Why was'nt Port Melbourne in the original VFL, and not the VFA?

Stabby McGee

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Off topic, but I've been watching a bit of VFA footy from back in the day on Youtube recently.

I reckon you Victorians did footy in your state a bit of a dis-service letting that comp go by-the-wayside. It was pretty good, crowd sizes were often decent too.
Agreed, but it wasn't us 'Victorians'. It was the AFL that killed it. The AFL isn't representative of anything but themselves. What happened was that the moment that Sth went to Sydney and started playing Sunday games the bells began to ring. Then they took over any other times slot they could. Also they got rid of the reserves, only to co-opt the VFA a couple of years later and then gradually allow stand alone teams to push into the comp until all the older teams were dead, taken over, or - astonishingly - like Port alive but competing with teams that have a multi multi million dollar football budget. It is no different to the SANFL or the WAFL. Maybe in different ways, but the AFL has relegated them all into relative obscurity, and as the last of the rusted on fans die off they will all just be footnotes in a history book.
 

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FredLeDeux

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Agreed, but it wasn't us 'Victorians'. It was the AFL that killed it. The AFL isn't representative of anything but themselves. What happened was that the moment that Sth went to Sydney and started playing Sunday games the bells began to ring. Then they took over any other times slot they could. Also they got rid of the reserves, only to co-opt the VFA a couple of years later and then gradually allow stand alone teams to push into the comp until all the older teams were dead, taken over, or - astonishingly - like Port alive but competing with teams that have a multi multi million dollar football budget. It is no different to the SANFL or the WAFL. Maybe in different ways, but the AFL has relegated them all into relative obscurity, and as the last of the rusted on fans die off they will all just be footnotes in a history book.
The advent of the Channel 7 Swans was undoubtedly a key factor in the VFA's final demise, but the serious decline had started some years earlier in the mid to late 70s.
One element was a significant reduction in the number of ex-VFL players joining VFA clubs, and this was partly caused by a Victorian state revenue authority blitz in which they started chasing VFA clubs for payroll tax, but not suburban clubs. The result was that suburban clubs had relatively bigger war chests with which to outbid the VFA clubs, especially those in older areas which were already struggling with falling financial resources due to declining and/or changing demographics.
 

Pessimistic

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As an aside it apparently was the Hawthorn council who had ambitions to get Hawthorn into the VFL. hawthorn then was pretty much a social club and many supporters weren’t happ to have to pay more etc to be in the VFL

Ironic that no the Hawthorn council now have no interest in glenferrie oval, apart form preventing Swinburne from using it
 

Sttew

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The original 'VFL six' were Collingwood, Essendon, Fitzroy, Geelong, Melbourne and South Melbourne- they invited Carlton and St Kilda to join them in the inaugural VFL competition.

When they expanded in 1908, they invited Richmond (good decision), and University (perhaps not so wise).

The VFA still had some prestige in those days- clubs like Port and Williamstown could compete financially for players.. I don't know if that had anything to do with the reason.

In 1925 Footscray (reigning VFA premiers, western suburbs), North and Hawthorn (eastern suburbs) joined. From memory the VFL were in two minds about giving Hawthorn the 12th membership, I can't remember who the alternative VFA candidates were.
And let’s not lose sight of the fact it was Geelong that initiated the break away from the VFA to form the VFL
 

