AFL CEO Andrew Dillon flags end of priority picks as league set for eventual 20th team

AFL boss Andrew Dillon has foreshadowed inevitable expansion to a 20th team as the league attempts to eliminate the priority pick from the game.

Dillon this week made clear he had no plans to green-light a third AFL team in Perth as the league prepares for the introduction of Tasmania in 2028.

It means the league will have a 19th side — and a weekly bye — for years to come as well as issues with Gather Round given the uneven amount of teams.

But Dillon says the league will eventually grow to 20 teams but only when there is clear demand for a new team.

A 20th team would also give the league another weekly game to sell off as it prepares for next year’s $4.5 billion TV rights deal to start.

“I am not as worried about a bye and 19 teams but the history of the VFL into the AFL is it has grown. From 1987 we went from 12 teams to 14 and we are now at 18, soon to be 19. There will be growth but it’s just a matter of doing it at the right time. We have got a lot of work to do in Tassie and that’s the real focus at the moment.

“It is making sure if there is a 20th team there is a market for it and they want that team.

“We have seen it in Tassie, 100,000 Tasmanians signed up and another 100,000 almost from around Australia and the world. They want a Tassie team and they want it to start as soon as it can.”

West Coast’s recent surge suggests they will play themselves out of the equation for an AFL draft assistance package, while the Roos would be unlikely to receive assistance for the third season in a row.

As part of the AFL’s competitive balance review a mid-season trade period from 2025 might help bottom-four clubs benefit from trades for their established talent.

Pick purchasing might also allow lowly teams with cap space to secure draft picks from top-eight contenders by effectively absorbing salary cap space.

It means the AFL might have seen the last of the priority pick or special assistance package given other equalisation measures to speed rebuilds.

“I think they are part of the review. I would love to have a system in place where you didn’t need them,” Dillon told ABC Radio in Perth of priority picks.

“Back in the day there was a formula. If you won less than a certain amount of games it was automatic. That was removed and it’s become discretionary now where the Commission has to approve and we make a call on after a club submission.

“I would love to have a system where you didn’t need it and that’s something we will be looking to work towards but that won’t necessarily be in place by the end of the year.”

Dillon made clear he did not believe the repeated goal reviews slowing down football were an issue on a weekend where three scores in a row in the Hawthorn-North Melbourne game went to the ARC.

“I am a big fan of footy but I also like getting the scores right. The umpires are there to make the calls. I would prefer one extra score review, than one too few.”

Originally published as AFL CEO Andrew Dillon flags end of priority picks as league set for eventual 20th team