Australian rules football culture

Australian rules football culture

Australian rules football culture is a descriptive term for the cultural aspects surrounding the game of Australian rules football, particular as it applies to Australia and areas where it is most popular. This article explores aspects and issues surrounding the game itself, as well as that of the players, and society.

Australian Rules is a sport rich in tradition and Australian cultural references, especially surrounding the rituals of gameday for players, officials and supporters.


Australian rules football has attracted more overall interest among Australians (as measured by the Sweeney Sports report) than any other football code, and, when compared with all sports throughout the nation, has consistently ranked first in the winter reports, and most recently third behind cricket and swimming in summer. [ [ Media Release] , Sweeney Sport report for 2006-07
cite news|url= |publisher=The Sydney Morning Herald|date=2003-05-22|title=If you can kick it, Australia will watch it
] In some of the southern states, it is the most popular sport of all sports. As a football code, it is the most popular form of football in the Northern Territory, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria and Western Australia. It is less popular in New South Wales and Queensland, although there has traditionally been strong support for the code in regions within those states, such as parts of southern New South Wales including the Riverina and parts of Queensland such as Cairns and the Gold Coast. The AFL teams from Brisbane and Sydney have attracted a strong increase in crowds, television audiences participation when they both recently won premierships. Demographic and migration trends have affected all football codes in recent years, but most significantly Australian football in Queensland, where Australian football has greatly increased in popularity over the past decade.

It is particularly popular amongst indigenous Australian communities. Indigenous Australians are well represented in professional AFL players: while only 2.4% of the population is of indigenous origin, 10% of AFL players identify themselves this way. Although it is a popular winter code cricket and swimming still eclipse it during the summer.

Australian rules is the national sport of Nauru.


Australian rules football is the most highly attended spectator sport in Australia: government figures show that more than 2.5 million people attended games in 2005-06. [ [!OpenDocument Sports Attendance] , Australian Bureau of Statistics, January 2007.] In 2007 (including finals matches), a cumulative 7,049,945 people attended Australian Football League premiership matches, a record for the competition. [cite news|url= |publisher=Australian Broadcasting Corporation|date=2007-10-26|title=AFL to start over Easter weekend] In 2005, a further 307,181 attended NAB Cup pre-season matches and 117,552 attended Regional Challenge pre-season practice matches around the country.

As of 2005 the AFL is one of only five professional sports leagues in the world with an average attendance above thirty thousand (the others are the NFL in the United States and Major League Baseball in the U.S. and Canada, and the top division soccer leagues in Germany and England). In 2007, the average attendance of 38,113 made the AFL the second best attended domestic club league in the world, after only the NFL in the United States.

The Melbourne Cricket Ground is the largest stadium used for Australian rules football and the permanent home of the AFL Grand Final. It is one of the largest sporting stadiums in the world and was the venue for the record Australian rules football attendance of 121,696 at the 1970 VFL Grand Final, between Carlton and Collingwood - which game was also historic, in that it heralded the dawning of a new style of football - still largely in use today, wherein handballing was introduced more to commence the attack from the back line. Redevelopment since then to a mainly seated stadium has reduced the current capacity to approximately 100,000.

In addition to the national AFL competition, some semi-professional local leagues also draw significant crowds. Although crowds for state leagues have suffered in recent years, they continue to draw support, particularly for finals matches. The South Australian SANFL drew an attendance of 309,874 in 2006 and the Western Australian WAFL drew an official attendance of 207,154. Other leagues, such as the Victorian VFL (including a Tasmanian side, the Devils), Northern Territory Football League and the popular country league Ovens & Murray also charge admission and draw notable crowds (but with no available attendance figures).

Outside of Australia, the game has drawn notable attendances only for occasional carnival type events, such as International tests and exhibition matches.


The national AFL is the main league which is shown on television in Australia and around the world.

The 2005 AFL Grand Final was watched by a record television audience of more than 3.3 million people across Australia's five most populous cities—the five mainland state capitals—including 1.2 million in Melbourne and 991,000 in Sydney. [ [ Top 20 Programs - Ranking Report (E)] 18-24 September, OzTam.] In 2006, the national audience was 3.145 million, including 1.182 million in Melbourne and 759,000 in Sydney. [ [ Top 20 Programs - Ranking Report (E) 24 September - 30 September 2006] ]

According to OzTAM, in recent years, the AFL Grand Final has reached the top five programs across the five biggest cities in 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2006. In 2007, it was #1 in metropolitan markets. Australian rules football has achieved a #1 rating in the sports category in both 2004 and 2005.

