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Australian National Football Council

The Australian National Football Council (ANFC) was from 1906 to 1995 the national governing body for Australian football in Australia. The council consisted of delegates representing each of the national leagues of sport that controlled football in their states. The council owned the gaming laws and managed interstate administrative and football affairs. His function was replaced by the AFL commission.

Australian National Football Council
SportsAustralian rules football
mottoPopulo ludus populi
(The game of the people for the people)
Replaced byAFL commission
other namesAustralasian Football Council
Australian Football Council
National Football League
Australian National Football Council

The council went through several name changes during its existence and was also known at various times as: Australasian Football Council (1906–1919), Australian Football Council (1920-1927 and 1973-1975), National Football League (NFL) (1975-1989) and the National Australian Football Council (NAFC) (1989–1995).

Structure and purpose

Throughout its history, the ANFC has been the ultimate governing body for the sport of Australian regular football. In this role it had four main functions:

  • It owned the official laws of Australian football with the intent that the sport would be played under uniform rules across Australia. All rule changes were discussed and approved in the council, and all changes were binding on all affiliated bodies at national level (although exceptions known as "domestic rules" could be made with the approval of the council - for example, special attention was paid to amateur football permission on using an order-off rule to control gross play). [1]
  • It established and monitored the processes of clearance and transfer of interstate players. This included maintaining rules regarding qualifying residential areas for interstate permits, intervening in disputes between states, and ensuring enforcement of permit systems.
  • The aim was to develop and promote the game in markets where rugby football predominated, including Sydney, New South Wales, Queensland and the ACT. It did this by collecting levies from the leagues in which Australian football dominated and distributing these funds to the other markets for advertising and propaganda purposes, as well as organizing exhibition games.
  • It was responsible for organizing interstate games, including the triennial interstate carnivals.

The structure of the council mirrored that of most football leagues in Australia at the time: each affiliated full member league appointed a delegate (or two delegates for the first few years) to the council to act on its behalf in discussions and votes. The decision-making process followed by the Council consisted of delegates meeting, typically every one to three years, to discuss and vote on the proposed changes. All changes to on-field or off-field laws required to be passed by a supermajority vote - this was originally a three-quarters majority, then later became a double majority, which requires an overall simple majority and minimum number of the designated large states to vote for it. The council also elected an executive committee to handle the game's administrative affairs.

The full affiliated members of the council, which were the various state leagues such as the Victorian Football League and the South Australian National Football League, became the governing bodies governing football in their states. Smaller leagues in each state would join the controlling body and place all affiliated leagues in the country hierarchically under the influence of the ANFC.

The council maintained control by forbidding its affiliates to play games against unaffiliated entities without permission and threatened to expel any league, player or club that broke its rules from the council. This meant that leagues could be excluded if they played representative games against unaffiliated leagues or their clubs without permission. [2] It also meant that players who violated the ANFC's transfer rules by joining an unaffiliated league without authorization would be banned from the affiliated leagues. [3] All penalties imposed by the council were inherently valid only within the council's affiliated competitions, and nothing prevented a league or player from ignoring the council's rules and moving on in a disconnected system - and the Victorian Football Association gave much of it His story worked that way. However, due to the size of the council, the number of unaffiliated leagues and player options was small enough to encourage most competitions to abide by the council's rules and continue to be a member.


19th century

Australian football was first played in Melbourne, Victoria in 1858 and developed over the decades that followed. The game was expanded to other cities, but due to the great distances between cities in Australia, the game developed independently in each city. Up until the 1870s, football was supported by the participating clubs in every city or colony ad hoc administered before colony-level governing bodies were formed with the formation of the Victorian Football Association (VFA) and the South Australian Football Association (SAFA) in 1877 and the Tasmanian Football Association (TFA) in 1879.

The first attempt at national administration of the game came in 1883 with an informal inter-colonial football conference held in Melbourne on November 9th. With the growing desire for nationwide uniform rules to facilitate the intercolonial game and the development of the sport, invitations were sent to all major football clubs or leagues. The meeting was attended by delegates from Victoria, South Australia, Queensland and Tasmania. Delegates from New South Wales also traveled to Melbourne but missed the conference due to communication errors. New Zealand was also invited to send a delegate. After discussing the rule differences between the colonies at the time (including Tasmania's desire to have a crossbar on the goal post or South Australia's desire for arrears to be counted towards the final result of the Games), a single set of rules was agreed. The decisions were not binding, but were adhered to due to the collective wish of the delegates. [4] During the following decade, delegates from the various colonies or regions (e.g. North and South Tasmania were represented separately) met in most of November to make adjustments to the rules of the game and to make agreements that a based voting of the delegates present. [5] Western Australia, where Australian football did not play a prominent role until the mid to late 1880s, was not involved at this early stage.

