The AFL Wants YOU!

Ask not what the AFL can do for you...

With the AFL conquering new territories like the Romans of yore, changes are afoot to the shape of our season. However in an outstanding example of stakeholder management, we the fans are being given the chance to put forward our opinions as to how we would like to see the season shaped. lists the AFL’s proposals for all facets of the season – pre-season, regular season and finals (if only we could make suggestions on the price of grand final tickets and the order of the draft) and invites comment. In short, the options are:


Practice Games: Teams will play 2-3 practice games similar to the NAB Challenge series. However there is no formal competition.
Representative Games: In addition to practice games, State of Origin games would be played prior to the season commencing.
Lightning Tournament: 3 teams per group, 1 venue. 2 games with 40 minute halves in each. Winners of each pool go into a second round repeating the same scenario. The pool winners play off in a full match length grand final.

Regular Season

These options are quite complicated and in-depth. See the My AFL Season website for a full explanation.

Current Structure:
Oppose every team once, 5 teams twice.
Two Conferences: 9 teams in each, separate ladders. 4-6 teams from each conference play finals.
Three Conferences: 6 teams in each, separate ladders, 3-4 teams from each conference play finals.
Reset and form divisions: Play every team once, group teams by ladder position. 1-6 have made the finals, 7-12 play off for the finals, 13-18 play off for draft picks or other incentives.
Reset and seed: Play every team once, seed by ladder position in an attempt to form three level groups. Group winners qualify for the finals, the next best 5-9 teams play finals.
3 year locked fixture: Play every team 4 times in three years. Every third year will have 22 rounds as opposed to 23 in the others.


As you were: Final 8 remains as it is now.
Final 10: Top 2 teams get a bye in week one and a double chance in week 2. Otherwise as normal.
Final 12: All eliminators, Teams 1-4 get a bye week 1 but no double chance.

Final 12 – double chance: Top 2 teams play in week one, the winner goes through to the preliminary final, the loser gets a double chance. All other games are eliminators.

So there we have it, those are the options on the table. Thinking caps on folks, what do we want this brave new world to look like? For what it’s worth, my preferences are:

Practice Games: The season is only getting longer, take the game to non-AFL markets and let clubs prepare as they see fit. If it’s good enough for FIFA it should be good enough for the AFL.

Other: The fairest structure, the draw is locked three years in advance and in the third year the empty round would provide the perfect opportunity for the return of State of Origin. Three years is more than enough time to whet the appetite and minimise the fears of clubs.

Final 8: Sure it’s tough but no team has ever won the premiership from 8th anyway, is 10th truly deserving?

Whilst this process is nice in principle, deep down we know it is moot.

After all, once the market of Nearer Gaul is conquered by Demetriou and his legion we’ll have to do it all again.


  1. If they go into a conference system of any kind I’m off to the local footy.

  2. This is a stab I had at a fixture late last year; it’s motivated by the assertion that as the fixture is hopelessly compromised, you may as well go for clarity and best outcomes. It’s probably a bit complicated at first glance, but once you get the hang of it, I think it makes sense.

    It’s certainly much more equitable than the current system, which seems to consist of Collingwood and Essendon dropping in at AFL House for a friendly but firm tête-à-tête, after which Andrew and Adrian issue a press release about some mysterious piece of fixturing software they’d downloaded onto their laptops.

    Here goes. It’s called the Three-Band Fixture.

    1. Introduction

    With the advent of Gold Coast and Western Sydney clubs, the AFL requires a fixture for 18 teams to compete in a home and away season of about 22 rounds.

    Length of home and away season

    There are insurmountable difficulties in extending the home and away season over a greater number of rounds. These include:

    a. high attrition rate of players, and
    b. consequent decline in playing standards;
    c. proliferation of meaningless games, and
    d. consequent spectator /viewer overload and alienation;
    e. conflict with other sporting codes;
    f. venue availability;
    g. increase in warm weather games.

    In any event, from a fixturing perspective the primary aim of extending the season would be to increase the fairness, equity and clarity of the competition, and with 34 rounds required for each team to play all others twice, anything even close to this objective is unachievable.

    On the other hand, reducing the number of rounds to 17, so that each team plays each other once, would greatly adversely affect the finances of the league and clubs and, in any case, unnecessarily alter the balance between talent, skill, endurance and player management expected by supporters.

