The 1800s

1858
Australian Football initiated by Thomas Wills.
First set of rules formulated.
July 10: Melbourne Football Club formed.
Aug 7: First recorded ‘match’: Scotch College v Melbourne Grammar School in Yarra Park, with no formal rules.

1859
May 17: Melbourne FC rules formulated.
July 18: Geelong Football Club formed.

1864
July: Carlton Football Club formed. 

1869
North Melbourne Football Club formed.

1872
Field umpires introduced. Previously, rival captains had awarded free kicks.
Essendon Football Club formed.

1873
April 2: St Kilda Football Club formed.
Team uniforms introduced. Previously, caps had been the only distinguishing feature.

1874
May 12: New code of rules drawn up.
All players required to be registered with one club only.
June 19: South Melbourne Football Club formed (called Cecil FC, then changed to SMFC on July 15).

1875
All senior matches required to be started on time.

1876
Game established in New Zealand.

1877
April 30: South Australian Football Association established.
May 7: Victorian Football Association established.
Oval shaped playing areas generally replaced the rectangular versions.

1879
MCC finally allows football to be played regularly on the MCG.
July 1: First intercolonial representative match: Victoria v South Australia, played in Melbourne.
Aug 5: First match played at night using electric light: Collingwood Rifles and East Melbourne Artillery draw in front of 12,000.

1883
April 26: Footscray Football Club formed; Sept 26: Fitzroy Football Club formed.

1885
Feb 20: Richmond Football Club formed.

1891
Players on both sides required to take up their allotted positions on the field.

1892
Feb 12: Collingwood Football Club formed.

1893
Essendon claimed championship by winning all its matches.
 

1896
Oct 2: Delegates from Geelong, Essendon, Collingwood, Fitzroy, Melbourne & South Melbourne met to form the VFL as a break-away competition.
Oct 3: Collingwood defeated South Melbourne at the East Melbourne Cricket Ground in the first play-off match to decide premiership winner.

1897
VFA reduced teams from 20 to 18 players.
Feb 5: VFL headquarters established at Port Phillip Club Hotel, Flinders St.
May 8: First round of VFL matches played.
First organised finals system implemented.

1899
VFL reduced teams from 20 to 18 players.
Sept 9: St Kilda registered a VFL record low score of one point against Geelong at Corio Oval.

1900–1930

1900
Ban placed on players wearing hats or caps not in club colours.
May 5: St Kilda successfully protested against Melbourne to win its first VFL match after 48 straight losses.

1902
April 9: Hawthorn Football Club formed.
Carlton appoints Jack Worrall as first ever VFL coach.

1903
May 23/Aug 3: Two premiership matches played in Sydney. Fitzroy d Collingwood and Geelong d Carlton.

1904
May 28: One premiership match played in Sydney. Melbourne d Essendon.

1905
November: Australasian Football Council formed.

1908
Richmond and University Football Clubs admitted to the competition.
First Australasian Football Carnival held in Melbourne, won by Victoria. New Zealand participates.
July 24: VFL administrative headquarters transferred to the Block Arcade, Collins St.

1909
June 5: Geelong successfully protested against St Kilda for playing disqualified player. Boundary umpires first given power to report players.

1910
VFL conducted investigation regarding bribery scandal.

1911
VFL approved official player payments.
Second Australian Football Carnival held
in Adelaide, won by SA.

1912
April 27: VFL players first wore guernsey numbers in all matches.
April 27: The Football Record first published.

1913
VFL Independent Tribunal instituted.

1914
Metropolitan zoning introduced.
Third Australian Football Carnival held in Sydney, won by Victoria.
Aug 29: University played its last VFL match.

1916
Only four VFL clubs, Carlton, Collingwood, Fitzroy and Richmond competed.

1917
Geelong and South Melbourne rejoined the competition.

1918
Essendon and St Kilda rejoined the competition.
Aug 24: South Melbourne v Carlton semi-final postponed seven days because of heavy rain.