mianfei

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Painters and dockers. Umpires would have been scared of ending up bottom of Victoria dock.
People seldom notice the huge contradiction in St. Kilda (and even Melbourne) joining the VFL rather than Port Melbourne or Footscray, but I feel I ought to and can explain it in point form:
  1. The VFL was formed by the top VFA clubs: indeed the majority of the pre-1897 VFA is today’s Victorian AFL clubs, with Hawthorn the only exception (along with Fitzroy, Port, Williamstown and relocated South Melbourne)
    • Of course, Hawthorn – based in a middle-class area with essentially zero corporate backing and having a small metropolitan zone – would never have survived in today’s AFL or even the pre-national VFL without the aid of:
      1. Revenue sharing from the 1940s to the 1970s, which allowed the Hawks to rise from only 111 wins in its initial 522 games to the end of 1953
        • To the end of 1953 Hawthorn had accumulated two winning records and zero finals appearances out of 65 seasons in all grades
      2. The malapportioned country zoning system from the late 1960s to the late 1980s, which gave the Hawks eight premierships they could never have won otherwise
  2. It was naturally a competition of the top VFA clubs that would have been likely to professionalise given the availability of industrial corporate backing
  3. However, for reasons of crowd control and hooliganism, the working class clubs of Port Melbourne, Footscray, Williamstown, North Melbourne and Richmond were excluded
  4. These clubs were not dominant in the original VFA, but were more likely to professionalise than Melbourne – which was controlled by that bastion of amateurism, the MCC – or St. Kilda which was located far from industry and consequently has suffered from a severe lack of wealthy supporters for the majority of its history
  5. Thus, if the VFL was consistent in being a league of the best VFA clubs, it would have excluded those clubs controlled or powerfully influenced by the middle-class “amateur ideal” (Melbourne, St. Kilda – especially the patronless Saints)
  6. However, despite the potential for payment for playing given the availability of the keystone for professional sport – wealthy patrons – the VFL itself still adhered to an amateur ideal that had become hypocritical even by 1907 when under-the-table payments were well documented
  7. If the VFL had not had to deal with the vote of clubs like Melbourne, University and Hawthorn (plus to a considerable extent St. Kilda) who were controlled by the “amateur ideal” a fully professional league would have been feasible as early as the interwar period given the patronage available from industry and politicians
As an afterthought, if Brighton instead of Richmond had become the tenth League club in 1907, it’s possible that professionalisation (at least partial) might have occurred earlier in the VFA than the VFL, and that VFA recruitment of top players would have occurred earlier and on a larger scale that it did with the likes of Ron Todd three decades later. In this scenario, I could easily see a VFL/VFA merger as the only option, and there might have been efforts to exclude clubs controlled by the “amateur ideal”.
 

Bunk Moreland

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The story as I've always heard it is South and Port were close together. South got the invite because they had the better oval, which was far superior to Port's ground.

Feral fans was always a story told but who knows what the influence of that was. The ground seems like a far more feasible and realistic reason.
 
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RogersResults

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Is this rivalry why Footscray, who were much more favourably located than St. Kilda for critical industrial corporate backing, were never invited to join the VFL in 1896 or 1907, and also why the Tricolours (as they were then known) never as far as I know even considered applying to join the VFL either when it formed or when it wanted to expand after the 1907 season??
"who were much more favourably located than St. Kilda"

Whereas St Kilda's home ground at the 'Junction Oval' had tram services running past it, there were no trams to Footscray in 1897 or 1907. (There was no tram service to Footscray until 1921.)
"Footscray Electric Trams.
SERVICES TO COMMENCE -
ABOUT 1st JULY."
The Age, 14 May 1921.
https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/203972452
 

mianfei

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"who were much more favourably located than St. Kilda"

Whereas St Kilda's home ground at the 'Junction Oval' had tram services running past it, there were no trams to Footscray in 1897 or 1907. (There was no tram service to Footscray until 1921.)
I was not referring to transport, but solely to industrial patronage, for which – as was pointed out by page 107 of Up Where Cazaly?, St. Kilda was terribly located for the two reasons of being in a nonindustrial area and being in a region influenced by the “amateur ideal”. Inasmuch as industrial patronage was in those days more important to a club’s success than gate revenue, St. Kilda was more poorly located than Footscray, although it was only on a single-track rail line that was not fully duplicated until the road lobby was taking control in the 1970s.
 

Cold Sober

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Think it was more due to player availability, like how many players got out of gaol in time to front up regularly .
 

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skilts

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The 1896 July match between Collingwood and Nth Melbourne ("the greatest disgrace of all time in Australian football".) may have influenced Collingwood's decision to leave the Association. Discussions about reforming the competition had been going on since 1893 and reforming the VFA (creating separate divisions for example) instead of forming a new League was Collingwood's position until towards the end of 1896.
The main reason for forming a new competition was revenue. The stronger clubs were finding that fixtures against weaker teams were costing them too much to play.

