National survey says AFL most popular sport

Redb Roar Rookie

By Redb, Redb is a Roar Rookie

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    Shaun Higgins of the Western Bulldogs marks in front of Nick Riewoldt of St Kilda during the AFL Round 17 match between the St Kilda Saints and the Western Bulldogs at the Docklands Stadium. Slattery Images

    Shaun Higgins of the Western Bulldogs marks in front of Nick Riewoldt of St Kilda during the AFL Round 17 match between the St Kilda Saints and the Western Bulldogs at the Docklands Stadium. Slattery Images

    There is often speculation as to what sports occupy the hearts and minds of Australians. A recent Sensis (Telstra) survey conducted in September 2009 asked the question of 1,500 Australians throughout the country: who is their favourite sporting team?

    The results were interesting to say the least and can be interpreted or spun to suit. But what is undeniable is that the AFL has captured more fans that anyone with 21 percent of the people surveyed nominating Australian Football (AFL) as their favourite sport.

    Next was rugby league (NRL) with 12 percent, followed by cricket 11 per cent, football 11 per cent and, worrying for rugby union, they came in well down the list behind tennis and netball at just 3 per cent.

    The favourite sporting teams by state were:
    NSW – Sydney Swans 7 per cent
    VIC – Collingwood 14 per cent
    QLD – Brisbane Broncos 21 per cent
    SA – Adelaide Crows 44 per cent
    WA- West Coast 28 per cent
    TAS – St Kilda 10 per cent
    NT – Collingwood 9 per cent
    ACT – Canberra Raiders 10 per cent

    No State or Territory nominated any national sporting team (cricket, soccer, rugby) as their favourite team, although when asked to nominate their favourite national sporting team, the Australian cricket team came out on top.

    In NSW, the Swans at 7 per cent were closely followed by the Dragons, Australian cricket team and the Bulldogs. Obviously NRL team loyalties are split.

    No-one would suggest AFL is the most popular sport in NSW.

    In Victoria, it’s no surprise that Collingwood are leading the pack. The Pies also came out number one in the Northern Territory and surprisingly second behind the Raiders in the ACT.

    Only teams that scored above 5 per cent were listed and no non-AFL teams in Victoria made the list, which confirms the suspicion that the Swans have penetrated further into the consciousness in Sydney than, say, the Storm in Melbourne.

    Essendon was low at just 7 per cent, behind Carlton, Hawthorn and Geelong in Victoria. We Bomber fans always considered it was Collingwood, then Essendon in popularity.

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    The Crowd Says (193)

    • October 16th 2009 @ 3:27am
      Billo said | October 16th 2009 @ 3:27am | ! Report

      Surveys like this can be interpreted in a variety of ways, but you can’t argue with the fact that AFL is clearly the number one favourite sport.
      I’m slightly surprised that the Raiders are more popular than the Brumbies in ACT, and even that the Magpies come second there.
      Rugby can’t take much joy out of this survey, it seems.
      The other point of note is that the Crows came so far ahead of Port Adelaide in a two-team city.

      • October 16th 2009 @ 9:19am
        Rodney McDonell said | October 16th 2009 @ 9:19am | ! Report

        Perhaps when you consider the Power is essentially the professional version of port power in the SANFL, you’d obviously find those who support any other team in the SANFL would be reluctance to follow a SANFL inspired AFL team. Thus they choose the Crows. Only Port Adelaide Magpie fans would be more likely to follow Port Power.

    • Roar Guru

      October 16th 2009 @ 3:42am
      Freud of Football said | October 16th 2009 @ 3:42am | ! Report

      Rugby Union is below netball and tennis? Wow, I don’t think there is a way to put a positive spin on that is there?

      I think SA’s 44% for the Crows is quite interesting. Obviously AFL is the major sport in the state and the state league is of a pretty good level as evidenced by the long-running SA-VIC rivalry in state of origins, they were generally pretty tight even before the AFL.

      But its interesting in the fact that inside 2 decades they have taken almost half the market. Before them, Port Adelaide were the Collingwood of SA (in more ways than one), there were a lot of Norwood and Sturt fans in the 80s too. Then, the Crows managed to unite the state, a passionate AFL state which has only one other team to compete with in Port but they still managed to do so, their backroom staff should be commended for bringing in the fans the way they did, they did so by taking in players from everywhere at the start, the team resembled some what of a “best of the SANFL” for a while and this was important.

