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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    The Crowd Says (98)

    • October 25th 2011 @ 6:42am
      Lachlan said | October 25th 2011 @ 6:42am | ! Report

      Central Coast is actually ranked as the 9th biggest city, with 300,000 and newcastle only has 300,000.

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      • October 25th 2011 @ 9:48am
        me, I like football said | October 25th 2011 @ 9:48am | ! Report

        Central Coast is part of Sydney

        • October 25th 2011 @ 9:51am
          Brett McKay said | October 25th 2011 @ 9:51am | ! Report

          Me, the residents of the Central Coast will tan your hide for casting such aspertions!!

          • October 25th 2011 @ 9:54am
            me, I like football said | October 25th 2011 @ 9:54am | ! Report

            Don’t blame me I’m just going off the ABS

            • Roar Guru

              October 25th 2011 @ 10:08am
              Lachlan said | October 25th 2011 @ 10:08am | ! Report

              Central Coast is most definetly not apart of Sydney.

              • October 25th 2011 @ 12:26pm
                me, I like football said | October 25th 2011 @ 12:26pm | ! Report

                It is acording to the ABS where all census information is collated for the Government

          • October 25th 2011 @ 10:42am
            voodoo people said | October 25th 2011 @ 10:42am | ! Report

            As far as TV ratings are concerned it is in Sydney metro – for ratings and advertisers the Central Coast IS part of Sydney, so any Gosford based team will be competing with Sydney clubs for exposure, sponsors and fans.

            Gosford is a niche market within Greater Sydney, unlike Newcastle and Wollongong which are seperate cities outright.

            • Roar Guru

              October 25th 2011 @ 5:52pm
              Lachlan said | October 25th 2011 @ 5:52pm | ! Report

              Well i guess we can count Gold Coast as apart of Brisbane and Geelong as apart of Melbourne then.

              • October 27th 2011 @ 4:18pm
                voodoo people said | October 27th 2011 @ 4:18pm | ! Report

                In terms of TV rights, sponsorship and related revenue (ie the things that matter to sports administrators), yes.

      • October 31st 2011 @ 12:54am
        josh said | October 31st 2011 @ 12:54am | ! Report

        Tasmania will be the next franchise, its inevitable and it will be a state team because thats just logical compared to a hobart fc for example but the 2nd and last to round out a 20 team comp should really be considered in new zealnd, its 6.5 million heaps of expats, loads of cricket ground suitable for upgrades, both goverments would surely get behind it and it really wont take long for a solid support to dominaqte the country and create a us v aussies attitude.

        • October 31st 2011 @ 4:17pm
          kiwidave said | October 31st 2011 @ 4:17pm | ! Report

          4.4 million, most of whom couldn’t tell you how many players there are in an AFL team.

          • December 25th 2011 @ 12:03am
            boltonguy said | December 25th 2011 @ 12:03am | ! Report

            No, this is soewhat offensive. It is our game. If they really want a team then they can start up thier own national competition. We need to stop giving them teams in our leagues. The Warriors play Rugby League, one of there favourite sports, so why would there not be enough support for there own national rugby league equivalent, and they shouldn’t be allowed to sing there national anthem if one of their teams makes the final as it is not the kiwi national team playing, a few of them are even Australian. I dont mind that they have teams in our leagues like the warriors and the pheniox but this is our sacred sport as to say. Australian based teams must be a priority.

    • Roar Guru

      October 25th 2011 @ 8:19am
      The Cattery said | October 25th 2011 @ 8:19am | ! Report

      GWS haven’t even entered the comp yet, so a bit speculative to be worrying about further expansion.

      The AFL was a 16 team comp from 1995 to 2010, that’s 16 seasons – expect it to remain an 18 team comp for around the same amount of time, at a minimum.

      It’s also worth noting that Port entered the comp in 1997, and it remained a 16 team comp because of the merger between Fitzroy and the Bears.

