The AFL introduced free agency at the end of the 2012 season, giving players another vehicle where they can transfer from one club to another. Free agency is a common form of player movement in major football and sporting codes around the world.
Under the rules that were agreed between the AFL and AFL Players Association (AFLPA) in February 2010, Restricted and Unrestricted Free Agents may consider offers from rival Clubs during the post-season free agency period, following the 2020 Toyota AFL Premiership Season.
Under the AFL Player Rules, an Unrestricted Free Agent may automatically move to the Club of their choice.
An offer to a Restricted Free Agent may be matched by their Club. Should their original Club match the offer, and the Restricted Free Agent Player does not wish to remain with their original Club, they must enter the National Draft or seek a trade. Compensation in the form of AFL allocated draft picks will apply to clubs with a net loss of Free Agents, based on the formula determined by the AFL.
A contract offer is matched if the football payments and ASAs are equivalent under the offer and the contract proposed by the player’s current club. To qualify as a matching offer, the player’s current club must make an offer on the same terms as the new offer tabled by the player including:
• Contract length;
• Base payments;
• Total match payments;
• Total ASA payments;
Total performance incentives based on AFL awards or honours, club best and fairest finish or games played (not including finals). Any incentives for team performance do not have to be matched. A player cannot table an offer to be matched for less than a two-year contract length.
A club that has a net loss of players transferring to/from other clubs as free agents in one transfer period is entitled to compensation via National Draft picks allocated by the AFL.
The compensation formula produces a points rating for players based on:
1. The new contract of the free agent;
2. The age of the free agent.
Draft picks are allocated to clubs based on the net total points for free agents lost and gained during the transfer period.
Draft picks will be allocated to one of five places:
• 1st round
• end of 1st round
• 2nd round
• end of 2nd round
• 3rd round
In applying the formula, an expert committee reviews the formula outcomes. The committee has the power to recommend alternative outcomes to GM – Football Operations where the formula produces a materially anomalous result.