1919
Melbourne returned to the competition.
Reserve Grade formed.

1921
Fourth Australian Football Carnival held at Perth, won by WA.

1923
VFL appointed Mr Jack Elder, former field umpire, as the first umpires’ instructor.
All VFL venues required to display quarter by quarter scores.
Oct 13: Grand Final postponed seven days because the MCG is flooded.

1924
Footscray, Hawthorn and North Melbourne Football Clubs admitted.
New rule: Home team – black knickers; away team – white knickers.
Brownlow Medal instituted. One vote allocated per home and away match.
Fifth Australian Football Carnival held in Hobart, won by Victoria.

1926
Club membership ticket holders no longer freely admitted to finals matches.

1927
Sixth Australian Football Carnival in Melbourne, won by Victoria.
Collingwood creates history by winning all three major awards: premiership, Brownlow Medal and leading goalkicker.

1929
Aug 16: VFL officially moved into Spring St headquarters and named it Harrison House.

1930
“Coulter Law” adopted, restricting payments to players.
Seventh Australian Football Carnival in Adelaide, won by Victoria.
Collingwood became the only VFL club to win four consecutive premierships.

1931–1960

1931
Brownlow Medal 3-2-1 voting system introduced.
McIntyre Final Four system introduced.

1933

June 17: Experimental siren used in Essendon v Geelong match at Windy Hill.
Eighth Australian Football Carnival held in Sydney, won by Victoria.

1934
South Melbourne’s Bob Pratt booted a record 150 goals in 21 matches.

1936
July 4: Round 10 matches postponed seven days because of flooded grounds.

1937
Ninth Australian Football Carnival held in Perth, won by Victoria.
Sept 25: Gordon Coventry (Coll) makes his farewell appearance after scoring a VFL record 1299 career goals.

1939
Aug 26: Round 18 matches postponed seven days because of flooded grounds.

1940
Payments to players and staff cut in half because of the war.

1942
Geelong does not compete due to World War II restrictions.
Payments to players limited to $3 per match.
Finals played at Princes Park while the MCG is used by defence forces.

1943
Geelong again does not participate.
Bottom club St Kilda ceases competition after Round 11 due to VFL ruling.

1946
Under-19s (thirds) competition starts.

1947
Players’ advocates first permitted to defend players at Tribunal hearings.
Tenth Australian National Football Carnival held in Hobart, won by Victoria.
Aug 30: Fred Fanning (Melb) scores VFL record 18 goals against St Kilda at the Junction Oval.
Eleventh Australian National Football Council Championships in Brisbane, won by Victoria.

1951
McClelland Trophy introduced for the club recording the most senior, reserves and under-19s match points.

1952
June 14-16: Nineteen home and away rounds played to include extra round in interstate and country centres.
June 16: First match played for premiership points at night – Essendon v Geelong at the Brisbane Exhibition Ground.

1953
Geelong wins a VFL record 23 consecutive matches spread over two seasons.
Twelfth ANFC Championships in Adelaide, won by Victoria.

1956
Thirteenth ANFC Championships in Perth, won by Victoria.
First night competition played between eight clubs, and won by South Melbourne.

1957
Last quarters of VFL matches televised live.
Reserved seating for finals matches introduced.

1958
Centenary of Australian Football.
June 16: Highest VFL home and away match attendance – 99,346 at the MCG, Queen’s Birthday Monday; Melbourne defeated Collingwood.
Fourteenth ANFC Championships in Melbourne, won by Victoria.

1959
Reserve grade matches first played as ‘curtain-raisers’ to seniors.
Premiership cup first presented to the victorious captain.

1960
April 23: Round two postponed due to torrential rain. Two of the matches played Anzac Day and remainder the next Saturday.
April 25: Matches permitted on Anzac Day for the first time – Fitzroy d Carlton at Princes Park and Melbourne d St Kilda at the Junction Oval.