    Ameliorating geographic imbalance

    This proposed fixture, then, anticipates a 22-round home and away season. It attempts to mitigate the problems inherent in a competition where the majority of teams play from one city, meaning some teams must travel very significantly more than others. It also factors in rivalries based on tradition or geographic proximity. Nevertheless, its primary objective is to, as much as possible, achieve a home and away season which has a transparent, logical structure and as fair a contest for finals positions as possible.

    A fair and equitable fixture the priority

    While attention has been paid to the place of traditional and geographic rivalries within the fixture, it is not primarily designed to maximise attendance, viewership or revenues. The AFL has sufficient opportunities to schedule “blockbuster” games within the proposed fixture and, in any event:

    a. the long-term benefits of a fair and equitable fixture outweigh the short term advantage gained by blockbusters; and
    b. a preponderance of blockbusters creates further inequalities within the competition, focussing attention (and hence, marketing, branding and revenue opportunities) on clubs already advantaged in those areas at the expense of less well-established, high-profile and, often, less wealthy clubs.

    2. Concept

    The organisational concept of the fixture is the creation of three “bands” of games, each with its own internal rationale and equalisation mechanisms. These bands need not be played in sequence or consecutively, giving the AFL the ability to programme blockbuster and games on significant occasions. It means that the majority of games – and the travel requirement arising from them – are fixed and equalised over two seasons, while clubs and the AFL have the capacity to tailor the season in accordance with a number of principles.

    Band 1: 17 Home and Away Rounds

    Each team plays all others. These 17 fixtures are allocated on the “Davis Cup principle”, so the home team one year is the away team the following year, and so on.

    • It is assumed that, for commercial, membership and player welfare reasons clubs and the AFL will want to keep as consistent a home and away schedule as possible. On that assumption, Victorian teams will travel interstate four times, and non-Victorian teams eight times in the 17 Band One rounds each season.

    • In general terms, and subject to the approval of the AFL, clubs have the right to determine where their Band One home games will be played, so promotional games in Tasmania, Canberra and the NT can continue to be fixtured and clubs may, with AFL approval, “sell” their Band One home games interstate.

    Band 2: Two Rivalry Rounds

    Each club “contracts” two games against a rival team or teams (in addition to the game/s against their rival/s they will play in the Band 1 fixtures). Clubs with more than two mutually agreed traditional rivalries may spread Band 2 contracts over two seasons.

    Band 2 contracts will remain in place for six seasons.

    • Each rivalry contract is an allocated Band 2 game for both participating clubs.
    • It is assumed (but not required) that non-Victorian clubs will contract to play both Band 2 games against their cross-town rivals. Melbourne clubs may contract to play both their Band 2 games against one traditional opponent, or may split them between two rivals. As contracts can be agreed over two seasons, a club may contract to games with up to four rival clubs.
    • Where a club is unable or unwilling to contract two games in Band 2, the AFL will allocate games as additional Band 3 rounds according to the principles for those rounds.
    • Band 2 contracts remain in place for six seasons so clubs are discouraged from arranging rivalry fixtures on the basis of playing strength.
    • If, as assumed, there are three “derbies” per season in WA, SA, NSW and Queensland, it is likely the “third” derby would be the one in Band One, so that home game rights would alternate season by season (rather like the “old” WAFL fixture, where each club played the others three times per season).
    • Alternatively, the clubs or controlling State bodies will work out a way to have a third “neutral” derby.
    • No club will travel in those two rounds, giving all non-Victorian clubs an additional home state fixture per season.
    Band 3: Three Discretionary Rounds

    The three remaining rounds (plus any games not agreed to by rival clubs in Band 2) are allocated at the discretion of the AFL. Band 3 games must be allocated according to a number of principles, most importantly:
    a. All Band 3 games must be between teams that play only once in Bands 1 and 2; and
    b. Each team must travel interstate for Band 3 games at least once but no more than twice each year, and three times in each two-year period.
    c. Every club will play at least one game in each of the States each season.
    d. There should be at least one AFL game in each State each round.

    3. Other features

    A number of other fixed principles should reinforce the advantages of the fixture and further highlight its fairness and transparency, including:
    a. Teams traveling TO an interstate fixture to have at least a seven-day break, and those returning FROM an interstate fixture at least a six-day break.
    b. All teams be allotted at least two, and no more than three, Friday night games, including at least one, and no more than two, Friday night home games.
    c. There should be at least a seven-round gap between games between clubs.

