– The Word ‘Rules’

The word ‘Rules’ has been associated with the title of the game of Australian Football for well over 100 years.

Many find this word not appropriate for the game which has proved to be the most popular in the Commonwealth and there were several attempts to have it deleted from its name, but this have proved difficult.

For many years the game was simply referred to as ‘football’ by the masses in the majority of states where it held sway however in more recent years soccer has put in a claim for the word.

In actual fact the word ‘football’ is a generic term and applies to a number of sports which boast using a ‘football’ as the centre of their play.  These include: Australian Football, Soccer, Rugby Union, Rugby League, Gridion, Gaelic Football and Canadian Football – which is very much a derivative of Gridiron.

Australian Football gained the tag, ‘Rules’ when in reporting of the game in the late 1800s there needed to be some differential between the codes.  It should be noted however, that it was initially called ‘Victorian Football.’   Rugby was simply referred to as such (Rugby League had yet then been created), Soccer was called ‘Association Football’ because it was played according to rules determined by the International Football Association Board.

So when referring to a game of Australian Football journalists simply said “….. a was game played according to ‘Australian Rules’ or “….. a game played on Saturday according to the Australian rules of football”.  And that’s how the ‘Rules tag stuck

There have been many attempts to remove the word.  In the early 1900s moves were made to eliminate the word then again in 1926, the NSWAFL President, J.F McNeil,  successfully moved to have the word eliminated from the title.  Little notice was taken on this new stance by the league because even when reporting on his motion, the Sydney Morning Herald published the article under the banner, “AUSTRALIAN RULES’ and over subsequent years really did not deviate from this manner.

In 1952, state delegates at the Australian National Football Council, state delegates expressed opposition to the term ‘rules’ being applied to Australian Football.  As a result it was decided to advise all affiliated bodies to refer to the game as ‘Australian Football.  The actual resolution had been carried at the Council’s 1950 meeting but not acted upon.

Then in 1958 it again raised its head at ANFC level and they began a national wide search for an alternative but their endeavours proved fruitless – see article.