The need to accommodate this fact brought certain changes to the 1956 VFL season:
The 1956 Grand Final was brought forward to 15 September in order to allow sufficient time to prepare the M.C.G. for the Olympics.
The season commenced early to accommodate a full eighteen rounds of home-and-away matches.
Due to works to demolish the old Grandstand and the construct the new Northern (Olympic) Stand, Melbourne Cricket Ground would not be available to Melbourne for its home matches until Round 5.
It was not desirable for Melbourne to play four consecutive away matches to start the season. This was partly because Melbourne would then have four consecutive home matches between Rounds 12 and 15. Additionally, because of the proximity of the Melbourne Cricket Ground to Punt Road Oval, matches were never scheduled at the venues on the same day; so it would have forced Richmond to open the season with four home matches, then play four away matches from Rounds 12 to 15. To overcome this, Melbourne played only its first three matches away, then played its Round 4 home match against Fitzroy at Punt Road Oval.
In 1956, the VFL competition consisted of twelve teams of 18 on-the-field players each, plus two substitute players, known as the 19th man and the 20th man. A player could be substituted for any reason; however, once substituted, a player could not return to the field of play under any circumstances.
Teams played each other in a home-and-away season of 18 rounds; matches 12 to 18 were the "home-and-way reverse" of matches 1 to 7.
Once the 18 round home-and-away season had finished, the 1956 VFL Premiers were determined by the specific format and conventions of the Page-McIntyre System.
The VFL introduced a "Night Premiership", played between teams that finished outside the final four. The seven elimination matches were played under lights at the Lake Oval. The matches were renowned for their violence both on and off the field. In 1956, licensed venues in Melbourne closed at six o'
clock, so the matches provided patrons a location to have a drink after six o'clock; this made these matches very attractive, and the seven matches were attended by an average of 20,000+ patrons. The lighting was dim by modern standards, and it meant that most of the spectators could not always clearly see what was happening on the other side of the ground. On occasion the fights amongst the spectators were so fierce that the players stopped to watch. There was also much violence on the field, with players soon learning that keeping to the well-lit parts of the ground offered considerable protection.
In winning the Grand Final, Melbourne created a record by having defeated the same opponent (Collingwood) four times in a single senior VFL season.
The official Grand Final attendance of 115,802 (based on gate entrance sales) broke VFL records. The record crowd was largely due to the opening of the Melbourne Cricket Ground's new grandstand, but public interest was also high as a close, hard-fought game was expected. The ground was so packed that spectators sat between the fence and the boundary line. The gates were closed for safety. During the third quarter the crowd milling outside the MCG broke a perimeter fence and more people poured into the MCG. From the following year (in 1957), ticket sales were first used for the final series to prevent overcrowding.
The VFL inaugurated a public Brownlow Medal presentation ceremony to be held at the First Semi-Final.
Australian rules football was a demonstration sport at the 1956 Olympics: on Friday 7 December 1956, as a curtain raiser to the soccer match to decide third and fourth places between Bulgaria and India at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, a combined team of amateur players from the VFA and VFL played a demonstration match of Australian rules football against a team of Victorian Amateur Football Association players in front of an audience of 21,236.
Maplestone, M., Flying Higher: History of the Essendon Football Club 1872-1996, Essendon Football Club, (Melbourne), 1996. ISBN0-9591740-2-8
Rogers, S. & Brown, A., Every Game Ever Played: VFL/AFL Results 1897-1997 (Sixth Edition), Viking Books, (Ringwood), 1998. ISBN0-670-90809-6
Ross, J. (ed), 100 Years of Australian Football 1897-1996: The Complete Story of the AFL, All the Big Stories, All the Great Pictures, All the Champions, Every AFL Season Reported, Viking, (Ringwood), 1996. ISBN0-670-86814-0