Australian Federal Football League

The truly national football league that Australia has never had, starting at the time of Federation in 1901. A fictional competition inspired by the pyramid structure of European football/soccer leagues.


With Australia's sparse population and large distances between major centres it's no wonder that, until the very recent age of affordable air travel, large scale national sporting leagues have been completely unviable. While there has long been a strong but small interstate cricket competition, it's only in the last forty years that all six states have each fielded a side, not to mention that the focus is primarily as a proving ground for selecting the best players for the national team. And then there is the fragmented world of football, with entirely different codes more popular in different regions and, of those, the two pre-eminent 'national' leagues still largely just extensions to traditional suburban competitions based in Sydney and Melbourne respectively.

At various times over many years I've wondered what a single large scale and truly national league might look like, with a heirachy of divisions allowing for promotion and relegation, multiple teams based in all major cities (relative to their populations) and as many regional areas as possible getting a chance to compete as well. I'd tinkered with a few ideas but none ever really kept my attention, until most recently it occured to me that the Australian Electoral Commission already creates the best possible proportional system based on population, as they draw the boundaries for the electorates in the federal House of Representatives.

By giving each electorate an approximate geographical team name, I now had the basis for a present day competition with 150 teams. While looking further into how exactly this might look, I stumbled onto Psephos - Adam Carr's Election Archive and discovered I could use the historical information there to set a geographical location for every electorate at every redistribution since the national Parliament was first convened in 1901.

Now I didn't need to start my fictional league in the present day and could instead develop a 75 team national competition right from Federation, using actual electoral boundary redistributions to dictate when existing teams fold or merge, and which new teams to admit from faster growing population centres. So while the league is still a complete fantasy from a logistical point of view, the line-up of competing teams at least reflects the historical trends of Australia's population shifts since the very beginning of last century.

The League

  • The league is comprised of a number of national and regional divisions forming a pyramid structure.
  • Elite teams at the top of the pyramid play against other similar teams located anywhere across the country.
  • Lower regional divisions are intended to reduce some of the arduous travel burden on smaller teams and maximise the passion of local rivalries. However, in order to keep the size of each region equal within each division, it may be that a team located towards the edge of a more populous state (ie, New South Wales and Victoria) can be zoned to play against teams from neighbouring states more often than teams from their own state.
  • The precise number of teams in each tier can fluctuate over time based on the number of real-life federal electorates in existence each year, with the league pyramid structured as follows:
    • PeriodYearsTotalFirst DivisionSecond DivisionThird DivisionFourth Division
      Federation1901–190575152 x 152 x 15--
      Post-Federation1906–194875–7615–162 x 152 x 15--
      First Expansion1949–1983123–127182 x 184 x 17–19--
      Second Expansion1984–147–15120202 x 184 x 17–19

  • For the initial 1901 season, teams were chosen for each division using the following criteria:
    • The number of First Division spaces allocated to each state was decided according to their proportion of the total number of electorates. Individual teams were then chosen based on electorates from the metropolitan areas of each capital city, based on the assumption that they would start as the best resourced. For Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide, with more metropolitan electorates than spaces available, teams were chosen at random.
    • Second Division teams were chosen based on any remaining metropolitan capital city electorates, followed by guesses as to which were the most prominent regional cities and towns as at the turn of last century.
    • All remaining regional teams were allocated to the Third Division.
    • The final distribution of teams state-by-state across all divisons for 1901 was as follows:
      First Division15552111
      Second Division301194321
      Third Division301093323

  • Each team plays all other teams within their national or regional division once.
  • In each league match three points are awarded for a win, one point for a draw, and zero points for a loss.
  • In each league match the favourites are given a 60% chance of winning, the underdogs are given a 20% chance of winning and there is a 20% chance of a draw.
  • Favouritism is based on the finishing positions from the previous season, with the following exceptions:
    • For the 1901 season, team ranking within a division is based on a random seed.
    • From 1902 newly promoted teams are given an adjustment based on the number of league points scored by the relegated team they are replacing plus the points gap between them and their nearest rival when winning the lower division. This may (or may not) give them a higher team ranking than at the bottom of the higher division.
    • From 1902 newly relegated teams are given an adjustment based on the number of league points scored by the promoted team they are replacing minus the points gap between them and safety when finishing at the bottom of the higher division. This may (or may not) give them a lower team ranking than at the top of the lower division.
    • From 1906 new teams joining the league are ranked at the bottom of the lowest division. In the case of more than one new team joining a region in the same season, the ranking between these teams is decided by a random seed.

  • At the conclusion of each season, teams are ranked in order from most league points to least. In the event of a tie for any place, the team with the lowest ranking at the start of the season (ie, the underdog who overcame the odds) is placed higher.
  • The top team in each Second Division region is promoted to the First Division for the following season. The top team in each Third Division region is likewise promoted to the Second Division.
  • An equivalent number of teams who finish at the bottom of the First and Second Divisions are relegated to the Second and Third Divisons for the following season, subject to any restructuring needed in the event that other teams fold or merge.
  • Once the promoted, relegated and new teams for the next season are finalised, any team may be shuffled between regions within the same division for geographical 'best fit'.

The AFFL Cup

  • An annual straight knock-out tournament involving all league teams, running in parallel with each league season.
  • The initial rounds pit teams within state/territory groups, before a designated number of qualifiers move onto the national final rounds.
  • The number of qualifying places available for each state/territory group is set according to their proportion of the total number of competing league teams (irrespective of league position), calculated as follows:
    • YearsTotal

  • The fixture list for every round of the competition is drawn at random, with no mechanisms in place to prevent, for example, two First Division teams meeting each other early in the competition.
  • Depending on the number of matches required in the state/territory qualifying rounds to decide the exact number of qualifiers, it is more likely than not that a proportion of teams are given a bye in the first round. These are awarded based on league seniority, taking into account the current league division of each team and their finishing position from the previous season.
  • In every cup match each team's chances of winning is based on the same league seniority as above (draws are eliminated):
    • Between 1901 and 1983:
    • Favourite


    • From 1984:
    • Favourite