History of the Australian Football League (AFL)
Australian rules football is a fast moving game, played with an oval ball and popular in Australia.. Despite the popularity, less tends to be known about the history and background of the Australian Football League (AFL) that was instrumental in the rules' development. Currently comprising 24 rounds culminating in the winning team taking home the premiership cup, AFL football is not only the most popular sporting league in Australia, but among the most watched tournaments in the world.
The history of the AFL is actually that of the VFL (Victoria Football League) - at least for much of its lifetime. Football was first brought to Australia by Tom Wills in the mid-19th century, who originally intended it as a way for cricket players to keep fit during the winter. Nevertheless, the game soon developed a popularity all of its own, and the rules of Australian football began to take shape.
Some of the first football clubs founded in Australia were the Melbourne Football Club in 1858 and the Geelong Football Club in 1859, before competitions began in earnest in 1866. The most significant founding event was that of the Victoria Football League in 1896, which eventually expanded into the territories of New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia and remained the governing body of Australian football for almost a century. After spreading throughout the country, the decision was made to change the name to AFL in 1990 to define a truly national sport.
The AFL Commission today controls the rules of the game, and is attempting to unify all major Australian football clubs under the same banner, although some states have notably resisted, preferring to retain their independence. This hasn't stopped the AFL grand final becoming one of Australia's two most-watched sporting events of the year, as well as the AFL itself becoming the world's third-most attended sports league in terms of attendance for individual matches. In a short space of time, the AFL/VFL expanded from its original 12 clubs to 14 in 1987, when the West Coast Eagles and Brisbane Bears were incorporated, and to 16 clubs by 1997.
The 2011 Grand Final is expected to be as popular as ever, with many football fans in Australia and overseas already placing bets as to which team will succeed. According to online surveys Australia, most AU respondents are uncertain about which team will win in the highly competitive tournament, but of those that do have an opinion, Collingwood is currently the favourite team, followed by Geelong. Online polls found the Sydney Swans and West Coast Eagles tied for third favourite.
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