The under-performing St Kilda was invited in because of their access to the well placed St Kilda Cricket Ground at St Kilda Junction. The equally poorly performing Carlton got in because they promised to provide the competition with a new enclosed oval in Princes Park although it was nor ready for use until midway through the League's inaugural season.

As for Port Melbourne being a bit 'unruly'. Below are a few samples.

DISGRACEFUL FOOTBALL AT PORT MELBOURNE. IN PORT MELBOURNE-ESSENDON MATCH. ESSENDON PLAYER HIT WITH UMBRELLA AND PUNCHED. UMPIRE GUARDED BY POLICE AND TROOPERS.
PORT MELBOURNE FOOTBALL. POLICE COURT SEQUEL.
ATTACKS ON UMPIRES. PORT MELBOURNE INCIDENT. What is the Duty of the Police?
FOOTBALL CROWD RIOTS AT PORT MELBOURNE. POLICE RESCUE UMPIRE.

FOOTBALL INCIDENTS. TROUBLE AT PORT MELBOURNE. Police Draw Batons.

Umpire Kicked In Shins POLICE, 600 BRAWL AT MATCH
According to my father, this sort of behaviour went on well into the 1940s.
 

mianfei

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St. Kilda very lucky to get an invite.
Actually, Carlton was the last club to be invited to join the VFL – ironic given that whereas St. Kilda has for most of its history been devoid of the wealthy supporters so essential to on-field success, Carlton was for many generations the poster child for a wealthy and successful club with numerous rich patrons – most significantly and famously Robert Menzies and John Elliott of the Liberal Party.

There are many alternate histories that could be written if Carlton did not get into the VFL when it formed, or if Port Melbourne had replaced it. Likely, of course, the Blues would have had the same history as Richmond: their favourable location for industrial patronage would have ensured they became dominant in the VFA. Thus the Blues would have pressed for admission to the VFL as Richmond did, and if they could have obtained it before the League introduced its first metropolitan zoning scheme in 1915, the Blues would certainly have become a power with the patronage available unless they failed to gain the political patronage of the conservative parties that were a key to Carlton’s status as the richest club in the League for most of the last three-quarters of the twentieth century.

It’s unlikely Carlton would have been a Footscray and not sought admission.
According to my father, this sort of behaviour went on well into the 1940s.
When did this behaviour cease with Footscray? Did Footscray’s administration believe it had to end that type of behaviour before they would so much as consider applying to join the VFL?
 

pablo668

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Agreed, but it wasn't us 'Victorians'. It was the AFL that killed it. The AFL isn't representative of anything but themselves. What happened was that the moment that Sth went to Sydney and started playing Sunday games the bells began to ring. Then they took over any other times slot they could. Also they got rid of the reserves, only to co-opt the VFA a couple of years later and then gradually allow stand alone teams to push into the comp until all the older teams were dead, taken over, or - astonishingly - like Port alive but competing with teams that have a multi multi million dollar football budget. It is no different to the SANFL or the WAFL. Maybe in different ways, but the AFL has relegated them all into relative obscurity, and as the last of the rusted on fans die off they will all just be footnotes in a history book.
Yeah, the 'you Victorians' part was tongue in cheek, probably should have left that out.
Agree with you about the AFL. They just don't get how important strong lower leagues can be to the health of the game as a whole.
 

mianfei

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Times change.
Demographic changes, especially large-scale Asian and Mediterranean immigration, ensured the VFA would have gone by the wayside even without Sunday VFL football. So many of the clubs in the Mediterranean “soccer belt” (e.g. Yarraville, Sunshine, Brunswick, Coburg) and in the southeast where large-scale Asian immigration began in the 1980s (Oakleigh, Waverley, Dandenong) suffered exceedingly rapid erosion of their supporter bases with the dismantling of the “White Australia Policy” (like it or not). Other VFA clubs in the “soccer belt” like Northcote had already had eroded supporter bases to an even severer extent than South Melbourne, Footscray and Fitzroy had suffered in the 1950s and 1960s.

