The footy’s back, and it’s better than ever

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After beginning in Sydney last weekend with a single match, the 2012 AFL season continued this weekend with matches across Australia. The round was massive both through the gate and on the box, and with plenty of entertaining games on the field.

Footy fans embraced the game’s return with open arms.

No amount of footy is too much, and by Tuesday morning, I will have seen eight AFL matches, a Foxtel Cup match, as well as VFL, SANFL and WAFL matches for the weekend.

Others will write about the plays and matches, my focus will be on the administrative side of the sport itself. For those who like that sort of thing, there’s some particularly good results from the first round of the season.

Firstly, the weekend’s crowds were huge. Always considered a strong point of the AFL, round one 2012 saw 367,671 people through the gates. This is just 219 people shy of the all time record set in round 22, 1998.

It is an all time opening round attendance record, up 14.4 percent on the 2011 start. To put this in perspective, the average crowd is only up 1.75 percent on 2011, and down slightly on the record. In counter to that it should be noted that both Gold Coast and GWS had home matches, where last year GWS did not exist and Gold Coast had the bye – so an increase is kind of a surprise in that regard.

Theres always a lot of hope around a football club a this time of the year, and this can be an early driver for attendances. Not to mention the AFL scheduling a lot of blockbuster matches in the early rounds between the big Victorian clubs – this week Carlton v Richmond and Hawthorn v Collingwood. Next week Collingwood have Richmond, Hawthorn have Geelong and the following week Carlton have Collingwood.

Secondly, TV ratings continue to grow. Last season’s opening round attracted 3.167 million viewers in the five-city metro and Foxtel catchments, the corresponding 2012 round has pulled in an astounding 5.253 million viewers – up more than two million or a 65 percent increase in metro and Foxtel viewers. I believe this is an all time viewing record for any round of AFL football.

Thirdly, for those wondering how the Foxfooty channel is fairing, FoxFooty was the top rated subscription TV channel for the opening week of the AFL season.

The advent of live football is a watershed for the Australian football fan – particularly in Victoria and Western Australia where night football is usually delayed. Foxtel too is benefitting from having all matches on all the time, and Seven’s ratings don’t appear to have dropped as a result of the simulcast. This really does appear to be win-win for everyone.

Fourth, memberships are another widely acknowledged AFL strength, and last year’s record of 650,373 could well be under threat as 2012 memberships passed 626,000 based on official club information. It’s worth noting that Collingwood are believed to have more than 75,000 members at the moment, and we are working with an official figure of 53,000.

It is entirely possible that the record has already been passed. We won’t know for sure until the AFL does its audit. Still 626,000 memberships by round one isn’t too bad when you consider membership doesn’t close until June 30.

The AFL would have to be happy with that.

References:
Crowd figures are sourced from AFL.com.au and stats.rleague.com
TV ratings figures are sourced from mediaweek twitter and tvtonight.com.au
Foxfooty rating info sourced from throng.com.au
Membership figures are sourced from club websites.

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