In November 1892, the conference recommended the creation of a formal administrative body called the Australasian Football Council to make binding decisions. The council allegedly formed and continued to set rules. However, the legal status of this council was challenged in 1894 when the VFA, in an attempt to resolve a South Melbourne protest against the eligibility of Essendon player Robert Byers, concluded that the council had not been legally and procedurally established was. The VFA no longer recognized the advice and turned back to the rules of 1890. [6] Following a formal written notice from the VFA in 1895 that the existence of the council was not recognized, national administration of the game reverted to the informal process that had existed since 1883. [7]

Formation of the Australasian Football Council

The desire to restore a binding national governing body remained, and the Australasian Football Council was formally established in 1906. Its inaugural session was held on November 7, 1906 at the Port Phillip Hotel in Melbourne. The original structure of the council was that each state and New Zealand would have two delegates who would discuss and vote on matters. The decision to appoint two delegates was to allow states that had more than one major league to be represented by each separately, resulting in each being a governing body for a different region of their state. Several states could have followed this approach, but only Western Australia. The delegates were: [8]

Leagues that are not represented by delegates on the council would continue to fall under the influence of the council by uniting under the umbrella of their state oversight body. In particular, the VFA remained disconnected and refused to join the league that had withdrawn from the league ten years earlier. [2] Victoria's Con Hickey has been named inaugural president of the council. [10] Initially, it was decided that associations affiliated with the state oversight bodies would be charged a levy equal to 5% of their income to fund the activities of the council, including the cost of holding meetings, as well as propaganda campaigns and the development of school football in Queensland , New South Wales and New Zealand, all rugby football areas; [11] The level of the fees and resources has varied throughout the history of the Council. Changes to the laws or rules of the council required a three-quarters majority.

Early years

The souvenir program of the first interstate council carnival in 1908

Among its first assignments, the council initiated the first Interstate Carnival in Melbourne in 1908. Teams, representing each state and New Zealand, played multiple games over a two week period in August 1908, with Victoria emerging as the undefeated state. Considered a great success, interstate carnivals were held roughly every three years (except wartime) until the 1970s and were the major events in the field for which the council was directly responsible.

In 1911, the SAFL was threatened with expulsion from the council for arranging games with the unaffiliated VFA. The VFA and SAFL had an existing five-year agreement for annual intergovernmental games when the council was formed, and that agreement was allowed to stand but could not be extended without permission. [11] When the SAFL renewed the agreement in 1911, the council issued an ultimatum to terminate the agreement or to expel the SAFL from the council. [12] The SAFL agreed. [13]

The permanence of New Zealand's representation in the Council quickly became an issue. A New Zealand team had participated in the 1908 Carnival and was the strongest of the three rugby territories, but their commitment to the Code was waning. No New Zealand delegates attended council meetings after 1910, and when New Zealand did not disclose details of the use of its 1912 propaganda fund, no further funding was made available in 1913. [14] Motions to expel New Zealand from the council were made and rejected in 1910 [15] and 1914. [16] Ultimately, New Zealand withdrew from the council after World War I. [17]

In 1914, the council held a conference with the New South Wales Rugby League, which resulted in tentative plans for a mix of rugby league and Australian football known as Universal Football. It was believed that merging with the rugby league could be a more effective way of creating a nationally popular sport that incorporates the best features of Australian football. [18] [19] There were Progress was made, but the escalation of World War I in 1915 put all merger efforts on hold. Interest in the merger waned after the war and efforts were not revived. [20]

post war period

Victorias Chas Brownlow headed the council from 1919 until his death in 1924

In 1919 the council met for the first time in five years. At that meeting, the council voted to reduce representation for each state from two delegates to one and decided that it would be preferable for each state to have only one controlling body. [21] This meant that the Goldfields Football League lost its representation on the council and, in the bitter aftermath, temporarily severed its relationship with the WAFL by choosing to join the VFA rather than the WAFL, resulting in the annual West Australian state premiership being held in the not contested for the next two years. [22] With the reduction in delegates and the withdrawal of New Zealand, the council was reduced to six delegates and its name changed to the Australian Football Council. [17]

In 1927, Canberra was given a non-voting position on the council. The city of Canberra was only about fifteen years old, Australian football had only been played in Canberra for a few years, and the city council had originally intended Canberra to fall under the control of the New South Wales League. However, after discussion, the city council decided that the game had a chance of being successful in the new town and that it could be better developed there if it had its own governing body rather than a New South Wales body that deals with the rugby league in the city employs Sydney - so a non-voting delegate was approved. In a rebranding exercise, the council was renamed the Australian National Football Council, and (with the exception of the VFL) the governing bodies adopted names ending in "Australian National Football League" - resulting in the South Australian National Football League (SANFL). Western Australian National Football League (WANFL), Tasmanian Australian National Football League (TANFL) etc. [23]

