GWS’s 10,000 member milestone not significant

Ben Somerford Roar Guru

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Giants coach Kevin Sheedy and Israel Folau

Giants coach Kevin Sheedy and Israel Folau take the stage during the Greater Western Sydney unveiling of its club name and colours at the Sydney Showgrounds, Sydney. Slattery Images

I’m sure there were a few of our readers on The Roar who, along with me, would’ve received an email from the AFL’s newest franchise on Wednesday titled “GWS Giants hit 10,000 members”. My first reaction was, what an achievement for a club who’s never played an AFL game.

I’m someone who likes to keep an eye on the AFL’s expansion efforts and recall the Gold Coast Suns reached the ‘magical’ 10,000 members figure around September last year, so the Giants would argue they’re ahead in that respect.

That’s exactly the positive image GWS and the AFL want to get across, but I, dare I say like many others, was still sceptical about the email.

It really grabbed my attention as I’ve had my doubts that Greater Western Sydney would even manage crowds of 10,000 once the hype dies down about their entrance into the AFL next year.

So I simply had to investigate this email further.

One burning question in my mind was, what exactly do you get from a GWS membership in 2011, when they don’t play their first AFL game until March next year?

To be honest, you don’t get a lot.

The membership package essentially consists of a GWS cap, bumper sticker, membership card, entry to North East Australian Football League games in 2011 and priority access to purchasing a membership in 2012.

But then again, they don’t cost a lot. Fifty bucks to be precise.

Giants chief executive Dale Holmes said in the press release: “To have 10,000 people already committing to the Giants and putting their hand up to say ‘I support the club’, that’s a great result.”

I’m not sure $50 is a genuine commitment to the club, Dale, but it is something.

Without wanting to spread innuendo, I’ve also been informed by some who signed up that family memberships were pretty liberally created when two memberships were purchased in order to boost the figures.

Whatever the case, I want to make it clear I don’t think this whole process is about simply putting across a positive PR image. The AFL does expansion well, so there’s always something to learn from them.

The idea that the $50 2011 membership would earn those who signed up priority access to a membership in 2012, with $50 off the price, is a smart initiative. It’s a way to convert those foundation members into real members attending AFL games in 2012. And that’s the real key for GWS.

Fifty bucks isn’t a big commitment, despite what Holmes may say, so it’s easy for people with some interest to sign up. However, GWS will now aim to convert those genuine sign-ups into members and that’s the big challenge.

Another interesting aspect of all this, is this email came out just days after a curious story in the Sydney Morning Herald about the AFL putting money into western Sydney councils to erect footy goalposts at local sporting ovals and making some venues Aussie Rules exclusive in the rugby and soccer heartland.

According to the story, there’s one Aussie Rules oval for every 68 junior players in western Sydney. Staggering stuff.

However, the point here is, the AFL has the financial might and will to really push to expand its game into western Sydney.

GWS’s 10,000 membership milestone should be taken with a grain of salt, but the AFL will be doing its utmost to capitalise on any semblance of interest in the game in western Sydney.

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