      In other words, the AFL might remain an 18 team comp for many years to come, with the only change occurring due to relocation, or if another merger along the lines of Fitzroy and the Bears makes an opening.

      But history shows that clubs have to be in absolute dire straits, and completely out of options before something like that can happen, and even then, more often than not, members and fans will take action to ensure no extreme action is necessary.

      By the way, a tassie team would sell 15,000 memberships in a microsecond.

      The AFL can only consider looking beyond 18 teams in the future if it’s prepared to move towards a true conference system, similar to the NFL – but I really doubt we have the population to support such a system, and you’d think it would need something like 24 teams to make it viable – far too difficult, almost impossible.

      • October 25th 2011 @ 9:35am
        Football United said | October 25th 2011 @ 9:35am | ! Report

        why bother with conference system? afl is a few teams off the point where they could play each team once while also having enough games in a season, conference system would destroy any idea of parity again in the afl.

        • Roar Guru

          October 25th 2011 @ 9:45am
          The Cattery said | October 25th 2011 @ 9:45am | ! Report

          Yes and no.

          You’d need 22 teams to have 21 rounds with each team playing each other once, still one short of the 22 rounds per annum the comp has had now for 45 seasons.

          Excluding the pre-season, the AFL has exactly 27 weeks to play out its season, and it will endevour to use up every single one of those 27 weeks every single time – it’s pointless anyone suggesting that the AFL should use less than the 27 weeks – it will never, ever happen.

          The TV rights depend on using up those 27 weeks, and almost just as importantly, you need sufficient games to pay for the MCG and Etihad – so you can forget now about a shortening of the season.

          So – you need 22 teams for a 21 round season – seriously, who wants a ladder with 22 teams in it??

          Now I’m not advocating a conference system, indeed, I said it would be very, very difficult – but hypothesising a bit, if 50 years down the track the AFL could support 24 teams, say, then you are probably better off having four conferences of six teams apiece – for a host of reasons – that format is much better than having 22 teams in one single league.

          • October 25th 2011 @ 9:55am
            me, I like football said | October 25th 2011 @ 9:55am | ! Report

            If it was to come to it 18+ teams I would prefer 2 divisions with promotion and relegation than conferences

            • Roar Guru

              October 26th 2011 @ 7:38pm
              Lachlan said | October 26th 2011 @ 7:38pm | ! Report

              i dont particularly like the cnference system, id prefer the promotion/relegation system, but not sure how we could make it work. The AFL will, in my opinion, have a reserve league in the coming years probably after these tv rights, which would make it even harder for the 2nd tier competitions be sim ilar to the AFL level. And we would have to change the way the drafting systems work, including trading and rookie periods. If one were to happen the conference system would slot in perfectly with the AFL competition since its very similar to the NFL, who have the draft, etc. whereas the soccer league in england dont have a draft system or a salary cap. To be honest the AFL competition is so much better run than any other competition, of any sport, in the world.

              Why change it to such a degree.

              • September 5th 2013 @ 8:45am
                Weekes said | September 5th 2013 @ 8:45am | ! Report

                Promotion/Relegation for two leagues could be steadily introduced over ten – fifteen years and would work well and could even help solve financial problems with some clubs.

                Two leagues of 12 with all clubs in a league playing the other twice home/away. That is 22 rounds. Then he grand final winner of the lower league replaces he lowest placed club in the higher division eliminating the throwing of matches for draft picks.

                You would split the draft pool into two separate pools; A and B. The better players would be in pool A. Then simultaneous drafts would take place so that the lowest clubs in each league would get the best picks as in the present system with the Premiership picking from pool A and the first division from pool B.

                Most importantly the licence fee would be cheaper for the second division which would help out newer or smaller clubs or those with financial problems. Also the AFL could relegate a club unable to make the higher licence payment instead of the last place club and has the option of using relegation as a penalty for severe breach of the rules. (Essendon would probably have received that penalty).