1961–1980

1961
TV stations no longer permitted to show live telecasts or replays. Replay of Grand Final allowed in last-minute deal.
Fifteenth ANFC championships at Brisbane, won by WA.
VFL buys land in the city of Waverley for development as a sports arena.

1962
TV stations now permitted to show replays of VFL matches.

1963
July 13: Round 10 matches postponed seven days because of flooded grounds.

1966
Sixteenth Australian Football championships played in Hobart, won by Victoria.

1967
Brownlow Medal vote-reading system changed to third being read first and first votes read last.

1968
Zoning introduced whereby Victoria and Riverina divided into areas and allocated to VFL clubs.

1969
Seventeenth Australian Football Championships played in Adelaide, won by Victoria.

1970
April 5: Fitzroy defeats Richmond in the first VFL match played on a Sunday.
April 18: Waverley Park hosts its first match: Geelong defeats Fitzroy.
Aug 31: First direct telecast of Brownlow Medal count.
Sept 26: Highest VFL match attendance: 121,696 at the MCG: Grand Final – Carlton d Collingwood.

1971
Night Series competition based at the Lake Oval played for the last time.
Hawthorn’s Peter Hudson scores an equal record 150 goals for the season.

1972
Feb 23: New VFL headquarters opened in Jolimont Street.
Eighteenth Australian Football Championships played in Perth, won by Victoria.

1973
Ten-year automatic clearance rule introduced. In May it was rescinded.

1975
Clubs permitted to adopt coloured shorts for introduced colour television coverage.
Video tape of incidents becomes admissible evidence at Tribunal hearings.

1976
Two field umpires first used in VFL matches.
VFL logo introduced on to players’ uniforms.

1977
Night Series competition reintroduced.
Sept 23: First Grand Final parade.
Sept 24: Channel Seven telecasts both Grand Finals (draw and replay) live in Victoria for the first time.
Oct 1: Presentation of premiership medallions to players immediately after the Grand Final introduced.

1979
Two VFL matches for premiership points played in Sydney and telecast directly in Victoria.
Nineteenth Australian Football Championships played in Perth, won by WA.

1979
July 28: Fitzroy defeats Melbourne at Waverley Park by a VFL record 190 points.
Sept 29: Norm Smith Medal introduced for the best afield in the Grand Final.

1980
Four VFL matches played in Sydney.
Twentieth Australian Football Championships played in Adelaide, won by Victoria.
Sept 29: First presentation of losing Grand Final team players’ medallions.

1981–2000

1981
Three VFL home and away rounds played interstate, two in Sydney, one in Brisbane.
Field umpires strike during Round 19 due to administrative dispute.
Sept 26: Last presentation of losing Grand Final team players’ medallions.

1982
South Melbourne relocates to Sydney.
March 17: New VFL Headquarters opened in Jolimont Road.
Live telecasts of SCG matches permitted outside Sydney.

1983
VFL forced to redraft regulations following successful court challenge by Silvio Foschini to be granted a clearance.
Aug 5: First Friday night match for premiership points: Geelong defeats Sydney at the SCG.

1984
VFL Commission formed.
Sept 9: First Sunday finals match: Collingwood defeats Fitzroy at the MCG.
New rules governing player transfers and payments implemented.
Salary cap introduced for use in 1985.

1985
Independent VFL Commission became the decision-making body.

1986
Introduction of National Player Draft.
Abolition of Victorian Country Zoning.

1987
West Coast Football Club and Brisbane Football Club admitted to the competition.
The ABC televises VFL matches for a year. At least one match shown live weekly.

1988
Twenty-first Australian Football Championships played in Adelaide, won by SA.

1989
Abolition of Victorian Metropolitan Zoning.

1990
Jan 1: The VFL renamed as the AFL.

1991
Adelaide FC admitted to the competition.
Fitzroy played two home matches at North Hobart.
Introduction of 40-year agreement with MCC
to play at least once weekly at the MCG during finals series.
Last season of League under-19s competition.
McClelland Trophy now awarded to senior club finishing top at end of home and away series.
Sept 28: Michael Tuck (Hawthorn) made his farewell appearance in his AFL record 426th match.
Under 19s competition abolished at the end of the season.

