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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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    The Crowd Says (56)

    • April 3rd 2012 @ 11:47am
      Australian Rules said | April 3rd 2012 @ 11:47am | ! Report

      I saw the ratings too and could not believe it.

      5.253 Million viewers is an extraordinary result. The increased Foxtel broadcasting and live footy is massive for Australian footy fans…and clearly, they’re lapping it up.

      • April 3rd 2012 @ 5:53pm
        Norm said | April 3rd 2012 @ 5:53pm | ! Report

        This is exactly what Foxtel was banking on. It dashes the NRL hopes of getting more for the new TV rights than the AFL. But we all knew that!

        • Roar Guru

          April 3rd 2012 @ 9:59pm
          The_Wookie said | April 3rd 2012 @ 9:59pm | ! Report

          theres no reason to believe they wont get similar ratings under a similar arrangement Norm, in addition they can package rep fixtures and toyota cup matches. Theres no reason to believe they cant get a similar deal

        • April 4th 2012 @ 1:13pm
          mick h said | April 4th 2012 @ 1:13pm | ! Report

          the nrl will get more as the wookie said rep fixtures and toyota cup and the fact that mnf continues to be a ratings winner for fox sports. it will be interesting to see how the gws game goes at blacktown up against the penrith vs wests tigers at penrith on the 15 april.

      • Roar Guru

        April 4th 2012 @ 1:24pm
        Redb said | April 4th 2012 @ 1:24pm | ! Report

        Massive ratings in anyones book.

        • Roar Rookie

          April 4th 2012 @ 3:19pm
          ItsCalled AussieRules said | April 4th 2012 @ 3:19pm | ! Report

          Excellent TV ratings.

          To put it in perspective though, we had 9 live games on Foxtel this season kick off compared to 4 last year.

          Also the games were played over 2 weeks, so there was no clashes and you could have watched all 9 games if you wanted to and I suspect most of the fans did – so there is a hell of a lot of double counting.

          But well done to the AFL and their expansion plans.

          • Roar Guru

            April 4th 2012 @ 4:32pm
            Redb said | April 4th 2012 @ 4:32pm | ! Report

            The only difference is the split round freeing up the Sydney debry as a stand alone game. I’d expect the AFL will come back to a 4M average, with some weeks up around 4.5M. That is still way above the 3M and 3.5M of past years.

            The same ‘double counting’ would occur in most comps were fans watch multiple games. All comps stagger their games that is nothing new.

            The live games and better spread is the real bonus. Ch 7 and Foxtel simulcast games are not double counting. Also two games did clash on Sat night. Freo v Geel, Ess v Nth.

            It would be fair to see that very few would watch all 9 games and in a silding scale down to those who would only watch their team.

    • Roar Guru

      April 3rd 2012 @ 12:02pm
      The Cattery said | April 3rd 2012 @ 12:02pm | ! Report

      Wookie
      good wrap up of the numbers that matter from for round 1, it looks like every expectation has been met plus some.

    • Roar Guru

      April 3rd 2012 @ 12:26pm
      The Cattery said | April 3rd 2012 @ 12:26pm | ! Report

      It’s amazing the AFL is keeping a lid on this and haven’t said boo about it. Perhaps it’s a case of the news being too good, that it would appear rude and boorish to brag about it?

      • April 3rd 2012 @ 5:54pm
        Norm said | April 3rd 2012 @ 5:54pm | ! Report

        They do not need to draw attention to the other codes attendances 🙂

    • April 3rd 2012 @ 2:01pm
      Prince Imperial said | April 3rd 2012 @ 2:01pm | ! Report

      A spread out round really helps with the ratings. In a typical round there are several overlaps between games on at the same time and the audience gets split (a result of having 3 hour matches and no Monday night games). So I doubt we will see the 5.25m figure again this season. Still it’s a fantastic figure and we should see a substantial increase in aggregate ratings over the year. Foxtel, 7 and the League would be delighted.

      • Roar Guru

        April 3rd 2012 @ 2:07pm
        The Cattery said | April 3rd 2012 @ 2:07pm | ! Report

        Agreed – the circumstances are such that it’s unlikely to be achieved again for the remainder of this season, games will be on against each other and that will reduce the overall viewing figures in future rounds. If the 9 games can stay in the 4 mill to 4.8 mill range consistently for the rest of the season, that would be a good result (counting 5 city metro and Fox figures).

