A Brief History of the AFL
The Australian Football League, or AFL, is the most popular sporting event in the country. It has a long and proud history and is growing bigger all the time. For anyone interested in the Australian Rules games of today, an understanding of where they come from is important. The history of the League is very entertaining and helps people to understand its current structures and functions. The AFL history below is hardly comprehensive, and further reading on the subject is greatly encouraged, but it does give interested parties a good place to start.
A Gradual Evolution
The AFL history is one of slow incorporation of various clubs. Football Leagues were established across Australia over 150 years ago, and slowly amalgamated into a single entity. The game began to be called Victorian, Melbourne or Australasian Rules at this time, and spread to other Australian colonies very rapidly, including to Tasmania, South Australia, Australian Capital Territory and New South Wales. In 1896 the 6 strongest clubs in Victoria, namely Melbourne, South Melbourne, Geelong, Fitzroy, Essendon and Collingwood, broke away from the Victorian Football Association and established the Victorian Football League. By the time of the VFL’s inaugural season in 1897, 2 other VFA clubs, St Kilda and Carlton, had joined as well.
In 1908, the Richmond and University teams become part of the AFL as well. University ultimately found it difficult to compete at this level because of players’ academic commitments and now plays for the Victorian Amateur Football Association, but it remains a part of AFL history. Footscray, North Melbourne and Hawthorn completed the 12-team configuration, which remained in place until 1982. At this point AFL history took another new direction with South Melbourne relocating to Sydney. In 1987, Western Australia’s West Coast Eagles and Queensland’s Brisbane Beers joined the AFL as well.
Finally, the modern Australian Football League, played with Australia Rules Football, was created in 1990. The Victorian Football League decided to market the competition and make themselves more commercially viable, and part of that was rebranding themselves. The League is now recognised as Australian Football’s governing body, and has shaped much of the game and its laws.
The AFL Today
Some of the most notable changes that the Victorian Football League initiated are still carried on today, and are a living part of AFL history as the Australia Rules Football that is so known and loved in the country. These include establishing a Finals tournament rather than just awarding the premiership to the team with the best record of the season, and a modern scoring system where 1 point is scored for a behind and 6 points are scored for a goal.
Since its rebranding the AFL has incorporated its affiliated leagues into o-branding under the same banner, and today the national even has teams based in 5 of at least 6 states in Australia. The AFL is the strongest sporting league in the country from a financial point of view, with several corporate and media sponsors, and is watched by millions. More clubs from around Australia often join, which keeps things dynamic. The most exciting times in AFL history may well be yet to come.