      Port obviously having the tradition they had relied a lot on the Magpies but we’ve seen where its gotten them now, out in the cold, the state shuns them as they are seen as an extension of Port Adelaide, a team you either love or hate and unfortunately for the Power, a lot more people hate them than love them.

      The only reason they survived this long was Alan Scott.

      • Roar Guru

        October 16th 2009 @ 7:13am
        Redb said | October 16th 2009 @ 7:13am | ! Report

        It really does that the Crows are by far the most popular team per capita in any state or territory. Twice the popularity relatively of the Broncos in QLD and considerably more popular than the West Coast Eagles in WA.

        Agree this is why Port Adelaide struggle.


      • October 17th 2009 @ 9:05am
        Pete said | October 17th 2009 @ 9:05am | ! Report

        “Rugby Union is below netball and tennis?” I think if you did the survey again in a few months time Rugby would do far better. It was conducted in Sept 2009 at a time (Tri-Nations series) when even myself, a solid Wallaby supporter, wouldn’t vote the Wallabies as my favourite team. In fact I was very angry with them. Caught up in the euphoria of the NRL final series I probably would have voted Parramatta, but I have been to far more Wallaby matches than Parramatta games.

        AS JON said today “you’ll love us again when we are winning”. I expect that is partly true, but Wallaby supporters aren’t really fair weather freinds. We’ll love them agin when they show the committment that we believe went missing during the Bledisloe cup match.

        Rugby won’t surpass AFL or NRL, but suggetsing that its popularity places it below netball and tennis, highlights that this sensis ‘market research’ is flawed.

        Often, these companies thrown is a bit of controversy to get people talking and drum up interest in their company (sensis), not unlike FHM putting Julia Gillard or Pauline Hanson in the top 50 sexiest women in Australia.

        • October 17th 2009 @ 9:26am
          AndyRoo said | October 17th 2009 @ 9:26am | ! Report

          Survey and Australia’s population is 50% women. tennis and Netball are also on FTA a lot more than rugby and are national.

          You get a lot of people that arent really into watching sport on TV that if you ask them to choose will say “tennis” (because they watch the Oz open and Wimbledon) or netball (because the play it)

    • October 16th 2009 @ 4:46am
      Kurt said | October 16th 2009 @ 4:46am | ! Report

      Interesting stuff. Personally I find these reports more meaningful when viewed over time – i.e. – what are the trends in popularity for different sports & activities. The Sweeney sports report is good for that as they have been using the exact same methodology for a number of years. So even if you dispute the exact way ‘popularity’ is calculated you can at least get a feel for the way things have changed over the years.

      • Roar Guru

        October 16th 2009 @ 7:02am
        Redb said | October 16th 2009 @ 7:02am | ! Report

        Tasmania’s strong support for St Kilda is very evident, as is the split of support for AFL teams with 4 teams reaching 5% interest. Underlines the beleif that Tasmania already has its VFL/AFL team loyalties.

        Interesting also that despite Hawthorn having 6,000 members, playing 4 games a year and literally brought the 2008 Premiership Cup to the Applie Isle they ranked behing St Kilda, Collingwood and Carlton in the hearts and minds. I’m not having a go at the Hawks here but I think it shows Tasmanians stick to their original footy team.


        • Roar Guru

          October 16th 2009 @ 7:22am
          Freud of Football said | October 16th 2009 @ 7:22am | ! Report

          While Tasmania does have its loyalties I’d imagine, like the crows, that a team based out of Hobart could unite the state and would garner the support of the Taswegians, especially if they could include some Tassie born players on the list.

          This is a market that the AFL would have entered way before West Sydney if it was run by people with some sort of an idea rather than the self-serving egotistical marketing dicks that currently run the league.

          As it stands I wouldn’t be surprised to see a license coming out of Tas in a few years time merging with another team, Port will stay as Port despite their troubles but Melbourne isn’t financially viable for the teams it supports, most likely another Fitzroy type scenario will popup sooner rather than later.

          • Roar Guru

            October 16th 2009 @ 7:27am
            Redb said | October 16th 2009 @ 7:27am | ! Report

            Don’t agree, I think the criteria behind moving into Western Sydney over Tasmania is substantial.

          • October 16th 2009 @ 7:49am
            Robbos said | October 16th 2009 @ 7:49am | ! Report

            No, no let the AFL pour money into the West Sydney Roosters.

            • October 16th 2009 @ 9:25am
              James said | October 16th 2009 @ 9:25am | ! Report

              They certainly will Robbos…much to your disgust.

