THE AFL must revamp its fixture or finals system or risk supporters of clubs outside the eight losing interest midway through the season. 

A change could turbocharge a season that under the current system often meanders through the depths of winter towards finals. 

Under either the 17-5 fixture model or a wildcard finals system, supporters of Port Adelaide, Melbourne, Richmond, St Kilda, Carlton and even Collingwood would still be hopeful of making finals in 2016.

As it stands now their chances of making the final eight are remote, and that is not good enough.

While the premiership is up for grabs in 2016, the top-eight spots already look set with the same teams entrenched in the top eight since round six.

If that situation drags on for four more weeks – as appears likely – a new record of 13 consecutive weeks without a change in the make-up of teams in the final eight, a concept introduced in 1994, will be established.

According to the official AFL statistician, that record was set in 2010 when the teams in the final eight remained unchanged from round 11 onwards.

As it is, history tells us only one change to the final eight teams is likely after round eight.

That is hardly a system that encourages interest.

Imagine the crowds Richmond v Port Adelaide and Carlton v Collingwood would attract this weekend if finals were still a real chance under a different system.

It's been a miserable season for the Pies, but a finals shake-up could change all that. Picture: AFL Media

At this stage, the best options to change the status are a 17-5 fixture model or a wildcard finals system that sees 10 teams have a shot at finals at season's end.

The AFL is aware of the dilemma and has raised both options in the past 12 months but many clubs have been reluctant to change.

The 17-5 model means all 18 teams play each other once in the first 17 rounds before the League is broken into three groups of six where qualifiers are played for the finals and draft picks.

The top-six teams then play for top-four spots, the middle six teams play for seventh and eighth spot, and the bottom six would play to determine the draft order.  

The model's main flaw is the incentive provided to the bottom six teams playing off and, if it is draft position, the obvious complications that trading future picks present (imagine Collingwood playing to be higher up the draft order this season when Greater Western Sydney has their first pick).

Finding a solution to the bottom-six playoffs is a challenge all football lovers should take on.

The simplest wildcard system would see seventh play 10th and eighth play ninth at the end of the season for the right to play in the same finals system we have right now.

That would put the five teams locked on six wins right now in a desperate fight to make a charge and finish ninth or 10th.

Forget the argument that such a system rewards mediocrity.

We have had a final eight in a 15-team competition so we can have a 10-team finals series in an 18-team competition.

Forget the fact that several club chief executives thought last year the knock-on effects were significant in terms of logistics and administration and therefore too hard, a view one chief executive contacted on Tuesday retained.

Take the view that Richmond chief executive Brendon Gale expressed in September after a chat with AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan.

"It might be time to bring it up and have a decent discussion and debate around it," Gale said. 

McLachlan has shown he is serious about the fans being engaged in this game, the biggest sport in the country, from the start of March until the end of September.

Think tanks have been held on everything from player movement rules to the rules of the game to media access and game style.

So, while it is probably too early for a change in the fixture or finals system to be made for next season or even the season after, it's time the best football minds to turn their attention to getting a fixture and finals system in place that lifts the game to heights beyond those reached now.

And to do so as soon as is practical.