Some of the more popular regional leagues in Australia have the "match of the week" televised locally and free-to-air on ABC Television's respective state networks. The SANFL is the most popular of these regional competitions measuring a total of 1,415,000 television viewers in 2007. [ [ SANFL Website ] ]

Some of these regional leagues also attracted a national audience through free-to-air broadcasting on television networks such as ABC2. OzTAM began measuring these audiences in 2006. Despite a large number of complaints, ABC2 withdrew all of these broadcasts in early 2008. [ [ ABC 'blackout' on Tiwi footy] ] [ [ ABC responds to tidal wave of protest] ]

Australian rules also has a nominal but growing international audience. Since 2005, some AFL matches have been shown in the pacific rim region for the first time through the Australia Network. The AFL Grand Final is broadcast to many countries and attracts many million viewers worldwide. This audience has grown to approximately 30 million viewers from 72 countries. [ [ Grand final's free kick to economy a tough call] ]

According to Roy Morgan Research, more Americans watch Australian Rules Football than Australians. A poll taken between April 2002 and March 2004 showed that 7,496,000 North Americans compared to 7,004,000 Australians watch Australian Rules Football at least occasionally on television. [ [ Globalisation of Sport Report 2005] from (Roy Morgan Single Source USA March 2003-Feb2004)]

New media

The AFL website was the #1 most popular Hitwise Australian sports website in 2004, increasing in market share by 9.86% over that year. [ [ Most Popular Australian websites for 2004 revealed] from Hitwise] In 2006, other consistently high traffic websites in the Australian Top 20 included AFL Dream Team, (Trading Post) AFL Footy Tipping, and Bomberland. [ [ Fast Mover - Kellogg's Nutri-Grain Dream Team] ] In 2006, the search term 'afl' represented the highest number of search terms (2.48%) that delivered users to Hitwise sports category listed websites. [ [ Search Terms - Industry Search Term Report for Sports] ] Statistics show that Victorians consist of 43% of all visits to the AFL football category. [ [ Victorians Still AFL's Biggest Fans Online] ]

Team Rivalries

Rivalries are one of the main drivers in generating passionate supporter bases. In almost every league, there is a team which everyone loves to hate, like Collingwood, Port Adelaide and even the Southport Sharks.The AFL in particular encourages the building of such rivalries, as a method of increasing publicity for the league, to the point of designating one round each year as "Rivalry Round" where many of these match-ups are held on the one weekend.Lonergan, Dan; [ AFL arch rivals - a thing of the past] ; 2007-04-13] Whilst some rivalries, such as between teams from adjacent areas are still strong, the designation of an entire round of fixtures as Rivalry Round is often critised due to some arbitrary matchups, or ignoring stronger, more recent rivalries. Baum, G; [ Footy's drowning in a sea of medals] ; The Age; 2008-04-12]

Traditions of the game

As part of their uniform, players wear shirts called guernseys. Guernseys are similar to basketball shirts, but of a more robust design, often referred to in Australia as "jumpers". In the early period of the game's development players often wore sleeveless lace-up tops which gradually disappeared between the 1960s and early 1980s. A few players choose to wear a long sleeved variation of the modern guernsey design. Players wore full length pants, before adopting shorts in the 1920s. Tight-fitting shorts were a notable fashion trend in most leagues in the 1980s and some players began to wear hamstring warmers. A brief experiment with lycra by the AFL in the State of Origin series was quickly abandoned for more traditional wear. Long socks (football socks) are compulsory and boots with moulded cleats or studs for gripping the ground are worn (screw-ins have been banned from most leagues since the 1990s). Some players wear headbands or hair ties to keep the hair out of their faces when playing, though this is rare. Players will sometimes wear arm bands around their mid biceps and triceps, typically of electrical tape, in honour. Black arm bands are typically worn in memorial to someone related to the player or their club who recently died.

Traditionally, umpires have worn white and were sometimes referred to as "white maggots" [ [,23599,21638833-421,00.html Footy moots 'white maggot' ban] from] amongst supporters. AFL umpires now wear bright colours to also avoid clashes with the player guernseys and AFL goal umpires now wear t-shirts and caps, rather than the traditional white coat and broad brimmed hat (similar to what was worn by many cricket umpires) which they wore before the 1990s.

Typical supporter wear includes the team scarf and sometimes beanie (particularly in cooler climates) in the colours of the team. Team guernseys are also worn by supporters. Team flags are sometimes flown by supporters at the start of a game, when a goal is scored, and when their team wins.

Before AFL matches, it is traditional for teams to run through a crepe banner constructed by the cheersquads of each team. These often feature messages and slogans for the team in the context of the match, such as congratulating a player on a landmark number of games and more recently also sponsorship messages. The banners and sometimes also streamers are used in important local football matches such as finals. Some players are superstitious about running through the banner. As players run through the banners, the team's song (or fight song) is sometimes also played or sung. The fight song is also sung by the winning team.

Australian rules supporters don't use the word 'root' for support (the word 'root' is Australian slang for 'sex'), but instead "barrack" for their team. Though other cultures have had an influence at various points in its history, Australian football tends to have different atmosphere to sports like soccer and American Football. Partly due to Australian culture, Australian rules spectators are generally more solitary animals. With the exception of small official cheersquads, spectators at Aussie Rules matches will rarely engage in support for their teams with organised chants. Instead, each individual spectator will most often shout their own support using the nickname of their team ie. "Carn the Crows !" or "Carn the Maggies". In contrast, cheersquads are highly organised, have their own rituals and almost always congregate behind the goals during games. Most professional clubs have official cheersquads which will sometimes wave enormous coloured pompoms known as "floggers" after the umpire has signalled a goal. American style cheerleading is very rare. [Fanfare: Spectator culture and Australian Rules Football edited by Matthew Nicholson. ASSH Studies, 15. Melbourne: Australian Society for Sports History, 2005, pp. 140, A$25.00, paperback, ISBN 0 9757616 2 5]

Meat pies and beer are popular consumables (sometimes noted as a tradition) for supporters at Australian rules matches. At AFL matches mobile vendors walk around the ground selling such pies, yelling out the well-known call of "hot pies, cold drinks!"

At the end of the match, it is traditional for a "pitch invasion" to occur. Supporters run onto the field to celebrate the game and play games of kick-to-kick with their families. In many suburban and country games, this also happens during quarter and half-time breaks. In the AFL in recent years, this tradition has been more strictly controlled with security guards to ensure that players and officials can safely leave the ground. At the largest AFL grounds, this tradition has been banned completely, to protect the surface, much to the discontent of fans. But smaller grounds (Skilled Stadium, for example) still allow fans onto the field after the game. Sometimes a mid-game "pitch invasion" is expected for various highly anticipated landmark achievements (such as a player kicking a record number of goals).

Injuries, Health Issues and Prevention

Australian rules football is known for its high level of physical body contact compared to other sports such as soccer and basketball. High impact collisions can occur from any direction. Unlike gridiron, padding is not mandatory and is rarely worn. Combined with the range of activity including jumping, running, kicking, twisting and turning this means that injury rates are relatively high in comparison to other sports.

Some ruckmen wear shin pads and thigh pads and players with head injuries sometimes wear soft helmets. Mouthguards are worn by most players but are only compulsory in some leagues.

Soft tissue injuries are the most frequent, including injuries to the thighs, hamstring and calf muscles. Pre-game warm-up and stretching exercises are a focus of the standard preparation routine for clubs at all levels to minimise these injuries. Osteitis pubis is a condition which particularly effects Australian rules footballers [ [ Research finds cause of osteitis pubis] ] . Injuries to the knee, ankle and shoulders are also common. Hospital treated injuries, particularly for broken bones, account for 40 percent of all Australian rules football injuries. [ [ Australian rules football - preventing injury] ]

Knee reconstructions are among the most commonly incurred career threatening injuries for both professional and amateur players, although professional players frequently continue to play after rehabilitation. Recently some professional players have undergone an innovative surgery that inserts a synthetic ligament in the knee which reduces the time out of football from twelve to three months. [ [,21598,23968725-5005401,00.html Luke Webster's radical knee surgery put to test in WAFL] ]

Players can suffer head injuries [ [ Retrospective study of concussive convulsions in elite Australian rules and rugby league footballers: phenomenology, aetiology, and outcome] ] , however spinal injuries are extremely uncommon and comparatively much lower than rugby football [ [ Spinal cord injuries in Australian footballers 1997–2002] ] [ [ A neck breaking game] ] .

In cases of injury, players are able to be treated whilst on the ground and umpires generally only stop the play when players are removed from the ground on a stretcher. Most leagues have implemented a blood rule which forces players with bleeding wounds to leave the field for treatment until the bleeding is stopped to prevent the transmission of blood-borne disease.

Australian rules football does not have the range or severity of health issues of American football however players have been known to die whilst playing Aussie Rules, though the most common cause is heart failure. The Victorian State Coroner reported five sudden deaths in that state among Australian rules footballers aged under 38 years between 1990-1997. Three of these deaths were attributed to Ischaemic heart disease (mean age, 31.7 years), and the other two to physical trauma. [ [ Sudden death due to ischaemic heart disease in young Aboriginal sportsmen in the Northern Territory, 1982-1996] ]

In a study conducted recently of retired VFL/AFL footballers found that the most common problems amongst the group in old age included arthritis, hip replacements and significantly reduced capacity to participate in athletic activity. [ [ Life After Football] ] [ [ Osteoarthritis of the knee in retired, elite Australian Rules footballers] ]

In recent years the AFL has commissioned official studies as well as introduced new rules and precautions aimed at reducing the number and severity of injuries in the sport [ [ AFL Injury Report] ] , and there are variation games which significantly reduce the contact and risk of injury to players and allow players of any age to continue to participate.

Australian rules in popular culture

For many years, the game of Australian rules football captured the imagination of Australian film, music, television and literature.

"The Club", a critically acclaimed 1977 play by David Williamson, deals with the internal politics of a Melbourne football club steeped in tradition. The play was adapted as a film, directed by Bruce Beresford and starring Jack Thompson and Graham Kennedy, in 1980.

Many songs inspired by the game have become popular, none more so than the 1979 hit "Up There Cazaly", by Mike Brady. Brady followed the hit up with "One Day in September" in 1987. Both are frequently used in Grand Final celebrations.

AFL players and the media

Such is the obsession, particularly with that footballer's off-field behaviour is as highly scrutinized as their on field behaviour. Footballers are held by many in Australia to be role models.

Anti-Football Attitudes

Some people in Australian society are riled by the public obsession with Australian Rules Football.

The Anti-Football League is an Australian organisation that pokes fun at the obsession with Australian Rules Football using the acronym of the game's governing body - AFL. It was founded by Melbourne journalist Keith Dunstan in 1967.


Footy tipping is part of the staple office environment in Australia.

Betting on the AFL is very popular.


Women have been involved in the game since its inception. There are women's footy players and even umpires in the AFL.However there still exist stereotypes against women and issues among football fans.


Player Violence

On-field assault has historically been socially tolerated in Australia, however in recent years this has been the subject of and players have been charged by the law for their on-field actions, including a recent jailing in Victoria [ [ Footballer jailed for on-field assault] ] and the much publicized case involving VFL player Leigh Matthews which ended the public perception that on-field football assaults are somehow legal. [ [ Memories are made of this] ] League penalties for such actions have also generally increased in recent years [ [ Even in battle, players must aim higher] ] and overall violence has decreased over time. [ [ Violence in Sport: Some Theoretical and Practical Issues in the Australian Context] from the Australian Institute of Criminology]

Violence has also effected the International Rules Series, with the Irish team objecting to the level of violence tolerated by Australia.

upporter Violence

* September 1, 2001 - Geelong Football Club player Darren Milburn executed a very late bump on Carlton Football Club's Steven Silvagni, collecting Silvagni's head with his hip; Silvagni hit the ground unconscious. After being substituted with another player, fans threatened Milburn and attempted to enter the interchange box to assault him, and again attempted to attack him in the car park and after the game.;2002
* During an Australian Football League match between Carlton Football Club and the West Coast Eagles at Optus Oval, field umpires were abused and a bottle was thrown, causing the league to review security at the venue. [ [ AFL under pressure to clamp down on crowd violence] ] ;2004
* On April 22 at Docklands Stadium during an Australian Football League match between Richmond and Adelaide, a spectator from Brisbane spat on Richmond coach Danny Frawley and other club officials. The controversial incident was captured on Australian national television and the supporter was identified and later questioned. [ [ Qld police interview man over AFL spitting incident] ]
* In September, an ugly brawl of 44 players, officials and coaches erupted in an AFL Cairns match between North Cairns and Port Douglas. [] ;2006
* May 28 - During an Australian Football League match between the Kangaroos Football Club and St Kilda Football Club, a Kangaroos supporter had a confrontation with the club's coach Dean Laidley during a period of consistently poor performances. The supporter twice made provocative remarks to which Laidley responded with a verbal barrage, later inviting the supporter to the club rooms to see how badly the players were feeling due to their on field performance. The footage was captured on television and broadcast nationally in Australia. The apparently fanatical Kangaroos supporter committed suicide in the path of an oncoming train on May 29th. [ [ Fan's death 'devastating': Laidley] ] The man's family, police and the Kangaroos stated the death was unrelated, however there were widespread calls for Laidley to be fined for the incident.;2007
* In September a wild brawl erupted in a Central Australian Football League match which resulted in the charging of five people. []


