The AFL is considering whether to implement a nine or 10-team finals format for when the competition expands to 18 teams in 2012.
AFL chief executive Andrew Demetriou confirmed the AFL is exploring the merits of expanding the home-and-away season to 23 or 24 rounds once the Gold Coast (2011) and greater Western Sydney franchises (2012) join the competition.
And Demetriou hinted the league is leaning towards creating a nine-team finals format, although the merits of 10 teams making the finals is also being discussed.
“We’re actually doing a huge body of work on 17 and 18 teams,” Demetriou said.
“As you know there’ll be a bye next year [and] we’re doing work around whether it’ll be a 22 or 23 or 24-round season when we go to 18 teams.
“They’re all options that we’re looking at.
“Our guys are doing a mountain of work with a sub-committee that involves clubs on what the structure of the competition will look like [so] hopefully by mid-year, probably towards August-September, we’ll have a better feel.”
The AFL has used a top-eight finals format since 1994 but Demetriou says that is likely to change in 2012.
“What do the finals look like? Do we still have a final eight? That’s being done at the moment,” he said.
“We have a top eight with 16 teams, which is 50 per cent of the competition. When you go to 18 teams someone could run the argument ‘why haven’t we got a top nine?’
“There’s no reason why we can’t have a top nine. Someone sent me a proposal the other day suggesting a top 10.
“We’ll look at all those things and we’d be remiss in our duties if we weren’t looking at and canvassing all the options.”
Meanwhile, former Essendon captain Matthew Lloyd says the preseason competition is unnecessary and called for a longer home-and-away season instead.
But Demetriou confirmed the preseason competition will remain.
“I think Matthew’s entitled to his opinion but every club tells us they need preparation to get these elite athletes ready for the season,” he said.
“They just can’t throw them into round one.
“I can assure you that…if we didn’t have a NAB Cup competition, particularly a NAB Regional Challenge, it would be to the detriment of the preparation of the players.
“We get to showcase the game, we allow people around the country to touch their players and connect to their teams that they wouldn’t normally see.
“Not having a NAB Cup or Regional Challenge would provide four or five weeks of no football coverage.
“And as other codes elongate their seasons we actually want football to be talked about.”