In the 1920s and 1930s, the Council's ability to manage the game was hampered by conservative procedural rules, so some changes were made to streamline how it worked:

  • In response to the cost and time required to compile quorate meetings of intergovernmental delegates in a pre-commercial aviation era, the council decided in 1929 that motions could be accepted by rotating letter vote rather than sitting. [24]
  • In 1933 the voting rules were changed so that a motion could be accepted with a majority of 4 to 2, provided that at least two of the three main states (Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia) voted in favor. This had two advantages, as the large states - which made the main financial contributions to the council - were given more voting rights than the small states and the need for a three-quarters majority (which required at least 5 to 1 votes) was passed on. [25]

Schism Era (1940s)

The reluctance of superstar players like Ron Todd and Bob Pratt to play by different rules in the unaffiliated VFA shaped the priorities of the council in the 1940s.

In the late 1930s and 1940s, the ANFC faced the first serious challenge to its ability to maintain uniform rules and a nationwide approval and transfer system for players due to the fact that it had two unaffiliated bodies: the Australian Amateur Football Council (AAFC) - The was a similar structure to the ANFC, but which was responsible for amateur football - and for the VFA. The VFA took a bold move in 1938 by making important rule changes that legalized ball throwing and reintroducing border throwing, and by aggressively recruiting VFL players without clearances, resulting in a football schism in Victoria and Tasmania. The AAFC also played with different rules than the ANFC, although their differences were not as significant as in the VFA. This meant that three different varieties of Australian football were played in Victoria, and this lack of uniformity was filtered down to the level of development, with many schools adopting the rules of the VFA as a preference and others adopting the amateur rules due to their close association with the amateur football clubs of their old ones Boys . This made it increasingly difficult to exercise the ANFC's national administrative role, especially as the schism centered on the core state of sport, Victoria.

Ending this schism was the ANFC's priority in the 1940s [26] [27], and in 1949 the matter was resolved by the enlargement of the council. The AAFC received a full voting delegate on the council [28], and the VFA received a non-voting delegate - the latter due to the Council's reluctance to have separate oversight bodies in the same state. [29] This put all bodies under the same rules, and it brought the VFA into the national transfer system and ended the poaching of VFL players by the VFA and vice versa . Canberra, where the game had made great strides over the past few decades, was also upgraded from a non-voting delegate to a voting delegate in 1949. [30] and the constitution was amended to allow a simple majority vote of the eight voting delegates, provided that at least four of the five main delegates (Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia, Tasmania and AAFC) voted favors. [31]

During this time, the ANFC continued to improve efficiency in 1947 with the establishment of a standing committee. The three-member committee, which included Melbourne delegates from Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia, was not empowered to make amendments, but had the power to carry out administrative matters that previously required full council approval, such as the allocation of propaganda funds. [32] [33]

1950s and 1960s

A voting delegate was assigned to the VFA in 1953, bringing the council to nine voting delegates. [34] However, the VFA's time in the council was short-lived after a dispute over domestic clearance in Victoria: in 1965 the VFA stopped recognizing VFL clearances in retaliation for two takeovers of the VFA club premises by VFL clubs (St. Kilda in Moorabbin) and North Melbourne in Coburg); [35] In 1967 the VFL stopped recognizing VFA approvals in retaliation for the introduction of excessive transfer fees for their players by the VFA. [36] The ANFC was initially unable to end the war of evacuation as it was only responsible for interstate evictions. Therefore, before the 1969 season, the council passed an amendment to the regulations to force two Victorian bodies to re-recognize the mutual approvals. [37] The VFA refused to comply, and after continuing to use VFL players without clearances, it was provisionally suspended by the ANFC in 1969 [38] and officially excluded in March 1970. [39]

National Football League era and the Night Series

Norwood Oval, then Australia's premier night football venue (shown here during the day), was the focus of the NFL's national club competition.

In 1975 the council changed its name to the National Football League (NFL) [40] and embarked on an ambitious plan in 1976 with the creation of the NFL Night Series. The Night Series was a new competition that coincided with the Premiership seasons. SANFL and WANFL were invited from twelve VFL clubs based on their final positions from the previous year. The event was played primarily on Tuesday nights with night games at the Norwood Oval in Adelaide, the country's premier football stadium at the time. The event was the first fully national club competition in Australian football. and with all the games being broadcast live in color on Channel 9, the event opened up unprecedented revenue streams from television rights and sponsorship opportunities for the sport. [41]

The NFL had planned to expand the competition with twelve teams from 1976 to a larger competition with additional teams from the three major leagues and representative teams from the small states in 1977. [41] In November 1976, however, the VFL withdrew from the NFL competition after secretly arranging television and sponsorship deals for his own rival Night Series, which was to be stationed in VFL Park in Melbourne, where light poles were erected. [42] [43] This act of open rejection of the NFL met with anger in other states and resulted in the SANFL not playing any more games against the VFL in the next few years (clubs from both states had often faced practice games in previous years). [44] In order to maintain the Victorian representation in their Night Series, which was important to their television businesses, the NFL invited the best VFA clubs to compete, although the VFA was still not affiliated with the NFL, [45] and for three years from 1977 to 1979, the NFL and VFL ran their rival Night Series separately.

