The AFL Commission today announced it would maintain the NAB AFL Women’s competition as an eight-team league for the 2018 season, with expansion to occur for the 2019 season.

AFL Chief Executive Gillon McLachlan said the Commission, after seeking further information from its meeting in Sydney last month, had accepted a recommendation from the AFL Executive that consolidation was required for the second year of the competition in 2018.

Further talent identification and development, along with continued work to build the fan base of all clubs, was needed as a key priority to enable extra teams to enter the league in 2019.

Mr McLachlan said that all 10 Clubs that are currently not licensed to compete in the NAB AFL Women’s Competition would be invited to submit an application (date to be confirmed) for inclusion in the 2019 competition, with a final decision to be made by the Commission that will be subject to a number of strategic considerations.

Those Clubs that were granted provisional licenses (Geelong Cats, North Melbourne, Richmond, St Kilda and West Coast) will receive priority weighting when consideration is given to the submissions for inclusion in the competition in 2019.

A decision on expanding the competition in 2019, with the announcement of a number of new licences, will be made by the Commission mid-year at a date to be determined following the receipt of all submissions.

Mr McLachlan said a decision would be made this year on the additional teams, to provide the competition and those clubs granted the right to join the competition sufficient time to prepare for their entry in 2019.

“The AFL Commission accepted a recommendation that we need to consolidate the strong work that was achieved in year one of the NAB AFL Women’s Competition, with the addition of new teams to come into the competition to be set for 2019,” Mr McLachlan said.

“Our primary objective is to provide women and girls with an equal opportunity to play elite Australian Football and to increase the female participation and interest in our game.

“We need to further invest in both building our audience for the NAB AFL Women’s Competition and ensuring the talent pool can expand to be ready for the addition of new teams in 2019.

“Announcing the expansion teams later this year for the 2019 season will allow the competition to finalise its list-build rules for the new clubs before this year’s draft. It will also provide the time to focus strongly on talent identification and player development whilst enabling us to have discussions with both the AFLPA and our sponsors and broadcast partners before the 2019 season,” he said.

As part of the work examined by the Commission before making today’s decision, it considered:

- The financial implications of expansion
- The existing and future talent base, including the pathways in place to fast track players
- The two-year agreement with the AFLPA and broadcasters
- The time requirements for existing AFLW clubs to manage their lists for 2018, and for any new Clubs to set-up their operations
- The movement of players in order to maintain competitive balance

The Commission considered the arguments that introducing new teams immediately next year would create new support bases and acknowledged the strong support from Clubs for expansion.

Ultimately, it was determined that there needed to be consolidation in year two, Mr McLachlan said.