One of Melbourne's oldest Australian Rules Football clubs, the 'Blues' have also been one of the most successful, winning more premierships in the first 100 years of League competition than any other.
Formed in 1864 by members of the Carlton Cricket Club, the club built a strong local following among Carlton's predominantly working-class population. By the 1890s, however, the club was in serious financial trouble, mainly because it did not have a suitable ground of its own. Carlton was invited to join the new VFL in 1896 on the condition that it found a home ground, and it did so when permission was given to occupy the site of a former tip in the northern part of Princes Park. The ground became a vital economic asset, with space for the large crowds, and later hosted a social club and corporate facilities. This economic strength, together with an absence of any sectarian bias in the recruitment of players and officials and a willingness to accept changes that were seen as essential to the long-term success of the club, have been core elements of Carlton's achievement on the field.
Although the club endured two barren periods - from 1916-37 and 1950-67 when no premierships were won - new administrations ended these droughts and laid the foundations for long periods of success. Sir Kenneth Luke, who was club president from 1938 to 1955, introduced a professional approach to club administration. George Harris recruited Melbourne Football Club star Ron Barassi as captain-coach in 1965. By the early 1980s, Carlton was one of the few VFL clubs that was not in a precarious financial position, and the League acted to stabilise the competition by introducing a player draft and salary cap. The response of John Elliott's administration to these changes left Carlton heavily in debt and subject to heavy punishment by the AFL for salary cap breaches. A new administration faced a daunting task, but few people within the football community doubted the ability of Carlton to survive and to reinvent itself successfully in the 21st century.