Football (soccer) in Australia- a brief history

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Football in Australia is the most popular outdoor sport and ranks in the top ten for the most broadcasted games in the country.

The sport’s main governing body is the Football Federation Australia (FFA) who organise the A-League, W-League (Women’s League) and the FFA Cup.

The game was introduced to the country by European immigrants in the 19th century. The first ever established clubs were Wanderers FC, based in Parramatta (b. 1880, not to be confused with the current Western Sydney Wanderers club from the same locality) and Balgownie Rangers from Wollongong, formed in 1883.

The first national competition in Australia was the National Soccer League (NSL) formed in 1977, which for twenty seven years was the country’s premier competition.  Many clubs participated in this competition throughout its history, many of which still exist in lower grade competitions, currently compete in the A-League, or disappeared completely following the competition’s demise.   Participating teams came from all over the country, and it was a truly national competition. Many clubs who competed in the NSL were formed on the basis of ethnicity, such as Sydney United (Croatia), Marconi Stallions (Italy) and Sydney East Hakoah (Jewish/Israeli), a trend not seen in modern Australian professional sport since the ending of the NSL.   The most successful team in NSL history were the Melbourne Knights (a predominantly Croatian side), who won the competition five times. The last team to win an NSL title were Perth Glory (2003-04).

Since the demise of the NSL, the A League (est 2004) is now Australia’s main professional football tournament. Unlike the NSL, A League sides solely represent major cities and there are no local suburban teams competing, such as Heidelberg (Melbourne) and St George Budapest (Sydney) .  Teams formed on the basis of ethnicity no longer compete, and the competition is far greater funded due to a strong influence of corporate sponsors.  The A League is also a much smaller competition, with only ten teams competing; this has increased from eight in the first season.

The most successful teams in the competition’s young history are Melbourne Victory and Brisbane Roar, both winning two titles each. The current champions of the A League are Adelaide United, winning the 2015-16 season.

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