History of A·F·L Chart Soccer

The A·F·L began life in the autumn of 1979 with the title at that time of the "Football Federation". It was an imaginary football league, based upon the real Football League of England and Wales, played out using the system and dice of a game called LOGacta Chart Soccer. At that time I had been playing dice leagues of my own for about three years, starting with a Scottish league using ordinary dice along with a system of mapping the values on the dice to different goal scores depending on the relative ratings of the clubs participating in each match. In around 1978, however, I bought a copy of the dice soccer game "LOGacta Chart Soccer", which had a system of charts and special coloured dice that were used to create the results. It had a "16-team Super League" that was meant to be played using British teams, however I tried this out using just English teams as I wanted to simulate the Football League. No record of these exist any more, unfortunately, apart from the fact that I remember league titles being won by Bristol City and Aston Villa. However, I wasn't happy with the 16-team format and the fact that there was no "carry over" of form from one season to the next, meaning that a club could win the title one season and be relegated the next. Also, the 16-team league did not seem big enough for an English league, so I devised a system to solve these problems, and thus the concept of the Football Federation was born.

I decided that I wanted a 22-team league, or something as close to that number as possible, if the essential flavour of English football was to be simulate satisfactorily. However, working out fixtures for a 22-team division using the LOGacta chart system, where the results are entered on a "Fixtures and Results" chart, was not straightforward. It works with a 16-team league because the chart can be split into quarters and also smaller blocks, and the fixtures follow a logical pattern within these blocks on the chart. This can be seen in the image below of the Fixtures and results chart, where the fixture numbers in the small squares follow a fixed pattern.

So, I wanted to use a similar system for a 20-team league. To do this I split the table into quarters as usual, and the top-left and bottom-right quarters were themselves quartered, but this meant that each of the smallest groups had five teams instead of four. I could have tried to work this out so that it worked similarly to LOGacta, but it would have complicated the issue. So instead I devised the chart below, which shows the fixtures from round 9 to round 38. The first 8 fixtures (the blank cells in the table) would involve the five teams in each group playing each other twice. Each group would also have teams rated from 1 to 5, to give the teams from separate groups the same chance based on their rating. These results would just be played in any order, there were no "fixtures" as such, and after each team had played 8 matches the remaining fixtures would be played as directed by the numbers in the boxes, and points would be used for ratings from that stage onwards. Form was also used from match set 9 onwards as per the LOGacta system as well.

So, in this way the first season was played out. The groupings for the first season were based on the final Football League tables of 1978-79. The 20 clubs comprised the 19 First Division clubs excluding the three relegated clubs (so no place for Q.P.R., Birmingham or Chelsea) and the Second Division champions Crystal Palace were "promoted" to make up the 20. The first groupings, with their initial ratings, were therefore:

Group 1

  1. Liverpool
  2. Leeds United
  3. Manchester United
  4. Bristol City
  5. Bolton Wanderers

Group 2

  1. Nottingham Forest
  2. Ipswich Town
  3. Coventry City
  4. Southampton
  5. Wolverhampton Wanderers

Group 3

  1. West Bromwich Albion
  2. Arsenal
  3. Tottenham Hotspur
  4. Manchester City
  5. Derby County

Group 4

  1. Everton
  2. Aston Villa
  3. Middlesbrough
  4. Norwich City
  5. Crystal Palace

The very first fixture played was Liverpool vs Leeds United, which resulted in a 1-0 win for the home side. After the first eight matches the table looked like this:

Arsenal14
Liverpool13
West Brom12
Ipswich12
Everton12
Aston V11
Leeds9
Man Utd9
Tottenham9
Nottm F8
Southampton8
Norwich8
Wolves7
Middlesbro'6
Coventry6
Bristol C5
Bolton4
Crystal P3
Derby2
Man City1

The eventual league winners were Arsenal with an impressive 67 points out of a possible 76, and Everton were the runners-up a full 13 points behind. The relegated clubs were Coventry, Crystal Palace and Man City.

