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Timeline of the Nationalisation of Football part 2 - From VFL to AFL

Roar Guru
22nd October, 2015
1250 Reads

Here continues my series of the timeline of the nationalisation of the VFL to the AFL.

You can read Part 1 here.

1985. February 9. Geofrrey Edelston tables an offer to buy the Sydney Swans for $3 million up front and another $10 million over the next decade

1985 – April 3. The VFL approves the privatisation of the Swans, announcing that they have two bidders – Basil Sellars and Geoffrey Edelston.

1985 – July 1. Geoffrey Edelston wins the Sydney license. He sets up a company called Powerplay to run the Swans. By September the club was effectively owned by Westeq.

1985 – October 24. In what is seen as a stern government warning to club administrators about their legal responsibilities, the attorneygeneral, Mr (Jim) Kennan, wrote to seven clubs on 24 October asking them to supply details by the end of November of their financial accounts, and declare that their directors had not breached the Companies Code.

1985 – October. The League adopts the Blue Report – “VFL Football: Establishing the Basis for Future Success” – which said in part – The underlying causes of the difficulties of the last few years are largely external to the game itself and to its management. In fact, if anyone were to be held “responsible” for the problems of the competition, there would be two culprits, the first being the changing activity patterns in society; the second being the inevitable consequences of change from a near-amateur to a near-professional competition … The current focus on the game itself (violence, evenness, facilities, prices) or its management (club and VFL competence) are distractions from much more fundamental problems which need to be addressed”

1985 – December. All clubs sign license agreements with the league

1985 – December 31. Aylett says that Fitzroy could merge with Melbourne.


1986 – WAFL Presidents vote 6-2 for joining the VFL. Only East Fremantle and Swan Districts vote against. (Headliners – Birth of the West Coast Eagles)

1986 – April 17. Collingwood books a 2.9 million loss, president is fired. Richmond, Fitzroy and Footscray mentioned as having financial problems.

1986 – June 26. Melbourne and Fitzroy are reported in merger talks.

1986 – July 1. VFL Commissioner reported in talks with consortium over possible team in Queensland

1986 – July 4. St Kilda and Fitzroy are reported as being in merger talks.

1986 – July 16. Melbourne and North Melbourne in talks over possible merger at the suggestion of the VFL.

1986 – July 29. Kevin Bartlett writes that the national league wont get off the ground.

1986 – Fitzroy board approves an in principle move to Brisbane 5-3. It was later declared a “straw vote”.


1986 – August 5. Melbourne calls of merger talks with Fitzroy.

1986 – August 5. The VFL decides not to adopt rationalistion and announces it will take 12 teams into its proposed national competition in 1987.

1986 – August 7. SA and WA say they will reconsider joining the national competition after the VFL voted to retain all 12 clubs in the league. WA and SA had been working under the belief that there were be some rationalisation and the league would be composed of 12 clubs and not 14.

1986 – August 8. the Victorian commissioner for corporate affairs, Gordon Lewis, reads the riot act: the 11 Victoria-based VFL clubs had the same responsibility as any other trading entity—they had to be solvent.

1986 – August 11. SANFL Directors unanimously vote against joining the VFL in
1987, citing a need for rationalisation of the Victorian clubs, and saying that the financial equation didnt work after being required to pay a 4 million license fee by the VFL.

1986 – August 12. Sportsplay proposes a 10 team “kerry packer” style competition which is met with widespread condemnation.

1986 – August 29. The VFL announces a 23 month moratorium on recruiting from Western Australia until October 1, 1988. The new WA side will be able to recruit up to 6 players with WAFL experience from Victoria or South Australia – and no more than one from any club. Another list of 30 players from the WAFL had to be presented by November 1 with no more than 5 players taken from any one WAFL club. This was made more difficult by the recruitment during the year of 17 players from the WAFL by Victorian clubs.

1986 – September. Hecron offer 2.6 million to take control of Fitzroy. The Commission demands the same 4 million license fee that the new clubs would be paying.


1986 – October 1. VFL Board of Directors approves teams from Western Australia and Queensland to join the VFL in 1987. Hawthorn, Collingwood, Melbourne and Essendon vote against, but all other clubs vote for. Fitzroy initially opposed, but Leon Wiegard is convinced by the dollar signs drawn by the commission. West Coast have a 5 year exclusive period attached.

1986 – October 30. The new WA club is announced as the West Coast Eagles.

1986 – The WAFL sells its sublicense to Indian Pacific Limited for $5.6million, making a 1.6 million profit. IPL also had the right 50% of any shares offered in a second team. The new clubs would have to pay their own air fares, but could only use the VFLs airline partner.

1986 – October 1. VFL board of directors rejects Hecrons proposed ownership stake in Fitzroy.

1986 – October 1. Richmond propose to play 11 games a year in Brisbane.

1986 – October 4. Perth clothing millionare Allister Norwood withdraws from the bidding for a Queensland side.

1986 – October 8. A syndicate headed by Actor Paul Cronin and the QAFL wins the right to field a new team in Brisbane.

1986 – October 20. The VFL meets with the SANFLs Bob Lee and Leigh Whicker to discuss a composite team, or relocating a Victorian club.


1986 – October 30. VFL Commission notes with concern that Skase intended to base the Bears in Carrara. The league specified that this cold only be a temporary arrangement.

1987 – East and South Fremantle apparently lauched a joint bid for a VFL team to enter in 1990.