                It could work if instituted carefully over time. Start off with a separate league of smaller sides, perhaps a mixture of new clubs and ex-state sides. Then after five or so years take the current AFL clubs with the worst financial problems and place them in the league so that they profit over the decrease in their licence. Then after several years link the leagues.

          • Roar Guru

            October 25th 2011 @ 10:06am
            The Cattery said | October 25th 2011 @ 10:06am | ! Report

            And here is my 24 team, four conference structure for the year 2096, celebrating 200 seasons of the VFL/AFL:

            Western Conference:
            West Coast
            Fremantle
            Mandurah
            Adelaide
            Port Adelaide
            Darwin

            North-East Conference:
            Brisbane
            Gold Coast
            Cairns
            Sydney
            GWS
            Newcastle

            South-East Conference:
            Canberra
            Albury-Wodonga
            Ballarat
            Hobart
            Geelong
            Hawthorn

            Metropolitan Conference:
            Collingwood
            Richmond
            Melbourne
            Essendon
            Carlton
            St Kilda

            • October 25th 2011 @ 2:55pm
              Brett McKay said | October 25th 2011 @ 2:55pm | ! Report

              I’ll bite Catters – what have you done with North and the Bullies (aren’t they your team?!?) and are you allowed in Launceston any more??

              • Roar Guru

                October 25th 2011 @ 2:59pm
                The Cattery said | October 25th 2011 @ 2:59pm | ! Report

                Gone (maybe to Hobart) and gone (somewhere) and Hawks are probably still playing 4 games in Lonnie.

            • December 25th 2011 @ 12:13am
              boltonguy said | December 25th 2011 @ 12:13am | ! Report

              I lke it but I dont think that cities like mandurah would be able to compete in sheer numbers of support when you compare it to the market of perth and such. I think that yes it would work but it would have to be a town love affair with the team. and I think a team in Bendigo is much more viable then a team in Albry-Wodonga.

    • October 25th 2011 @ 8:37am
      Wilbur said | October 25th 2011 @ 8:37am | ! Report

      Well researched!! GWS already playing 3 games a year (+1 preseason) for next ten years.

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    • October 25th 2011 @ 9:53am
      Brett McKay said | October 25th 2011 @ 9:53am | ! Report

      Cairns and Darwin perhaps, down the track, and well after Tassie, but I can’t see Newcastle getting an AFL team in my lifetime…

      • October 25th 2011 @ 9:59am
        me, I like football said | October 25th 2011 @ 9:59am | ! Report

        agreed

      • October 25th 2011 @ 10:47am
        stabpass said | October 25th 2011 @ 10:47am | ! Report

        Agreed about Newcastle, interesting that they have changed their junior football from saturday to sunday, in order to attract kids playing that play other codes on saturday, and as a result have had some good growth this year, the central coast juniors have from next year decided to do the same thing.

        Also of interest around the Central Coast is that renowned rugby school Knox, entered a couple of junior teams in the CC juniors this season.

        • Roar Guru

          October 25th 2011 @ 2:00pm
          Lachlan said | October 25th 2011 @ 2:00pm | ! Report

          Central Coast are now, like you said, changing from Saturday to Sunday, along with Sydney and Newcastle, i think a great decision made by my father, the president 🙂

          • October 25th 2011 @ 3:44pm
            stabpass said | October 25th 2011 @ 3:44pm | ! Report

            Very interesting, as one of the presidents men !, what more can you tell us about the CC, how is it all going there, beautiful part of the world.

            I have heard that at senior level, clubs may be joining the Sydney comp, or was that under 18’s

            • Roar Guru

              October 25th 2011 @ 6:00pm
              Lachlan said | October 25th 2011 @ 6:00pm | ! Report

              Yeah its a great part of the world and footy is growing year by year.

              There is almost always talk of the central coast/newcastle having a combined team in the sydney premier division and u18’s competitions, but with the addition of the NEAFL this year, we seem to look more likely than ever in getting a team. I would personally back it any day of the week, but there are a few issues, but still should happen. A little while ago there was a team, before my time, ‘the hunters’ who won the premier division outright in a one-off year.

