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Updated: 24/09/2006


VFL to the AFL

The initial season of 1897 saw the VFL consist of eight clubs namely Carlton, Collingwood, Essendon, Fitzroy, Geelong, Melbourne, Saint Kilda and South Melbourne. In 1908 they were joined by Richmond and University. After 51 consecutive defeats University decided to merge with Melbourne at the end of the 1914 season. 1925 saw the admission of three new teams being Footscray, North Melbourne and Hawthorn, to bring the competition number to twelve teams. The league was to remain unchanged for another 57 years.
1982 VFL Cover
The above cover is number one in a series of fourteen covers produced by Frankston stamps, with the approval of Australia Post and the VFL, all issued with the 1982 VFL Premiers Flag Commemorative Postmark (PM 929) and the 27c Commonwealth Games Weight Lifting Stamp. Twelve showed the logo of each of the twelve VFL teams and a Carlton Cover was also overprinted with "Premiers 1982" cachet.
Season 1982 saw the biggest change in the competition. South Melbourne had struggled both on and off the field and had not played in a Grand Final since 1945. The suburb it represented had changed and it was left with a small supporter base. The VFL board decided to move the Swans to Sydney, Australia's largest city but dominated by rugby league. It also embarked on private ownership with the licence being sold to a medical entrepreneur, Dr Geoffrey Edelsten in 1985. The VFL had embarked on the development of a national competition.

1987 saw the introduction of a team from Brisbane, another rugby league state, and again privately owned by Christopher Skase of Quintex fame. It was joined by a team from the football strong state of Western Australia, namely The West Coast Eagles.

Not all initiatives were successful. 1989 saw the failure of a VFL backed merger of Fitzroy and Footscray with resulting bitterness that still persists, particularly towards the administration. It also saw the failure of the Quintex Skase empire with the Bears suppositively having lost $27 million. The new owner Rueben Pelerman lost another $3.3 million over the next two years and the Brisbane club decided to revert to a membership based financial structure. The Sydney Swans owners experience similar financial problems and it also reverts to a membership based financial structure. Australian Football's flirting with private ownership failed.

After 93 years in 1990 the VFL decided to change its name to the Australian Football League (AFL) to further represent its national identity. 1991 saw the introduction of the Adelaide Crows and now all the mainland states were represented in the AFL. 1995 saw the introduction of a second Western Australian team, the Fremantle Dockers.

In a complete circle, at the end of 1995, the VFA decided to change its name to the VFL and restructure its competition to form the major state based competition.

1996, the 100th season of the VFL/AFL saw the successful merger of the Brisbane Bears and Fitzroy Lions to become the Brisbane Lions. It also saw the failure of a merger between Hawthorn and Melbourne.

In 1990 Port made a bold move to join the AFL as South Australia's first team after the SANFL Directors had turned down an offer from the AFL. This triggered the formation of the Adelaide Crows.  In 1996 Port Adelaide was named as the next expansion team but only if another AFL team folded. Fortunately for them Fitzroy's financial problems led to that very option and Port Power entered the AFL in 1997.