Members of Anti-Football League were always going to be outnumbered by the football-going hordes. So, it was important that they should be able to recognise each other. Founding Secretary and Sun columnist, Keith Dunstan, suggested the idea of a badge, so that when passing one another in the street they might know that that they could have a conversation about the weather, or foreign affairs, or anything else that would be a welcome respite to football, football and more football.
And so, a small badge was conceived. Similar to a Legion of Honour rosette, it too, would be red, referencing the colour of protest. The shape was of a small square football, symbolic of an object that would not bounce. The idea of a badge was a sound one, and the wearing of it was a simple way to gain membership to the AFL.
Not long after Dunstan mentioned the badge in his daily column, He received a phone call from Alf Philips. ’Who are you, Mister Philips?’, Dunstan asked. ‘We’re in the business of making and designing badges. I work for K.G. Luke and Company.’ It was ironic that Philips was offering to design and produce badges for the Anti- Football League as everyone knew that Sir Kenneth Luke, the proprietor, was the president of the Victorian Football League. Dunstan asked if he was having his leg pulled. Philips went on, ‘if there’s a quid in it for you and a quid in it for Sir Kenneth, it’ll be okay’. Surely, here was an instance of Karl Marx’s famous prediction that capitalism contained the seeds of its own destruction. Football, like capitalism, might just destroy itself and with any luck a vanguard organisation like the Anti-Football League might just help kick things along, so to speak.
Sir Kenneth’s company set out to make the first batch, with an initial run of 1250. Walter O’Donoghue, Advertising Manager from the Myer Emporium had got wind of the idea and offered to finance and sell them. He also suggested that the revenue from the badges should go to a local charity, as this would bring respectability to the cause. And so, the badges were made – five hundred dollars worth, and with page in Saturday’s Sun to promote them made up and sent to the printers. The ball was rolling, so to speak..
A few days passed before O’Donoghue called again. He had bad news. Apologetically, he relayed an expensive message. He told Dunstan that the Myer directors felt that association with the AFL would bring bad publicity, and that they could not give it their backing. Dunstan was in a spot. He had 1250 badges on the way, and he was going to have to foot the bill himself. ‘Five hundred dollars in 1967 on a journalist’s salary seemed a great deal of money’, he would later recall.
The following Monday Dunstan sat miserably in his office, contemplating his folly. His mailbox was empty. ‘I should have known. Who would want to be anti-football in Melbourne? I have just lost 500 dollars’. It wasn’t until one pm that Dunstan received a reply. It was the post office, they called to say that they hadn’t brought his mail around earlier because there was simply too much of it. So, before the end of the day, the badges were all gone – the lot of them. Dunstan phoned Alf Phillips and placed another order, this time for 5000 badges. They were gone in less than a month.
Over the years The AFL has sold badges (over 250,000), earrings, t-shirts and sweatshirts. The proceeds from which went to a variety of charities, including the Berry Street Babies home (now Berry Street Victoria), the MS society, and St. John’s Homes foundation (now Anglicare). By 1980 the Anti-Football League had raised over $200,000 for these organisations through the sale of dissident paraphernalia.
Sources: Keith Dunstan, No Brains at All: an Autobiography (1990)