Fundamentally, the reason that sports are popular on a global level is because of the excitement and unpredictability that they provide. However, in recent years, increasing numbers of professional championships and competitions have become dominated by a handful of teams, thus making them more predictable. So, could one-sided dominance hurt the Australian Football League (AFL)?

The League’s Recent History

Recently, it has been claimed that this is happening to the Australian Football League, with reports by The Advertiser suggesting that the AFL is slowly turning into the Premier League. On paper, this fact is somewhat difficult to dispute. Since the 2005 season, the professional men’s competition for Aussie rules football has had just seven winners. However, upon looking for one-team dominance, it’s clear that no side has yet to create a dynasty.

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Throughout the previous 15 seasons, Hawthorn have been the most successful side, claiming the Premiership title on four different occasions. Impressively, the Hawks did manage to win three consecutive titles between 2013 and 2015. Because of their recent success, Hawthorn are 16/1 to be crowned the 2020 Grand Final winners in Aussie Rules betting as of June 3rd.

Despite signs that the AFL may be heading towards a lack of competitiveness between all sides, the emergence of consistent winners has yet to have a negative impact on the sport’s viewing figures. During the 2019 campaign, a total of 17 games attracted an audience of over one million people. In comparison, this was a four-match increase from the previous year, according to Footy Industry.

How Does This Compare to Other Sports?

Although they will live long in the memory, some sporting dynasties aren’t advantageous to their respective sports. In the case of the AFL, the league is yet to reach one-sided levels of dominance that can undoubtedly hamper spectator enjoyment. For example, in the world of Formula One, budget cuts are set to be introduced in the coming years in an attempt to bridge the gap between each team on the grid. While their achievements have been undeniably impressive, Mercedes’ six constructors’ championships in a row has hurt the highest class of single-seater racing.

Mercedes W10 / Valtteri Bottas / FIN / M” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by Renzopaso

Furthermore, as mentioned above, fears have come to fruition that the AFL may be heading in the same direction as the English Premier League. Aside from one anomaly, that comes in the form of Leicester City, the last 25 years of top-flight football have been dominated by Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City, and Manchester United. Despite their apparent sporting differences, the outlook of the AFL and the Premier League have become somewhat similar, with a handful of teams consistently among the favourites to clinch glory before the campaign has even begun.

The Need to Find Balance and Avoid the Creation of a Super Team

Ultimately, opinions of dynasty-building sides will vary depending on where supporter allegiances lie. However, if the dominance of Mercedes in F1 is anything to go off, the AFL needs to avoid one or two team superiority. Crucially, retaining the core values of sport is what will assist in taking the AFL to new heights, and that requires an element of unpredictability.