1980s VFL footy
In the 1980s the Victorian Football League was on its knees. Of the 12 clubs, 7 of them were technically insolvent.

The reasons for this state of affairs are many and varied, but include:

  • Declining crowds – average attendances were at their lowest point in a generation.
  • Poor facilities – multiple venues were in a state of disrepair.
  • The competition was hopelessly lopsided – 6 teams accounted for 38 of 40 grand final appearances and 19 flags in the 20 seasons since 1967.
  • Spending – with average player earnings quadrupling between 1980 and 1990 and transfer fees out of control, football revenue could not hope to match football spending.

Clearly, something had to be done.

Two reports, commissioned a decade apart, laid the foundations for the game we know today.

The McKinsey Report (1983) proposed that the VFL radically overhaul its structure and incorporate an independent commission. It led to the formation of a taskforce under David Mandie, which agreed that an independent commission was needed. It proposed that that the existing VFL board (comprised of club directors) be replaced with a full-time commissioner and four part-time commissioners.

The Crawford Report (1993) fundamentally changed the power balance between the clubs and the commission. Crawford’s recommendations included boosting the numbers of commissioners, appointing a chairperson who was not the league CEO, abolishing the existing board, and transferring powers to it to the newly structured commission.