Australian Federal Football League
(AFFL)


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.
  • All
  • About
  • The League
  • The AFFL Cup
  • Place of Origin

About

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 hierachy of divisions allowing for promotion and relegation, multiple teams based in all major cities (relative to their population size) and as many regional areas as possible having the opportunity 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 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:
    • TotalNSWVICQLDSATAS
      First Division15552111
      Second Division301194321
      Third Division301093323
      Total7526239755

  • 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% probability of winning, the underdogs are given a 20% probability of winning and there is a 20% probability of a draw.
  • In each league match the team with the higher league position from the previous season is considered the favourite (for the inaugural 1901 season, ranking teams as favourites or underdogs within each division is based on a random seed), with the following exceptions:
    • Teams newly promoted to the division above are given an adjustment based on the number of league points attained in the previous season 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 for the upcoming season.
    • Teams newly relegated to the division below are given an adjustment based on the number of league points attained in the previous season 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 for the upcoming season.
    • Any new teams joining the league each season 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.
  • For each division or region with a division above them in the league pyramid, the top teams from the lower division are promoted to the higher division for the following season.
  • For each division or region with a division below them in the league pyramid, an equivalent number of teams who finish at the bottom of the higher division are relegated to the lower division 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 on to 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
      Teams
      Total
      Qualifiers
      NSWVICQLDSATAS
      ACTNT
      1901–192175(16)26–27(5)21–23(5)9–10(2)7(2)5(1)5(1)
      1922–194875–76(16)28(6)20(4)10(2)7–8(2)5(1)5(1)
      1949–1973123–125(32)46–48(12)33–34(9)18(5)11–13(3)8–9(2)5(1)
      1974–1976127(32)47(12)34(8)18(5)13(3)10(3)5(1)
      1977–1983124–125(32)45(11)33(9)19(5)12(3)10–11(3)5(1)
      1984–1992148(32)53(11)38–39(9)24(5)14(3)13–14(3)5(1)
      1993–2015147–151(32)50–53(11)37–38(8)25–30(6)13–14(3)14–15(3)5(1)
      2016–2021151(32)50(10)37–38(8)30(6)12–13(3)16(4)5(1)
      2022–151(32)50(11)39(8)30(6)12(3)15(3)5(1)

  • 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 probability of winning is based on their current league division and, if this is equal between the two teams, their finishing league position from the previous season (draws are eliminated):
    • Between 1901 and 1983:
    • Favourite
      Division
      Favourite
      Win
      Underdog
      Division
      Underdog
      Win
      Equal60%Equal40%
      D275%D325%
      D180%D220%
      D195%D35%

       

    • From 1984:
    • Favourite
      Division
      Favourite
      Win
      Underdog
      Division
      Underdog
      Win
      Equal60%Equal40%
      D375%D425%
      D280%D320%
      D185%D215%
      D290%D410%
      D195%D35%
      D197%D43%

Place of Origin

  • An end of season competition that pits state representatives against each other in a showcase tournament every four years.
  • It is assumed that, while there is no explicit restriction of movement on players between AFFL teams in different states, the vast majority of players choose to play for an AFFL team situated in their home state. This eligibilty is then used as the basis for determining the depth of talent available to each Place of Origin squad at every tournament.
  • A total pool of 100 strength points, 25 strength points per season, are divided among all Place of Origin squads based on the number of AFFL league teams from that state in each of the preceding four seasons and, much more significantly, how successful those teams were in both the league and AFFL Cup over that period of time.
    • Between 1901 and 1948 each year's strength points are allocated as follows:
    • Strength Points
      Available
      per Year
      Number of
      AFFL Teams
      per Year
      Strength Points
      per Team
      per Year
      League Premiers1.75011.750
      Cup Winners1.50011.500
      League Top Three2.75021.375
      Cup Finalists1.12511.125
      League Top Six3.37531.125
      Cup Semi Finalists2.00021.000
      Other First Division5.0009–100.500–0.556
      Second Division5.000300.167
      Third Division2.500300.083
      Total per Year25