    4. Summary outcome

    In summary, the proposed fixture results in the following outcomes:
    • Teams play each other one, two or three times per season.
    • The amount of travel is reduced, standardized and/or equalized. The gap between Victorian and non-Victorian clubs’ travel obligations is reduced:
    o Non-Victorian clubs will alternate between nine and ten travel games per season
    o All Victorian clubs will alternate between five and six travel games per season
    o Traveling teams will receive mandated breaks between games
    • Teams will host home games against all other teams at least once every two seasons.
    • Interstate supporters will see their team “live” at least once a year.

  3. Tim,

    you missed the most likely outcome.

    1) Collingwood will have the choice of which conference they play in.

    2) Their choice can change on a week to week basis, similar to the current playing rules.

    3) The Collingwood conference choice will only allow games to be played at the MCG on Friday nights or on ANZAC Days and Queen’s Birthday holidays.

    4) Teams will be added to the Collingwood conference after a week to week review co-ordinated by an independent Collingwood delegate.

    5) Poor performing teams or those weakened through injury or suspension only can, and will, be added to the Collingwood conference

    6) Well performing strong teams will be immediately removed from the Collingwood conference

    7) Any new team, no matter where they are based in Australia (or overseas), will be the only team in the Collingwood conference that year or any further years if the Collingwood independent delegate recommends.
    ie. In 2011 Gold Coast will travel to the MCG to play Collingwood every match of the season

    8) Option 7 will be used in 2012 when Western Sydney join in.

    9) Option 7 will be used when any other new team joins the AFL.

    10) Collingwood will have sole rights to a place in the grand Final every year

    11) Collingwood will have the option to pick which team, from any conference, it will play in the Grand Final. This option will be based on the recommendation of the Collingwood independent delegate

    12) If the Collingwood independent delegate deems there is no appropriate team for them to play in the Grand Final they will be declared premiers for that season.

  4. John Butler says

    Phantom, some folk who haven’t experienced the cosy warmth of your cave could be excused for thinking you a cynic. :)

    Before I ponder all these options, I think I need a Bex and a lie down.

  5. Danielle says

    love the propaganda!!


  6. “All AFL teams are equal. But some AFL teams are more equal than others.”

  7. Steve Healy says

    Good ideas Tim, im not sure about the conferences but i definitely want state of origin back.

    David Z, are you David Zaharakis?

  8. Ian Syson says

    ermm . . . why don’t they just get rid of 4 Melbourne teams? Just a thought.

  9. No Ian.
    Make “Conferences” of the other states. State-of-origin is a crock and real contests are within old battle lines.

  10. dave latham says

    I like the sound of your proposals Phantom.

    It’s tough being the most popular team, and with leadership comes responsibility. We’ve enjyed helping out the petty teams and throwing them the crumbs from the table, but its’ all wearing thin now.

    Melbourne can stop taking our Queen’s Birthday gate receipts and go and ask the true Queen lover’s at The Melbourne Club for a fistful of dollars to support their club.

    We love playing interstate so we’ll meet North at Carrara in a home game.
    We’ll play the Cats at Kardinia Park too.

    And no more media attention. All Pies fans stop watching our games because it only leads to enormous largesse in tv rights which in turn benefits our rivals.

    No more big games at the G for God’s sake. Let Hawthorn and St Kilda, with their consistently large crowds over many decades, play more games there – but be sure AFL to build another level on top. OH&S, we don’t want any crushings. We’ll go to more modest sized venues where they pay you @200k a pop from the…tv rights largesse.

    Keep those favourable rule changes coming too. Clement loved the earnest hands in the back change (all our favourites crowd out the Rules Committee) and the interchange rotations are of no value to us whatsoever.

  11. Straight back over the net Dave. All in good spirit.

    I wouldn’t mind some research on the relationship between popularity and success in the post war era.

    If an accepted popularity model is based directly the amount of players / members / supporters within any given organisation could the success criteria be centred around KPI’s relating directly to the propensity of body art within a targetted, specified or unspecified, sample of components of the organisation.

    It could be a useful resource in the Collingwood case.

    Cheers, Phantom.

  12. Dave Latham says

    You mean anyone with a tattoo is worth half a member and anyone who owns a pair of jodhpurs is worth three?

  13. That’s not exactly what I was inferring but I do like your style Dave.

    I would love the Pies to play a game at York Park in Tassie. They would be out and about and on display that day.

    Cheers, Phantom.

    I didn’t see many jodhpurs in the pokey room down at Catland on the Sunday arvo after the 07 GF. There was some very interesting examples of biodiversity though.

  14. Dave Latham says

    Geelong – crowded out with squatters and a sprinkling of Amish.

    Someone has to attend to the landed gentry out there I guess.

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