Where should the AFL expand to next?

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Western Sydney is the latest location to be verified by the AFL as a new expansion market. But where will the AFL go next?

And what will the implications mean for the current competition. Below is a breakdown of the top 20 cities in Australia that have/don’t have AFL teams sorted by population:

1. Sydney, NSW – 4.5 million – two AFL teams.
2. Melbourne, VIC – 4 million -nine AFL teams
3. Brisbane, QLD – 2 million – one AFL team.
4. Perth, WA – 1.7 million – two AFL teams.
5. Adelaide, SA – 1.2 million – two AFL teams.
6. Gold Coast, QLD – 600k – one AFL team.
7. Newcastle, NSW – 500k – zero AFL teams.
8. Canberra, ACT – 400k – zero AFL teams.
9. Wollongong, NSW – 300k – zero AFL teams.
10. Sunshine Coast, QLD – 250k – zero AFL teams.
11. Hobart, TAS – 215k – zero AFL teams.
12. Geelong, VIC – 180k – one AFL team.
13. Townsville, QLD – 170k – zero AFL teams.
14. Cairns, QLD – 150k – zero AFL teams.
15. Toowoomba, QLD – 130k – zero AFL teams.
16. Darwin, NT – 120k – zero AFL teams.
17. Launceston, TAS – 105k – zero AFL teams.
18. Albury, VIC/NSW – 105k – zero AFL teams.
19. Ballarat, VIC – 96k – zero AFL teams.
20. Bendigo, VIC – 92k – zero AFL teams.

By looking at those statistics you can dissect that the AFL has a presence in the top six populated regions of Australia, which is an impressive feat for a competition run solely in Victoria 30 years ago.

Purely looking at those statistics also suggests the AFL’s next move should be either into North Queensland or Central NSW, with the possibility of NSW clubs sharing games in Canberra.

The point of interest that should be taken from these statistics is whether Tasmania deserves an AFL team of their own and why.

North Melbourne has agreed to play two of their eleven homes in 2012 at Bellerive Oval in Hobart for the sole reason of financial gain. Sadly for Tasmanian footy fans, this story is all too familiar across Australia as the ‘travelling Kangaroos’ have attempted this before in Sydney, Canberra and the Gold Coast with none resulting in relocation.

A positive to take from North Melbourne playing Hobart is the simple fact that following North’s departure from Sydney and the Gold Coast, both cities gained AFL teams within five years of the Kangaroos leaving.

This is where it starts to get tricky for North Melbourne; if Tasmania are granted an AFL license sometime in the near future where does North continue to gain money? The Demons have set themselves up in Darwin while Richmond have the monopoly over North Queensland.

Do the Kangaroos move back to Canberra? Do they attempt to set up a presence in central NSW? You would think the Giants and the Swans would have first preference over those areas anyway.

The simple fact of the matter is Melbourne is not strong enough to justify nine teams in a national competition and the sooner Victorian clubs realise this, the sooner they can avoid a Fitzroy situation where the club is virtually non-existent now.

Bellerive Oval is where North Melbourne will play home games for the next few years, and a quick assessment of the grounds will show it is not a extremely impressive venue. Bellerive only seats 16,000 people at the moment, which is no where near enough to justify an AFL being based there.

It would seem an AFL minimum seating capacity for a team based in said city would be 25,000 with both Metricon (Gold Coast) and Skoda (Greater Western Sydney) Stadiums holding that amount respectively. From this information we can set a benchmark of events that must occur to ensure Tasmania get a team.

The people behind the Tasmanian bid must secure funding for an upgrade to either York Park or Bellerive Oval, the team will almost certainly have to spend one year in the VFL before joining the AFL and will probably need to sign up at least 15,000 members before round 1 of their first season.

Teams in Cairns, Darwin, Canberra and Newcastle to follow after the introduction of a Tasmanian team.

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