POS CLUB P W D L PTS
1 Arsenal 38 32 3 3 67
2 Everton 38 25 4 9 54
3 Aston V 38 22 8 8 52
4 West Brom 38 21 9 8 51
5 Liverpool 38 21 5 12 47
6 Leeds Utd 38 18 9 11 45
7 Nottm F 38 18 7 13 43
8 Southampton 38 16 8 14 40
9 Middlesbro' 38 16 6 16 38
10 Ipswich T 38 13 11 14 37
11 Wolves 38 16 4 18 36
12 Man Utd 38 11 13 14 35
13 Derby Co 38 14 6 18 34
14 Bristol C 38 11 10 17 32
15 Norwich C 38 7 15 16 29
16 Tottenham 38 11 5 22 27
17 Bolton W 38 9 9 20 27
18 Coventry C 38 9 7 22 25
19 Crystal P 38 4 12 22 20
20 Man City 38 6 7 25 19

Here are the sheets that I used for that first season, and many of the season thereafter, before I got into using a computer.

The points total of 67 won by Arsenal in the first season was not surpassed until Season 75, when Manchester United completed an entire season unbeaten, with 30 wins and 8 draws, thus attaining a total of 68 points, which is still the highest points total for a season on 2 points for a win. Here is the league table for that season.

POS CLUB P W D L PTS
1 Man Utd 38 30 8 0 68
2 Leeds Utd 38 26 5 7 57
3 Sheff Wed 38 22 8 8 52
4 Wolves 38 19 10 9 48
5 Barnsley 38 18 11 9 47
6 Nottm F 38 17 9 12 43
7 Aston V 38 16 9 13 41
8 Brighton 38 17 5 16 39
9 Liverpool 38 14 10 14 38
10 Birmingham 38 13 11 14 37
11 Derby Co 38 12 11 15 35
12 Man City 38 13 9 16 35
13 Ipswich 38 11 12 15 34
14 Everton 38 11 12 15 34
15 Southampton 38 12 7 19 31
16 Stoke 38 10 9 19 29
17 Middlesbrough 38 7 11 20 25
18 Arsenal 38 8 7 23 23
19 Newcastle 38 8 6 24 22
20 Sheff Utd 38 6 10 22 22

Birth of the A·F·L

In season 76, the league changed its name to the A.F.L., which stands for the "Association Football League". At the time (mid 1980s), the old American Football League had long since been subsumed by the N.F.L., and the Australian Football League did not yet exist, as it was still the V.F.L. at that time. So, the use of the initials seemed perfectly acceptable at that time. Since then though I have often been slightly troubled by the similarity between the name "A.F.L Premier League" and the real "A.F.L. Premiership" in Australia, but as this is just a fantasy league and not commercial in any way, I do not feel that there is any conflict of identity. To alleviate this to some extent, however, the top division is no longer called the Premiership or Premier League, and the top two divisions are now called the Super League 1 and Super League 2. Note that also, the official name of the league is written with dots (not full stops) between the initials, i.e A·F·L. Season 76 was the last season of purely 20-club divisions, as up to that point all of the divisions had 20 clubs. From season 77 the lower divisions (second, third and fourth) were increased to 22 clubs.

In the mid to late 1980s I started to use a computer to create and store the results, and this was done on various ZX Spectrum computers. I created a quite sophisticated program to do this, and this took me through seasons from around Season 80 to Season 130 or so. The I got a PC and started to reprogram the software on the PC, which went quite well. The new "AFL" program was written initially in DOS, and later in Visual Basic version 4. The application developed int quite a sophisticated one, but it soon became apparent that it had weaknesses. The main one was scalability, as it was not programmed so that it could be easily converted to deal with different numbers of teams and other scenarios. In addition, the software soon became out of date and it was not easy to upgrade it to newer version compatible with the PC software of the time.

So, it was around Season 150-ish that I started to use Excel spreadsheets to do the work. These are easier to program and keep up-to-date, and it is possible to create quite fancy looking sheets with fixtures and tables quite easily. It is also quite easy to create formulas that will take the data for, say, a league table and wrap it in HTML tags for insertion into a web page, so the results and tables etc could be published on a web site. In this way the data could be stored not only in the spreadsheets but also in a more accessible form via a web browser, and this is the way that I have done it since then.

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© ami XW–14 (2016)