The VFL formed its own limited liability company called Australian Football Championships Pty Ltd in 1978 to operate its Night Series and offered stakes to the other state leagues to completely replace the NFL's Night Series. [46] The WAFL clubs were eliminated from the VFL Night Series in 1979, and the SANFL clubs switched in 1980, ending the NFL Night Series. This power play in connection with the election of VFL President Dr. Allen Aylett, who was heavily involved in the rival night series, in the NFL presidency allowed the VFL to occupy a stronger position in national football administration.

Final Years (1980s and 1990s)

In 1981, the Northern Territory League was admitted to the NFL as a full voting member, [47] and in 1987 the VFA was re-admitted as a game but non-voting member of the NFL, [48] with the aim of possibly becoming the controlling body in Victoria when the VFL is expanded into a national league. [49]

In 1988 the nine-member council, which had to pass rule changes by majority vote, was streamlined by the establishment of a semi-independent five-member commission for rule changes. Such a shift was typical of many football associations in the 1980s, which replaced delegated boards of directors with independent commissions to both streamline and remove self-interest from decision-making. [50] The new rules commission consisted of two VFL delegates, a SANFL delegate, an AAFC delegate and the NFL president. [51]

As the football landscape changed in the 1980s, the usefulness and relevance of the NFL decreased. [52] The move of the VFL's South Melbourne Football Club to Sydney to become the Sydney Swans in 1982 gave the VFL a strong influence in New South Wales and began to open recruitment zones and thus controls for player transfers in New South Wales and the United States seek ACT undermines the traditional notion of state inspection bodies. [53] The formation of Perth's West Coast Eagles and Queensland's Brisbane Bears in the VFL in 1987, and finally the Adelaide Crows in 1991, gave the VFL (renamed the Australian Football League (AFL) in 1990) yet another national influence. Silvio Foschini's trade restriction in 1983, the introduction of the VFL draft in 1986, the increasing professionalism and consolidation of the AFL as a top-level competition in all Australian states gradually made much of the NFL's historic interstate player transfer system obsolete. [54] By the late 1980s, the VFL was as comfortably established as the outstanding national competition and so completely independent that the NFL was no longer able to exercise meaningful control over it. [55] The NFL was renamed the National Australian Football Council in 1989, [56] then finally dissolved in 1995. [57] The AFL Commission, which was founded in 1985 (as the VFL Commission) and took full administrative control of the AFL, in 1993 he took over the role of the national governing body of sport. [58]

Pot story

1906The Australasian Football Council was formed and consists of fourteen delegates: two each from Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia (one from Perth and one from the Goldfields), Tasmania, New South Wales, Queensland and New Zealand. All changes require a three-quarters majority.
1913Propaganda payments to New Zealand have ceased.
1919New Zealand withdrew from the council. The representation of each state was reduced from two delegates to one, leaving six delegates: VFL, SAFL, WAFL, TFL, NSWFL and QFL. Western Australian Goldfields representation excluded. The name was changed to Australian Football Council.
1927The name was changed to Australian National Football Council. Canberra has appointed a non-voting delegate to the council.
1929A provision has been introduced to allow applications to be forwarded by rotating letters so that a quorate meeting is not required.
1933A provision has been introduced that changes should be approved by a simple majority if at least two of the three main states (Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia) vote in favor.
1947Standing committee based in Melbourne to expedite administrative matters.
1949Full-voting delegate to Canberra and the Australian Amateur Football Council (AAFC) and one non-voting delegate to the Victorian Football Association. Changes can now be approved by a simple majority, provided that at least four of the five main delegates (Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia, Tasmania and AAFC) vote in favor.
1953VFA receives a delegate with full voting rights.
1970VFA excluded from the council.
1973The name was changed back to Australian Football Council.
1975The name was changed to National Football League.
1981Northern Territory receives a fully voting delegate.
1987VFA again admitted as a playing member of the council.
1988A five-member rules committee established and replaced the entire council to streamline changes to the rules.
1989The name was changed to National Australian Football Council.
1995The council was dissolved and replaced by the AFL commission.

Notable administrators

The following men were President of the Council during its existence: