Australian Football League, or AFL as it's more commonly known, is a popular code of football in Australia. Played on large, oval-shaped fields, AFL dates back as far as 1858. Established in Melbourne, AFL was created to keep cricket players fit during winter.
There are seven state/territory based AFL organisations in Australia. The majority of these organisations are either owned or affiliated to the AFL. The AFL season takes place from March to August, with the finals being played in September.
18 players are permitted on the field at any one time for this vigorous contact sport. The players aim to score by kicking the ball through the vertical posts at each end of the field.
6 points are awarded for a 'goal,' which is scored when the attacking team kicks the ball through the goal posts. 1 point is awarded for a 'behind,' which is scored when the ball crosses the line between a behind post and a goal post, if the ball hits a goal post or if it is touched by any part of the body except the foot, or the foot of an opposition player, before crossing between the goal posts.
AFL involves both kicking and handpassing the ball. When passing players may only hold the ball with one hand, using the other fist to hit it. Players may move around the field freely, however, when running with the ball it must touch the ground every 15 metres.
AFL is renown for it's fierce contests for possession. Players use tactics like aerial marking and tackling to gain possession of the ball. This fast moving and energetic game entices huge crowds due to the entertaining nature of the sport.
AFL has the highest spectator attendance of any sport in Australia. Over 6 million people attended AFL premiership matches in 2005 alone, with more than 3.3 million people watching on television.
For AFL teams the ultimate goal is winning the premiership. The premiership is decided by a final series, whereby the highest positioned teams play off in a semi-knockout series. The premiership is then battled for by the two successful teams in the Grand Final.
AFL is the most popular form of football in South Australia, Northern Territory, Victoria, Tasmania, and Western Australia. AFL is also popular among the indigenous Australian population, with 10% of all AFL players being of indigenous origin.
As of 2005 there were over 500 000 registered participants throughout Australia, proof that AFL has been and continues to form a huge part of Australian culture.