          • October 16th 2009 @ 9:24am
            James said | October 16th 2009 @ 9:24am | ! Report

            Tasmania wont work in short term as there is a strong North/South Rivalry….Hobart does have a bigger population, but the population is split evenly between the North and South. Apparantly no one from the south bothers to attend matched at Aurora stadium in Launceston. What is needed is the state to unite…an Aussie Rules state of 500,000 should theoretically be able to support an AFL team.

            I think North is the most vulnerable out of all teams in Melbourne at the moment. But the sorting out of the MCG and Etihad deals has at least guaranteed them their short term future, and a $1 billion TV rights deal will go further for their long term outlook.

            • October 17th 2009 @ 6:18am
              Elbusto said | October 17th 2009 @ 6:18am | ! Report

              Thanks James for showing your ignorance of Tassie:

              1. The population in Tassie is evenly divided in three areas – North, South and North West. Each has roughly 170000 people located in it.

              2. Yes there is parochialism in Tassie, where isn’t there’ but I can assure you that literally hundreds of cars travel to Launceston from Hobart each time the Hawks play.

              I got dragged along to a game by my brother (I think AFL is crap by the way) and there Southerners all over the place.

              As for whether an AFL Team gets located in West Sydney or Tassie – I could not give a flying f to be honest. I think I prefer West Sydney because it will bleed the AFL dry.

              • February 26th 2011 @ 11:22pm
                Luke said | February 26th 2011 @ 11:22pm | ! Report

                May I ask what sport do you watch?,

    • Roar Rookie

      October 16th 2009 @ 6:54am
      Hazey the Bear said | October 16th 2009 @ 6:54am | ! Report

      Oooh the naughty things I could do with this survey……Unfortunately I’d need all the raw data to extract all the necessary information, but it looks like they’ve done most of it already anyways. I’ve been working with the Business lecturer at the college I go to analyzing surveys and I’ve started to get the hang of processing data at all levels.

      From the report, the cross-section of respondents is balanced. One thing that you haven’t mentioned Redb, is that NSW respondents were the ones who were most interested in sport (80%), which means that this could have produced a bias towards Rugby League, but didn’t. It probably wasn’t a significant difference with the other states anyway, but I couldn’t tell you (wasn’t in the report).

      You also didn’t mention the dominance of League in Queensland (Broncos 21%, Aus Cricket Team 8%, Lions 7%), but that was probably a given.

      Also where you said “In NSW, the Swans at 7 per cent were closely followed by the Dragons, Australian cricket team and the Bulldogs.” – I think you meant Parramatta Eels instead of Bulldogs. The breakdown in the survey shows: Sydney Swans 7%, Aus Cricket Team 6%, Dragons 5%, Eels 5%.

      • Roar Guru

        October 16th 2009 @ 7:09am
        Redb said | October 16th 2009 @ 7:09am | ! Report

        Edit: sorry yes the ‘Doesn’t Matter’ Eels. 🙂

        There is so much you can glean from the report, even my original article has been cut down considerably and I didn’t mention your point.

        Plenty of stuff in there also about how important people view their chosen sport.

        A lot of the survey backs up intuitive or anecdotal beleifs, however nothing is 100% accurate its just a guide.

        No mention of the Socceroos?

        No mention of the Wallabies?

        Bloody Collingwood are a juggernaut.


        • Roar Rookie

          October 16th 2009 @ 7:46am
          Hazey the Bear said | October 16th 2009 @ 7:46am | ! Report

          I was actually thinking about the whole Collingwood thing…

          One thing I could probably glean from the survey data is what “typifies” a Collingwood supporter (in terms of gender, age, job, income, etc.), but I’d need the information to do so.

          This could confirm once and for all if Pies supporters are indeed the bogans many of us perceive them to be….

          • Roar Guru

            October 16th 2009 @ 7:49am
            Redb said | October 16th 2009 @ 7:49am | ! Report

            There is no mention of social demographics, however age distributions have been sought with a sample from 7 distinct age groups ranging from 14 -17 years old to 64 years and over.

            • Roar Rookie

              October 16th 2009 @ 7:58am
              Hazey the Bear said | October 16th 2009 @ 7:58am | ! Report

              Awww…well that takes all the fun out of it doesn’t it?

              Strange though…Usually they put these details in to get a full break-down of the survey respondents.

