Originally established as the South Australian Football Association on April 30, 1877, the South Australian National Football League is not only the oldest surviving football league of any code in the nation but is also one of the oldest competitions in the world.
Consisting of a single division competition, the season is an 18 round "home-and-away" (regular) season from April to September. The top five teams play off in a final series culminating in the grand final for the Thomas Seymour Hill Premiership Trophy. The grand final had traditionally been held at Football Park in October, generally the week after the AFL Grand Final, though this was altered ahead of the 2014 season resulting in Adelaide Oval hosting the grand final in the penultimate weekend of September.
The earliest recorded football club in the state was Adelaide Football Club (SAFA), formed in 1860. In the early years of South Australian football, the competition’s rules and regulations were constantly under negotiation. There became a growing need for a structure in South Australian football.
Twelve SA football clubs met in 1877 to develop a set of regulations and establish a governing body. From that meeting, held at the Prince Alfred Hotel in the city, the South Australian Football Association was established.
The clubs involved - Adelaide (est. 1860), Port Adelaide (est. 1870), Willunga, South Park, North Adelaide, Kapunda, Bankers, Gawler, Prince Alfred College, South Adelaide (est. 1876), Victorian and Woodville - all contested the 1877 season. Norwood later joined the next year and went on to win the next six flags.
|Colours||Club||Nickname||Home ground|| Entered|
|Adelaide Football Club||Crows||N/A||2014||0||N/A|
|Central District Football Club||Bulldogs||Elizabeth Oval||1964||9||2010|
|Glenelg Football Club||Tigers||Glenelg Oval||1921||4||1986|
|North Adelaide Football Club||Roosters||Prospect Oval||1887||13||1991|
|Norwood Football Club||Redlegs||Norwood Oval||1878||29||2013|
|Port Adelaide Magpies Football Club||Magpies||Alberton Oval||1877||36||1999|
|South Adelaide Football Club||Panthers||Hickinbotham Oval||1877||11||1964|
|Sturt Football Club||Double Blues||Unley Oval||1901||13||2002|
|West Adelaide Football Club||Bloods||Richmond Oval||1897||8||1983|
|Woodville-West Torrens Football Club||Eagles|| Woodville Oval|
*Home grounds are shown using their non-commercial names.
Adelaide – formed in 1860; disbanded in 1873; reformed in 1876; merged with Kensington in 1881; disbanded in 1882; reformed and merged with North Park in 1885; and finally dissolved after the 1893 season. Their colours were black, red and white and they were premiers in the SAFA in 1886. In 1888 the touring British Rugby team played South Adelaide, Port Adelaide, Norwood and Adelaide at Australian Rules. They defeated Port by a goal. The tourists played 19 games of Australian Rules overall, winning six and drawing one. They were coached by two Essendon footballers, Jack Lawlor and FG McShane.
Bankers – formed in 1877 and after losing all 15 of the matches it contested that year it disbanded at the end of the season.
Kensington – formed in the early 1870s, Kensington affiliated with SAFA in 1877, but by 1881 it had merged with the Adelaide club. The club's colours were scarlet and white and its home ground was Kensington Oval.
South Park – formed in 1877 and disbanded in 1884.
Victorian – formed in 1877 and with their home ground at Montefiore Hill, the Victorian team were premiers in 1877 (equal with South Adelaide). The club's colours were orange and black. The club changed their name to North Adelaide in 1883, although it was not linked to the modern-day North Adelaide, which formed from the Medindie club. Victorian disbanded after the 1884 season.
Willunga – formed in 1874, and affiliated with SAFA from 1877 to 1885. Willunga then joined the newly formed Southern Football Association, a rural league.
Woodville (the original club) – formed about 1868 and affiliated with SAFA 1877, the club forfeited two matches in its first season due to lack of numbers and disbanded at the end of the season. Many of the Woodville players then moved to the newly formed Norwood club.
Kapunda – formed in 1866 and is possibly the oldest football club in Australia to enjoy an uninterrupted identity.
Gawler – formed in 1868, joining the SAFA in 1887 until 1890, folding by 1894. The Gawler Football Association was created out of its demise.
At the end of the 1990 season the Woodville and West Torrens clubs merged for Woodville-West Torrens which competed for the first time in 1991.
West Torrens Eagles (1897–1990)
Woodville Warriors (1964–1990)
The league's revenue is derived from its paid attendance, media and payments from both the Adelaide Crows and Port Adelaide AFL clubs for use of Football Park.
The SANFL is classed as a semi-professional competition. In 2008 the league had a salary cap of $400,000 (excluding service payments). This is the second highest in Australia for an Australian rules football competition, after the AFL.