1992
MCG colour video scoreboard first used for AFL matches.
May 3: Geelong scored AFL record 37.17 (239) against Brisbane at Carrara.
May 4: AFL Headquarters relocated to MCG Great Southern Stand.
Fitzroy played two home matches at North Hobart.

1994
Final eight system introduced.
Introduction of three field umpire system.
Third interchange player permitted in AFL matches.
Bleeding players first required to leave the field immediately for treatment.

1995
Fremantle admitted to the competition.
May 27: Fitzroy played a home match against West Coast Eagles at Bruce Stadium, Canberra.

1996
July 4: AFL Commission reached agreement on a proposal for Brisbane and Fitzroy to merge at the end of the season.
Sept 1: Fitzroy played its last AFL match.

1997
Port Adelaide admitted to the competition.
Footscray renamed the Western Bulldogs.

1998
Fourth interchange player permitted in AFL matches.
Aug 1: North Melbourne played a home match against Port Adelaide at Manuka Oval, Canberra.

1999
Reserves competition abolished at the end of the season.

2000
March 9: Docklands Stadium hosted its first AFL match – Essendon defeated Port Adelaide.
March 19: An AFL match occurred under a roof for the first time - Brisbane Lions defeated the Western Bulldogs at Docklands.
Essendon won 24 of 25 matches for season, an all-time AFL record.
Nov 6: AFL Headquarters relocated to Docklands.

2001–Present day

2001
April 12: Essendon’s AFL record of 31 consecutive rounds on top of ladder finally ended.
May 6: Hawthorn played a home match against Adelaide at York Park, Launceston.
Dec 10: Sale of Waverley Park announced.

2002
May 25: Stadium Australia hosted its first AFL match, Sydney v Essendon attracting 54,129 spectators (record match attendance outside Victoria).

2003
MCG capacity reduced after work starts on the redevelopment of the stadium.
June 13-15: AFL matches played in six different states/territories in the same round for the first time.
July 30: Andrew Demetriou, the AFL's general manager-football operations, is appointed the AFL's new chief executive officer, replacing Wayne Jackson.
August 23: Stadium Australia (now ANZ Stadium) attracted the biggest crowd for a game played outside Victoria when 72,393 watch the Sydney v Collingwood match.

2004
August 14: The Western Bulldogs played a home match against Port Adelaide at TIO Stadium, Darwin. Matches were now being played in seven different states/territories.

2005
A major review of the Tribunal system introduced. All reports channelled through the Match Review Panel.

2006
January 5: The Seven and Ten Networks acquired the rights to broadcast AFL games from 2007 to 2011.
April 30: The round five clash between St Kilda and Fremantle at Aurora Stadium finished in a draw, despite the fact the siren sounded before the behind that tied the game was kicked.
May 3: After detailed submissions from Fremantle and St Kilda and an AFL administration investigation, the AFL Commission awarded the game to Fremantle.

2009
The AFL grants a licence for Gold Coast to become the 17th club. The Gold Coast Suns will enter the competition in 2011.

2010
AFL record aggregate attendance for a premiership season was established – 7,147,052 for 186 games.
AFL record finals aggregate attendance for a premiership season was established – 651,228 for 10 games.
The third Grand Final draw in AFL history is played between Collingwood and St Kilda.
The AFL grants a licence for Greater Western Sydney to become the 18th club.

2011
Gold Coast admitted to the competition.
April 28: The AFL announces it has reached agreement with the Seven Network, Foxtel and Telstra to broadcast AFL matches for the next five years, covering the period 2012-16. The agreement will deliver $1.253 billion to the game. 

2012
Greater Western Sydney Giants admitted to the competition.
Free agency introduced.