              • Roar Guru

                October 16th 2009 @ 8:01am
                Redb said | October 16th 2009 @ 8:01am | ! Report

                Does a bit 🙂

    • October 16th 2009 @ 6:54am
      Rugby 1 said | October 16th 2009 @ 6:54am | ! Report

      Very poor servey 1500 people knowing the fact brumbies dominate ACT, makes me doubt this entire servey. I’m sure it gives us a very rough idea however in general wasn’t even worth writing!

      • October 16th 2009 @ 7:26am
        Chris said | October 16th 2009 @ 7:26am | ! Report

        Yeah the Brumbies thing does make me tend to doubt the accuracy of the entire survey. I live in the ACT – there is simply no way the Raiders are the more popular team. You see Brumbies bumper stickers EVERYWHERE here. The Brumbies crowd average is 5,000 higher than the Raiders (and a good portion of the crowd at Raiders games has NSW number plates).

        • October 16th 2009 @ 7:39am
          LK said | October 16th 2009 @ 7:39am | ! Report

          I agree, that is strange. Also, the Pies second in the ACT?!? There must be some sort of skewing. For what it is worth, 120 people were surveyed in the ACT.

          • Roar Guru

            October 16th 2009 @ 7:44am
            Redb said | October 16th 2009 @ 7:44am | ! Report


            I agree intuitively I would have put support at Raiders/Brumbies 1or 2, then probably the Swans rather than Pies, but obviously Collingwood does have some support.


            • October 16th 2009 @ 7:52am
              Chris said | October 16th 2009 @ 7:52am | ! Report

              Upon seeing the sample size was 125 I am not so surprised. With a sample size like that the margin for error is simply huge (8.76% for 95% confidence).

              • October 16th 2009 @ 8:54am
                LK said | October 16th 2009 @ 8:54am | ! Report

                The Pies support in Canberra was 7% with a margin of error of 8%. Does that mean their support could be zero or even -1%. 😉

        • October 16th 2009 @ 8:36am
          Brett McKay said | October 16th 2009 @ 8:36am | ! Report

          Further on that Chris, the Brumbies emmbership is significantly higher than the Raiders. The Raiders never got to their target of 5000 members within 2009, while the Brumbies membership dipped below 9000 for the first time since their inception bascially. Moreso, they’re tipped to rise back above 10,000 for the 2010 season.

          But then if the sample was only 120 people…

        • October 16th 2009 @ 9:25am
          Rodney McDonell said | October 16th 2009 @ 9:25am | ! Report

          I’m a massive league fan, but i’d have to admit, League would play second fiddle to Union there. I’d have to question the demographics of the people who took the pole. Seeing as though it was done by telstra, you’d be hard pressed to find any bias, unless of course it’s at the every end of the people who do the surveying.

          • October 16th 2009 @ 9:35am
            Brett McKay said | October 16th 2009 @ 9:35am | ! Report

            Would the “Telstra NRL Premiership” be evidence enough Rodney??

            I’m not suggesting Telstra would skew the results by the way, I’m just saying the evidence is certainly there in plain sight to allow conclusions to be jumped to..

            • Roar Guru

              October 16th 2009 @ 9:41am
              Redb said | October 16th 2009 @ 9:41am | ! Report


              When you look at the broad level interest across the 4 football codes: AFL 21%, NRL 12%, Soccer 11% and rugby union 3%, union is very low regardless of state borders.

              Maybe union fans dont like surveys?

              If anything Telstra would skew against the AFL as the primary sponsor of the NRL – dont buy the conspiracy theory though.


      • Roar Guru

        October 18th 2009 @ 4:47pm
        Bay35Pablo said | October 18th 2009 @ 4:47pm | ! Report

        You need at least 1000 for a meaningful survey in my experience. With a national survey on such a compex issue, I’d suggest you’d need 1000 per state to be sure. As they said 120 people from Canberra is far too narrow. That means they managed to find 12 people of the 120 to say the Raiders were their favourite team. Bit harder to get 100 out of 1000.

    • October 16th 2009 @ 6:59am
      JF said | October 16th 2009 @ 6:59am | ! Report

      Churnalism on the Roar? This is very dissapointing.

      • Roar Guru

        October 16th 2009 @ 7:16am
        Redb said | October 16th 2009 @ 7:16am | ! Report

        It’s a sports interest survey feel free to spin, there is loads in the report that has not been mentioned. No sport has requested this survey it is part of a wider group of questions asked from a sample of the Australian population.

        I think its a timely and relevant survey for a place like the Roar. Certainly debatable but isn’t that why we are here?


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