    • Between 1949 and 1983 each year's strength points are allocated as follows:
    • Strength Points
      Available
      per Year
      Number of
      AFFL Teams
      per Year
      Strength Points
      per Team
      per Year
      League Premiers1.75011.750
      Cup Winners1.50011.500
      League Top Three2.75021.375
      Cup Finalists1.12511.125
      League Top Six3.37531.125
      Cup Semi Finalists2.00021.000
      Other First Division5.000120.417
      Second Division5.000360.139
      Third Division2.50069–730.034–0.036
      Total per Year25

    • From 1984 each year's strength points are allocated as follows:
    • Strength Points
      Available
      per Year
      Number of
      AFFL Teams
      per Year
      Strength Points
      per Team
      per Year
      League Premiers1.75011.750
      Cup Winners1.50011.500
      League Top Three2.75021.375
      Cup Finalists1.12511.125
      League Top Six3.37531.125
      Cup Semi Finalists2.00021.000
      Other First Division5.000140.357
      Second Division3.750200.188
      Third Division1.875360.052
      Fourth Division1.87571–750.025–0.026
      Total per Year25

  • Given the population concentration in New South Wales and Victoria compared to the rest of the country, and to immediately expand the number of Place of Origin squads from six to eight, these two states each assemble two competing sides:
    • AFFL teams whose electoral boundaries for that year are deemed to fall inside, or mostly inside, the metropolitan areas of Sydney or Melbourne are zoned to New South Wales Metro or Victoria Metro respectively.
    • All other AFFL teams from those two states (including urban electorates in regional cities like Newcastle, Wollongong and Geelong) are zoned to New South Wales Country or Victoria Country.
  • From 1922 onwards, all AFFL teams located in the Northern Territory are zoned to South Australia.
  • From 1949 onwards, all AFFL teams located in the Australian Capital Territory are zoned to New South Wales Country.
  • Based on the strength points calculated for each Place of Origin squad, the eight representative sides are next allocated to four pots:
    • Pot 1 holds the strongest and second strongest squads.
    • Pot 2 holds the third and fourth strongest squads.
    • Pot 3 holds the fifth and sixth strongest squads.
    • Pot 4 holds the two weakest squads.
  • The two squads in each pot are then each randomly assigned to either Group A or Group B, thus forming two fairly balanced groups of four teams.
  • Each Place of Origin squad plays the other three representative squads within their group once.
  • In each group match three points are awarded for a win, one point for a draw, and zero points for a loss.
  • In every group match each squad's probability of winning is directly proportional to their relative strength against that of their opponent, minus 10 percentage points each (allowing a 20% probability of the match ending in a draw), for example:
    • Favourite
      Strength
      Favourite
      Win
      Underdog
      Strength
      Underdog
      Win
      1040.0%1040.0%
      1550.0%1030.0%
      2056.7%1025.3%
      2561.4%1018.6%
      3065.0%1015.0%

  • At the conclusion of the group stage, the Origin squads in each group are ranked in order from most match points to least. In the event of a tie for any place:
    • The squad who won the head-to-head match between the two tied squads is placed higher.
    • If that match finished in a draw, or the points tie involves more than two sides, the squad with the lowest strength rating (ie, the underdog who overcame the odds across the three group matches) is placed higher.
  • The top two sides from each group move on to the semi finals:
    • The top squad from Group A plays the second placed squad from Group B, and
    • The top squad from Group B plays the second placed squad from Group A.
    • In the exceptional circumstance that the second placed squad in one group has lost two group matches and the third placed squad in the other group has won two, the side with two group match wins qualifies for the semi finals at the expense of the second placed squad from the other group.
  • The two semi final winners then play off in the final.
  • In every finals match each side's probability of winning is directly proportional to their relative strength against that of their opponent (draws are eliminated), for example:
    • Favourite
      Strength
      Favourite
      Win
      Underdog
      Strength
      Underdog
      Win
      1050.0%1050.0%
      1560.0%1040.0%
      2066.7%1033.3%
      2571.4%1028.6%
      3075.0%1025.0%