The vulnerability of the VFA and “soccer belt” VFL clubs to these immigration programs stands utterly unique in the world of sport, and this should be said even if it is not palatable to do so. Only those clubs with historic reliable large-scale patronage and consequently expanded supporter bases (the “big five” clubs of Carlton, Collingwood, Essendon, Richmond and Geelong) could cope independently with both this challenge and the challenge from telegenic basketball that emerged with the NBL and the Larry Bird/Magic Johnson rivalry in the NBA of the 1980s – and to do so required a complete and largely planned change in the structure of football competitions.

Port Melbourne would either have been a “big five” or “soccer belt” club had they been in the VFL before 1915, and definitely a “soccer belt” club if admitted later: duplication is the most likely consequence of the Borough being admitted.
 

Bunk Moreland

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Yeah, the 'you Victorians' part was tongue in cheek, probably should have left that out.
Agree with you about the AFL. They just don't get how important strong lower leagues can be to the health of the game as a whole.
I think the support for “footy” as a whole still exists, it’s just elsewhere. There’s about 900 senior clubs in Victoria, the VFA just sits kind of awkwardly between them and the AFL.
 

RogersResults

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I was not referring to transport, but solely to industrial patronage, for which – as was pointed out by page 107 of Up Where Cazaly?, St. Kilda was terribly located for the two reasons of being in a nonindustrial area and being in a region influenced by the “amateur ideal”. Inasmuch as industrial patronage was in those days more important to a club’s success than gate revenue, St. Kilda was more poorly located than Footscray, although it was only on a single-track rail line that was not fully duplicated until the road lobby was taking control in the 1970s.
No trams in Footscray until 1921 - end of story why the VFL didn't admit a team from that part of Melbourne in 1897. The St Kilda ground with a direct tram route to Flinders St. Station was a much more attractive proposition. It is however also possible that the 'amateur' and perceived 'sportsmen-like' attitude of the St Kilda club was an added attraction to what was after all a proclaimed amateur competition in 1897.

Also the discussion is about decisions in regards to which clubs were admitted to the VFL not the relative success of those clubs admitted. Note too that p.107 of 'Up Where Cazaly' refers to the 'depression' era of the 1930s when the VFL was officially semi-professional.
 

Timmy from Thomastown

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Demographic changes, especially large-scale Asian and Mediterranean immigration, ensured the VFA would have gone by the wayside even without Sunday VFL football. So many of the clubs in the Mediterranean “soccer belt” (e.g. Yarraville, Sunshine, Brunswick, Coburg) and in the southeast where large-scale Asian immigration began in the 1980s (Oakleigh, Waverley, Dandenong) suffered exceedingly rapid erosion of their supporter bases with the dismantling of the “White Australia Policy” (like it or not). Other VFA clubs in the “soccer belt” like Northcote had already had eroded supporter bases to an even severer extent than South Melbourne, Footscray and Fitzroy had suffered in the 1950s and 1960s.

The vulnerability of the VFA and “soccer belt” VFL clubs to these immigration programs stands utterly unique in the world of sport, and this should be said even if it is not palatable to do so. Only those clubs with historic reliable large-scale patronage and consequently expanded supporter bases (the “big five” clubs of Carlton, Collingwood, Essendon, Richmond and Geelong) could cope independently with both this challenge and the challenge from telegenic basketball that emerged with the NBL and the Larry Bird/Magic Johnson rivalry in the NBA of the 1980s – and to do so required a complete and largely planned change in the structure of football competitions.

Port Melbourne would either have been a “big five” or “soccer belt” club had they been in the VFL before 1915, and definitely a “soccer belt” club if admitted later: duplication is the most likely consequence of the Borough being admitted.
Not even that. People just gradually preferred to watch the best level of competition and migrated towards that. Same thing happened with state level cricket.

The VFA benefiited massively in the 70's from a monopoly on Sunday football as VFL was not permitted by law to be played or broadcast. As that monopoly started to wain as laws were relaxed, firstly with VFL Reserves and then with Sydney Swans games and finally with regular Melbourne based VFL games, so did the VFA start to wain.
 
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