AFL raises the bar on finals entry - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

AFL raises the bar on finals entry

By Sam Lienert 01/06/2011 05:49:28 PM Comments (0)

The bar for making the AFL finals will be raised to its highest level in almost two decades next year.

The league has decided to keep the top-eight finals format when the introduction of Greater Western Sydney expands the competition to 18 teams in 2012.

That means a smaller proportion of competing clubs will make the finals than in any season since 1993, the last year of the final six.

The league last year floated a range of radical ideas for altering the competition in the lead-up to Gold Coast's introduction as the 17th club this season.

They included the potential creation of a 12-team finals series, which would have come with significant commercial benefits, wildcard finals entrants and a conference system.

The possibility of increasing the number of home and away games played per club from 22 to 24 was also mooted, with all of the ideas put forward for AFL fans to vote on and to clubs for consultation.

But all were rejected, as the AFL on Wednesday announced the commission had approved the status quo.

The current 22-match-per-club home and away season and eight-club finals format will remain for at least the next two seasons, although the league is open to changes beyond that time.

AFL chief operating officer Gillon McLachlan said there was already enough change with the expansion to 18 clubs and an altered match schedule to suit the incoming $1.253 billion broadcast deal.

"The introduction of the new teams in the Gold Coast Suns and the GWS Giants, combined with the creation of a new match schedule for the broadcasting of games within the next five-year television contract, has introduced significant new complexity into the fixture process," McLachlan said.

"It was therefore recommended there be no change to the existing 22-round home and away season."

He said the AFL would concentrate on devising a fixture that was both fairer in an on-field sense and maximised exposure for all clubs.

But the pre-season competition will be overhauled, with clubs to play a round-robin format to decide the grand finalists, rather than the current knock-out system.

As happened this year, the 18 clubs will be divided into groups of three, to play mini-matches against the other two clubs in their group on a single day.

Clubs will then each be guaranteed a further two full-scale matches in the competition.

The fixture for all of those games is to be determined in October/November this year, allowing clubs more time to plan around their travel schedules and the AFL to promote the matches.

The two best-performed clubs will play in the pre-season grand final, with the other 16 to play practice matches at regular AFL venues - as many as possible in their home towns - rather than far-flung regional locations.

McLachlan said the decision to keep eight-team finals reflected the view of supporters, with 69 per cent of those who responded to the AFL's survey preferring that option.

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