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Victorian Football League

From Academic Kids

See also Australian Football League.

This page covers the VFA/VFL, not the VFL/AFL

The Victorian Football Association (VFA) was the first Australian Rules Football league, made up up clubs in the State of Victoria, Australia. It was founded in 1877; in 1897 several clubs broke away to form the Victorian Football League (VFL). The VFA continued to run independently, although more clubs shifted to the VFL in 1908 and 1925.

The rules of the VFA sometimes differed slightly to those of the VFL (and later Australian Football League, AFL). For example, 16 players afield as opposed to the now typical 18 in the AFL. However, the VFA pioneered night and Sunday games.

After years of losing ground to the VFL, the VFA's launch of Sunday games in 1960 was a turning point for the better. In 1966 Channel Ten began to televise these games. Eventually, most games were played on a Sunday, while the VFL played its games on Saturdays. This was similar to the College/Pro football day divide still present in the US.

The Victorian Government supported the VFA's newfound vigour, and banned the VFL from holding games on Sundays. The VFA grew stronger. In 1982, the dominant sports radio station 3AW broadcast the Grand Final - a huge sign of support.

However, 1982 also saw the beginning of the VFA's demise. In that year the VFL moved the struggling South Melbourne Swans to Sydney (in the neighbouring state of NSW). All Swans home games were played on Sunday and televised. This move destroyed the VFA's TV ratings, and in 1986 Channel Ten stopped broadcasting it. This role was taken on by the ABC, but in a much smaller capacity. VFA support declined. In 1989 the second division was dissolved.

In 1990, the VFL renamed itself the Australian Football League (AFL). In 2001 the Victorian AFL clubs' Reserves (2nd teams) competition became known as the Victorian State Football League (VSFL).

In part due to the AFL's greater "interstate" focus, the VFA experienced a resurgence in the early 1990's. In 1989 the ABC increased its TV commitement, and in 1992 the TV matches were rating better than at any time since the Ten days. Commercial radio became briefly interested in it again.

In 1996, the VFA changed its name to the VFL - the same name it's major competitor had used for nearly 100 years.

At the same time it expanded into rural Victoria. It took on two strong teams from country leagues, the North Ballarat Roosters and Traralgon. In 1998 it added the Bendigo Football League composite side the Bendigo Diggers, and Traralgon returned to the LaTrobe Football League.

In 2000, the VFL merged with the VSFL. It's lineup was as follows:

AFL Clubs
Carlton Blues
Collingwood Magpies
Essendon Bombers
Geelong Cats
Kangaroos
Richmond Tigers
St. Kilda Saints

Stand Alone VFL Clubs
Bendigo Diggers
Coburg-Fitzroy Lions
Frankston Dolphins
North Ballarat Roosters
Northern Bullants
Springvale Scorpions

Joint Venture Clubs
Box Hill Hawks (Hawthorn Hawks)
Port Melbourne Boroughs (Sydney Swans)
Sandringham Zebras (Melbourne Demons)
Werribee Tigers (Western Bulldogs)
Williamstown Seagulls (Western Bulldogs)

The so called "Mongrel Clubs" were ex-VFA/VFL clubs that entered into partnerships with AFL clubs. These deals greatly improved the finanical viability of the clubs in question, but they diluted their ability to represent their suburb.

This new configuration got much media attention at the season launch. The main point of interest was that there were matchups that hadn't occurred since the 1897 VFA/VFL schism.

Also notable was the playing of feature matches on Monday nights, a time when no AFL matches were played. However, these matches were not shown on FTA TV, but on Channel 7's C7 Sport subscription channel. This was at a time when pay TV penetration was very poor, there was no access to this channel in most of Melbourne, and in the parts of Melbourne that could receive it there was a much more popular competing subscription platform, Foxtel.

This new format was not a success. The lineup changed markedly in 2001:

AFL Clubs
Carlton Blues
Essendon Bombers
Geelong Cats

Stand Alone VFL Clubs
Bendigo Diggers
Frankston Dolphins
North Ballarat Roosters
Northern Bullants
Tasmania

Joint Venture Clubs
Box Hill Hawks (Hawthorn Hawks)
Coburg Tigers (Richmond Tigers)
Murray Kangaroos ( Kangaroos)
Port Melbourne Boroughs (Sydney Swans)
Sandringham Zebras (Melbourne Demons)
Springvale Scorpions (St. Kilda Saints)
Werribee Tigers (Western Bulldogs)
Williamstown Seagulls (Collingwood Magpies)

The "Tasmania" club was created by the AFL to quell Tasmania's desire for an AFL team. The Murray Kangaroos were a joint venture with the Ovens and Murray Football League of Albury/Wodonga. Coburg becoming "The Tigers" meant there was now two teams in the league with this name.

In 2002, the "Tasmania" team was renamed the Tasmanian Devils. The Grand Final got the best VFA/VFL TV ratings ever, largely due to the presence of the Geelong Cats. Their AFL team was doing poorly at the time.

In 2003, the lineup changed again:

AFL Clubs
Geelong Cats

Stand Alone VFL Clubs
Frankston Dolphins
North Ballarat Roosters
Tasmanian Devils

Joint Venture Clubs
Bendigo Bombers (Essendon Bombers)
Box Hill Hawks (Hawthorn Hawks)
Coburg Tigers (Richmond Tigers)
Northern Bullants (Carlton Blues)
Port Melbourne Boroughs ( Kangaroos)
Sandringham Zebras (Melbourne Demons)
Springvale Scorpions (St. Kilda Saints)
Werribee Tigers (Western Bulldogs)
Williamstown Seagulls (Collingwood Magpies)

At this point, the VFL changed its team rules. Many of its rules favoured the AFL linked clubs, particuarly the one forcing clubs to pay transfer fees (unnecessary for linked clubs). These rules have so far (2005) stopped further rationalisation.

The absorption of the VFSL has seen the league getting a lot more attention from spectators, as it is now filled with up-and-coming and recovering-from-injury AFL players. However, only three clubs can claim independence from AFL clubs, and one of these is owned by the AFL itself.

Current Clubs

Links

VFL Official Site (http://vfl.footballvic.com.au/)
VFL Official History (http://vfl.footballvic.com.au/default.aspx?s=historydisplay&aid=89804)

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