How the AFL/VFL handled other world crises

GWS Giants debuted in the AFL in 2012 despite ongoing problems caused by the global financial crash.
GWS Giants debuted in the AFL in 2012 despite ongoing problems caused by the global financial crash.

HOW THE AFL/VFL HANDLED PREVIOUS MAJOR WORLD CRISES

* WORLD WAR I (1914-18)

While many of the VFL's 10 clubs went into recess for differing periods between 1914 and 1918, one never came back. Perennial battlers University withdrew from the competition after the 1914 season on a record 51-game losing streak. Tragically, 19 former students players were killed during active service in the Great War. Only four clubs - Carlton, Collingwood, Richmond and Fitzroy - remained in the league for the entirety of the war. Fitzroy, then nicknamed the Maroons, famously won the 1916 grand final despite finishing the regular season last out of the four sides. Attendances took a dive during hostilities, with just 21,130 people watching the MCG decider 104 years ago.

* SPANISH FLU (1918-1920)

With the world already devastated by mass loss of life, a deadly strain of flu emerged in the wake of the war. The H1N1 pandemic infected more than 500 million people worldwide, killing about 13,000 in Australia. Despite men between the ages of 25 and 40 proving vulnerable to contacting Spanish Flu, the VFL went ahead with a normal 18-round season, including crowds. Not only did competition continue, the league actually expanded in 1919 by introducing a reserves competition.

* GREAT DEPRESSION (1930s)

As unemployment surged to 32 per cent, the VFL was booming. Australians flocked to sport like never before, searching for a distraction from the economic chaos devastating the world. A then-record 96,486 people watched Carlton edge arch-rivals Collingwood in the 1938 grand final.

* WORLD WAR II (1939-45)

The VFL pushed through virtually unaffected until 1942 when Geelong were forced to withdraw for two seasons because of travel restrictions. The MCG was out of action between 1942 and 1945 when it was used as a military base, with grand finals instead played at Princes Park and the Junction Oval. No Brownlow medals were awarded for those four seasons.

* GLOBAL FINANCIAL CRISIS (2008)

With Australia surviving the GFC in better shape than nearly every other developed economy in the world, the AFL also weathered the storm. Despite club profitability dropping by $5 million, largely due to a downturn in corporate hospitality and events, membership numbers grew. A confident AFL forged ahead with expansion in the wake of the GFC, with Gold Coast and Greater Western Sydney joining the competition in 2011 and 2012 respectively.

Australian Associated Press