Australian rules football has involved a diverse section of society and the AFL has multicultural programs to engage people from different backgrounds.

Racial vilification

The Australian Football League's racial vilification code is an effort to stamp out racism in the sport and it has worked well, however there has been a history of well publicised incidents in the sport.

* Nicky Winmar reacted to overt racism from the crowd at Victoria Park, Melbourne, turning to face the offending segments of the crowd, lifted his Guernsey and defiantly pointed to his skin (at the end of a game between St Kilda Football Club and Collingwood Football Club). This act was captured in a series of famous photographs and led to far-reaching reform in the AFL in respect of racism in the game. [ [ How footy jumper became a powerful symbol] ] ;1997
* Sydney Swans player Robert AhMat was involved in an alleged racial vilification row with Essendon Football Club player Michael Prior. [ [ Racism and the Law in Australian Football] ] ;2007
* The Herald Sun launches a special investigation into racism in junior Aussie Rules, revealing several controversial incidents. [ [,8033,21961189%255E20322,00.html Young players kick against race abuse] ]

Player Drug Abuse

Performance enhancing drug abuse is also rare according to official studies [ [ Drug doping in senior Australian rules football: a survey for frequency] ] despite some high profile recent cases and criticisms from the media and government [ [,20867,15986296-27660,00.html AFL bows to federal anti-dope pressure] ] of the AFL's own anti-doping code [ [ AFL Anti-Doping Code] ] which although strict, does not comply with the World Anti-Doping Agency protocols.


Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Игры ⚽ Нужно решить контрольную?

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Australian rules football in Australia — Contesting for possession in an indigenous community football game in the Northern Territory Governing body Australian Football League National team Australia First playe …   Wikipedia

  • Australian rules football — Sport imagesize = 200px caption = High marking (catching the ball high in the air) is a key skill in Australian Rules Football union = Australian Football League nickname = Australian football (official name), Australian Rules Football, football …   Wikipedia

  • Australian rules football in New South Wales — Two ruckmen contest the bounce in a suburban western Sydney AFL game between the East Coast Eagles AFC and Campbelltown Kangaroos AFC Governing body AFL NSW/ACT Representative team …   Wikipedia

  • Australian rules football in popular Australian culture — has captured the imagination of Australian film, music, television and literature.In literature, probably the first mention of the sport was in the popular play And The Big Men Fly , written by Alan Hopgood in 1963. [… …   Wikipedia

  • Australian rules football in Africa — is currently only played at an organised level in South Africa, although there have been attempts to introduce the sport in other African nations.outh AfricaAustralian rules football had been played in South Africa since around the time of the… …   Wikipedia

  • Australian rules football around the world — See also: Countries playing Australian rules football: See also: Australian Football International Cup Australian rules football is a sport played in countries around the world. In 2006, about 16,000 people played in structured competitions… …   Wikipedia

  • Portal:Australian rules football — Wikipedia portals: Culture Geography Health History Mathematics Natural sciences People Philosophy Religion Society Technology  Sports and games • …   Wikipedia

  • Origins of Australian rules football — See also: Marn Grook and List of Australian rules football clubs by date of establishment A statue next to the Melbourne Cricket Ground on the approximate site of the 1858 foot ball match between Melbourne Grammar and Scotch College. Tom… …   Wikipedia

  • List of Australian rules football clubs by date of establishment — Further information: List of Australian rules football clubs in Australia This is a chronological list of Australian rules football clubs since their formation. Note that some of these football clubs that formed before 1866 (see Laws of… …   Wikipedia

  • Countries playing Australian rules football — See also: Australian rules football around the world See also: Australian Football International Cup Map of the world indicating the nations where Australian rules football was most played in 2009. The stronger regions are indicated in shades of… …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”