Seven's weekly highlight show as well as the Grand Final. Some other English speaking countries have shown the game, however it has been since 2008 that channels in other countries began televising matches. From 1998 to 2006 games were broadcast in the United States by the Fox Sports World network.[55]

In 2007, after the record domestic television rights deal, the AFL secured an additional bonus: greater international television rights and increase exposure to overseas markets, including a five-year deal with Setanta Sports and new deals with other overseas pay-TV networks. The deal ended early in 2009 when Setanta stopped broadcasting into Great Britain. ESPN again took up the contract.[56]

The following countries are ranked by the approximate extent of their current television coverage (and whether it is free to air):

Station/Channel Countries Free/Subscription Home & Away Finals Grand Final Broadcasting since Notes
SuperSport Africa Subscription 1 game per week (live/delay) Live See also Australian rules football in Africa
TSN2 Canada Subscription Live See also Australian rules football in Canada, AFANA
Digicel SportsMax Caribbean Subscription 4 games per week (live/highlights/replay) Live Live
TG4 Ireland Free One game per week (highlights) See also Australian rules football in Ireland
UPC Ireland Ireland Subscription See also Australian rules football in Ireland
EM TV Papua New Guinea Free 1–3 per week (highlights) Live Live See also Australian rules football in Papua New Guinea
Fiji TV Fiji Free 1 (live/replay) Live Live See also Australian rules football in Fiji
International Channel Shanghai Peoples Republic of China Free 1 (live) Live Live See also Australian rules football in China
CCTV5+ Peoples Republic of China Free 1 (live) Live Live See also Australian rules football in China
Australia Plus Asia-Pacific region, Indian Subcontinent, Middle East Free (Subscription in some) 5 per week Yes Live
Eurosport 2 Europe Free One game per week (highlights/live/replay) Live See also Australian rules football in Europe
Fox Sports Israel Israel Subscription See also Australian rules football in the Middle East
Claro Sports Mexico
Central America
South America
Subscription Four games per week (highlights/live/replay) Live Live
OSN Sports Middle East
North Africa
Subscription
Sky Sport New Zealand Subscription 1–2 (live/delayed) + highlights See also Australian rules football in New Zealand
Movistar+ Spain Free highlights, delayed matches 2009 See also Australian rules football in Spain
Sky Digital United Kingdom Subscription See also Australian rules football in the United Kingdom
BT Sport
BT Sport ESPN
United Kingdom Republic of Ireland Subscription 3 games per week (highlights/live/replay) 2013 See also Australian rules football in the United Kingdom, See also Australian rules football in Ireland
Fox Sports 2 United States Subscription 1 to 3 games per week, some finals Yes 2013 See also Australian rules football in the United States, AFANA
Fox Soccer Plus United States Subscription varying number of games per week, some finals, Grand Final Yes See also Australian rules football in the United States, AFANA
MHz Worldview United States Subscription "Game of the Week" (one-week delay) (highlights) Live See also Australian rules football in the United States, AFANA

Global

The AFL has stated that it wishes to showcase the footballing code to other countries such as India, China and South Africa so as to create a global following thus creating more exposure for its sponsors in the increasing Asian and African markets.[57] On 17 October 2010, AFL clubs Melbourne Demons and Brisbane Lions played an exhibition game in front of 7,000 people at the Jiangwan Sports Center in Shanghai.[58] This was the first professional AFL game to be played in China.

The AFL has garnered increased interest in Ireland due to the introduction of the International Rules series played between an AFL picked All Australian Team and Ireland.[citation needed] This paved the way for young Irish footballers to be rostered to AFL teams mainly due to the fact that salaries in the AFL are much larger than that of Gaelic Football although most Irish players fail to make the grade into 1st team football.[59] This also paved the way for extended news coverage and increased broadcasting in the UK and Ireland.[citation needed]

Radio

The first broadcast of a VFL game was by 3AR in 1923, the year that broadcasting officially commenced in Australia. The first commentator was Wallace (Jumbo) Shallard, a former Geelong player who went on to have a long and respected career in print and broadcast media. The VFL/AFL has been broadcast every year since then by the ABC and (since 1927) by various commercial stations. The saturation period was the early 1960s when seven of the eight extant radio stations (3AR, 3UZ, 3DB, 3KZ, 3AW, 3XY and 3AK) broadcast VFL games each week, as well as broadcasts of Geelong games by local station 3GL. (At this time, the only alternative that radio listeners had to listening to the football on a Saturday afternoon were the classical music and fine arts programs that were broadcast by 3LO).

Currently, the official radio broadcast partners of the AFL are:

Internet

The official internet/mobile broadcast partner of the AFL is BigPond, part of Telstra. The AFL also provides exclusive broadband content including streaming video for international fans via its website. Bigpond also hosts the official websites of all the 17 AFL clubs excluding Essendon.

The service is also provided to international subscribers. Delayed video is available 12 hours or more after the game.

However, the website is frequently derided by users for its convoluted information architecture and bloated presentation.[60][61]

Since 2012, Telstra has broadcast live matches over its Next G mobile network for a pay-per-view or season fee.[62]

Corporate relations

Sponsorship

The following are the official naming sponsors of the VFL/AFL competition:

¹Note: In 2001 CUB and Coca-Cola were joint sponsors

The official print broadcast partner of the AFL is News Limited. The AFL Record is a match-day magazine published by the AFL and is read by around 225,000 people each week.

Membership

The AFL sells memberships that entitle subscribers to reserve seats for matches at Docklands Stadium and Melbourne Cricket Ground in Melbourne. AFL members also receive priority access to finals. Two levels of memberships are now offered, silver and full, with the main difference being that only full members have guaranteed access to Preliminary and Grand Final matches.[63]

Merchandising

The AFL runs a chain of stores that sell merchandise from all clubs. Merchandise is also available from other retailers.

AFL World

A modern museum called the Hall of Fame and Sensation opened in Melbourne in 2003 to celebrate the culture of the AFL and to provide a venue for the Australian Football Hall of Fame. The museum, a licensed offshoot of the AFL, was originally touted for the MCG, but the Hall of Fame failed to get support from the Melbourne Cricket Club. The new QV shopping centre on Swanston Street was then chosen as the location. However, controversy followed the appointment of an administrator as the museum began running at a loss. Many blamed high entry prices, which were subsequently reduced, and the museum remains open to the public. In early 2006 the name was changed to AFL World. It features various honour boards and memorabilia as well as a range of innovative interactive displays designed to immerse visitors in the experience of elite Aussie Rules. It was closed down in 2008.

Video games

The following is a list of all the video games from the AFL video game series:

Gambling

The AFL is the subject of footy tipping and betting competitions around Australia run by individuals, syndicates, workplaces and professional bookmakers. In recent years national website based tipping competitions have started to replace the traditional, but more labour-intensive, office or pub run competitions.[citation needed]

Fantasy football competitions based on actual player statistics (number of kicks, marks, goals etc.) are also very popular on websites and in newspapers.[citation needed]

See also

Lists:

Notes

1.^ Including Fitzroy's victories, 11 in total.
2.^ Includes 3 Premierships, from their time as South Melbourne Football Club.

References

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External links

Statistics and results

Major AFL news sites