              Anyway footy’s growing, juniors partically. Woy Woy are always trying to get a first grade team and now with the new Bateau Bay ground and facilities they are now pushing for respective teams. Killarney Vale (who i play for) and Terrigal-Avoca have been the strongest in all 3 senior grades in the past 5 or so years, Gosford and Wyong have always been around the mark.

              • October 25th 2011 @ 11:45pm
                TJ said | October 25th 2011 @ 11:45pm | ! Report

                Don’t forget the CC have produced established AFL stars in the McVeigh brothers that the youngsters can look up at and see that it is possible to make it to the highest level despite any barriers playing AFL in the CC that might exist.

              • Roar Guru

                October 26th 2011 @ 7:53pm
                Lachlan said | October 26th 2011 @ 7:53pm | ! Report

                Absolutely the McViegh Brothers played for the Killarney Vale Bombers at junior and i think only mark at senior level, then they moved on to Sydney to play for Pennant Hills, because of the much stronger copmp at the time. Ive met the boys on numerous different occasions, their families are living up here and they always come back at christmas time. Also we’ve produced a lot of partential players that just quite couldn’t make it to the big time. Jarad Crouch is also a local and Paul Bevan actually is from my school at Gosford.

    • October 25th 2011 @ 9:56am
      Chris said | October 25th 2011 @ 9:56am | ! Report

      I doubt there will be any expansion for the next 5-10 years – unless, as has been pointed out already, something happens to one or more existing teams. Gold Coast and GWS will take that long to get bedded down properly.

      And while I agree that there are too many teams in Melbourne, I can’t see the AFL reducing this figure in the foreseeable future – if only for the reason that they are contractually obliged to play a certain number of games at Etihad and the MCG. Reduce the number of Melbourne teams and the AFl will be in breach of those contracts.

      • October 25th 2011 @ 10:32am
        JamesP said | October 25th 2011 @ 10:32am | ! Report

        The number of games contractually required to be played at Etihad is about 46 or 44 (I know the AFL can schedule I think 2 less games there in 2012 due to Etihad hosting one final this year).

        I also think I read somewhere that the number will reduce to 40 games in a few years time. But why would North Melbourne want to play at the MCG – its tiny crowds already look bad enough at Etihad let alone a ground twice the size.

        Yes, in 2025 the AFL will own Etihad and one could mount an argument that if North can hold out till then, it will be OK. The question is…does the AFL want to keep North in Melbourne? They would be an ideal candidate to re-locate to Tasmania long term and play some games in Melbourne where they would still get great support a la the Swans and the Lions

        • October 25th 2011 @ 11:35am
          stabpass said | October 25th 2011 @ 11:35am | ! Report

          If Nth are pinning their survival on the AFL owning Etihad, then IMO they are living in a dream, by 2025 the stadium will probably need a overhaul and the AFL will just drip feed them, as they do now, they will probably always struggle, as a result of their small supporter base due to their geographic position, and late admittance to the league.

          But most football clubs struggle from season to season, it’s just the way it is, there are no magic fixes, thats why boards change all the time, as they are worn down by the constant survival modes they are in.

    • October 25th 2011 @ 10:02am
      Justin said | October 25th 2011 @ 10:02am | ! Report

      Its a massive risk (bigger than GC and GWS) to take a team to a location with under 1m people that are outside the AFL heartlands… The GC will be interesting to watch over the next 5-10 years, I dont think it will work, there is so much sport for a small population. It may be 600k but that covers a large geographic area…

      • October 25th 2011 @ 10:30am
        stabpass said | October 25th 2011 @ 10:30am | ! Report

        GCFC have a very good stadium deal, sort of like Geelongs, St Kilda for EX make very little money off 35,000 crowds at Docklands, whereas GC will make very good money off 20,000.

        AF fans will travel, the GC is a great weekend away, as well as a largish base of AF fans who live on the GC, i would be more concerned about some Melbourne teams before the GC.

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