1987 – February 18. The VFL annual report reveals that without the funds from the two new licenses, the VFL clubs would have lost a combined 3 million. They have no facilities for training, and the change rooms were basically a van.

1987 – March 11. The VFL Board of Directors recieves a proposal for a team in New Zealand

1987 – April 21. ACT announces its seeking a team in Canberra by 1988.

1987 – September 18. ACT supporters announce plan to lobby VFL clubs to get around Commission opposition to an ACT club entering the VFL. The ACT proposal appeared aimed at Fitzroy including paying off a relocated clubs debts and retain its traditional name, logo and jumper.

1987 – October 2. A proposal was forwarded to the League by a Western Australian entrepreneur, which called for the re-location of an existing VFL team to Los Angeles and that such team be known as the Los Angeles Crocodiles.

1987 – IPL requires bailing out. A rescue package of $5 million was hastily organised, with five people putting in $1 million each: Neil Hamilton, Colless, McHenry, Mark Hohnen and Robert Armstrong.


1987 – December. Richmond posts a loss of 1.4 million and required league assistance to pay bills over Christmas. The league considered appointing an administrator, but instead sent the leagues finance supervisor to the club. Richmond, St Kilda and North Melbourne all request advances on their 1988 disbursements.

1988 – May 7. The AFL buys remaining shares in Sydney from Powerplay and becomes owner of the Swans.

1988 – July 11. The VFL announces a reduction in transfer fees for interstate and country recruits. Minimum payments will now pay a maximum of $27,500 per player. Clearance fees were abolished.

1988 – December 13. A Mike Willesee led consortium takes over the Sydney Swans.

1989 -February 2. Ross Oakley announces talks to commence with the SANFL over an SA VFL license.

1989 – February 21. The VFL announces an all time high revenue of 25 million. Carlton, Collingwood, Geelong, Fitzroy, Hawthorn and Melbourne all make a profit. Essendon, Footscray, North Melbourne and St Kilda all make losses exceeding $200,000.

1989 – The Bulldogs were insolvent and close to being placed in adminstration, having lost 3.9 million

1989 – October 3. The VFL Board of Directors was advised that an agreement had been reached between Footscray and Fitzroy. “Mr Oakley expressed the commission’s view that the Footscray Football Club Limited was currently insolvent and by continuing to trade and incur debt, the directors were, in the commission’s view, in breach of Section 556 of the Companies Code and if this situation was allowed to continue, then directors could be exposed to convictions, resulting in personal fines and/or jail sentences as well as ultimately becoming responsible on a personal basis for the club’s liabilities”

1989 – October 3. The Fitzroy Bulldogs is announced at 5pm The new club would be debt free, with the accumulated deficits of both Fitzroy and Footscray paid out by redeploying the allocations from the League that would otherwise have gone to Footscray. The Bulldogs would play in Fitzroy’s colours with a Bulldog symbol. The new team would be allowed to exceed the salary cap for two years until a new playing list bedded down that would be drawn from the 125 players at both clubs. The team would train at the Western Oval and play its home games at Princes Park, and the new coach would be Rod Austin.

1989 – October 6. The Save the Dogs group takes the VFL to the Supreme Court.

1989 – October 7. Footscray is given a three week reprieve by the VFL Commission. Collingwood offers to tip in money if they got got close to meeting the required amount, in return for being given Tony McGuiness.

1989 – October 11. The Fight for Football Campaign puts forward a plan that would see each state competition play a 20 round season, followed by a 10 week superleague season featuring amalgamated clubs from each state. The idea was reported to have the strong support of the SANFL.

1989 – October 22. Richmond hold a rally to raise funds to prevent further merger talk.

1989 – October 22. Footscray was given back its license. Leon Wiegard claims that he wasnt told anything about it until he saw it in the media.

1989 – November. Brisbane is effectively Broke. Mr Cronin had indicated that the companies involved in the Brisbane Bears structure could survive providing a capital injection of $3 million prior to Christmas and a further $3 million by February 1990 was provided. Mr Cronin further advised that none of the club’s existing creditors were likely to make a move against the club prior to Christmas, however they needed the League’s co-operation to bring forward its December distribution entitlement of $100,000 in order that staff salaries could be met.

1990 – February 2. Reuben Pelerman launches his takeover of the Bears

1990 – February 16. Pelerman finalises his takever and formally takes control of Brisbane.

1990 – May. The SANFL tells the AFL that it would “consider” entering a team in the AFL competition in 1993, “subject to there not being more than 14 clubs—nor would it pay a licence fee”

1990 – July 5. Alan Schwab is told by Bruce Weber that Port Adelaide is willing to have a crack at the AFL. (

1990 – July 7. First meetings between Port Adelaide and the AFL at AFL House

1990 – July 30. Port Adelaide sign Heads of Agreement with the AFL.

1990 – August 1. Port Adelaide announces its intention to join the AFL.

1990 – August 3. The SANFL unanimously voted to kick Port out of the SANFL if it proceeded with its AFL plans.

1990 – August 6. Oakley says that the AFL should stop waiting for a SANFL application and accept Port Adelaide

1990 – August 6. Port Adelaide informs its members that it has an agreement with the AFL.

1990 – August 25. Port Director, Dave Boyd, resigns over the clubs AFL application.

1990 – September 13. Max Basheer says that he is almost certain there will be a SANFL side in the AFL for 1991. Sometime about now, it is leaked that Norwood had also been prepared to breakaway.

1990 – September 20. The AFL Board of Directors formally votes in favoir of the SANFL composite application. Only Richmond vote against.