        However, it’s possible we might see strong attendances continue over the Easter long weekend.

        • April 3rd 2012 @ 5:55pm
          Norm said | April 3rd 2012 @ 5:55pm | ! Report

          I expect them to pass the 1998 record attendance this w/e.

          • Roar Guru

            April 3rd 2012 @ 6:01pm
            The Cattery said | April 3rd 2012 @ 6:01pm | ! Report

            Really? I don’t know about that – there are two big games that could each get 80k, but then the remainder are lesser match ups (no disrespect intended).

            • April 3rd 2012 @ 6:28pm
              Norm said | April 3rd 2012 @ 6:28pm | ! Report

              40k in Perth & Adel, 25k in Bris & SYD, 2 x 85k at ‘G, 40k at Ess, 30k at St K, 15k in Hobart. Just my estimates

              • April 3rd 2012 @ 7:16pm
                stabpass said | April 3rd 2012 @ 7:16pm | ! Report

                School holidays and easter will put a dampner on it, i have a mate who has gone to Bali, and has given me some memberships for the Eagles/Melbourne game, so i will probably go, but many people dont bother, and dont re-sell back to the club, or pass to friends.

                Of course it could work the other way and more people, because of the holidays could turn up.

                I reckon Brisbane with a unexpected win last week could draw around 30k.

              • Roar Guru

                April 3rd 2012 @ 7:46pm
                The Cattery said | April 3rd 2012 @ 7:46pm | ! Report

                Possibly – a lot would have to right all on the one weekend – only need a bit of rain in one location and that would be enought to make it extremely difficult, but I hope you’re right.

      • April 3rd 2012 @ 5:31pm
        Jamesp said | April 3rd 2012 @ 5:31pm | ! Report

        A strong case for Monday night football then? I am unsure if I am in favour of it. Prefer the odd games here and there. Works well in school holiday periods, and Monday day games are good when its a public holiday.

        Then again, many people go away for holidays which would affect both TV and the gate…

        • Roar Guru

          April 3rd 2012 @ 6:06pm
          The Cattery said | April 3rd 2012 @ 6:06pm | ! Report

          It’s good that the AFL has opted to not run with Monday night football, for the time being, it leaves something extra to negotiate with in the next round – I’m sure they are always thinking ahead about getting more value the next time round.

    • April 3rd 2012 @ 5:25pm
      stabpass said | April 3rd 2012 @ 5:25pm | ! Report

      There is no argument, the AFL is by far, the biggest, strongest, best run, football comp in this country.

      The AFL’s crowds, membership, grounds, both player and spectator facilities, and TV deals and ratings are world class, and in some cases world leaders.

      I wonder what the AFL are looking ahead at, after bedding down the new teams.

      A 3rd team for Perth, a more serious concerted attempt to grow the game O/S

      • Roar Guru

        April 3rd 2012 @ 6:05pm
        The Cattery said | April 3rd 2012 @ 6:05pm | ! Report

        A 3rd team in Perth is critical – pretty soon the Eagles and Dockers will both have memberhip waiting lists, which amounts to demand for another footy team.

        And of course Tassie finally deserves a team….but….can we truly think about a 20 team comp? Doesn’t it start to get a bit unmanageable?

        • April 3rd 2012 @ 6:18pm
          Veni, Vedi, Sherrin Calcitravi said | April 3rd 2012 @ 6:18pm | ! Report

          Completely manageable at 20. Plenty of time-slots remaining, particularly with Monday night still open. WA3 and Tasmania would have to be the front-runners for next expansion. Canberra also deserves to happen at some point and I suspect will push ahead of Tassie in the feasibility stakes with some at AFL HQ.

          • April 3rd 2012 @ 6:33pm
            Prince Imperial said | April 3rd 2012 @ 6:33pm | ! Report

            I’ve always had a left field idea of a team called “Territory” that would be based in Canberra, play six matches a season there, and that would fly up to Darwin and be based there for 8 weeks (playing 5 home matches) in the middle of winter. I may be crazy, I admit but it may be a competitor to Perth 3 and Tassie particularly if the two cities have strong population growth.

          • April 3rd 2012 @ 7:12pm
            stabpass said | April 3rd 2012 @ 7:12pm | ! Report

            Manageable at 20 teams with time slots, but is it manageable with the depth of players, is it limited by a lack of top quality athletes, some would argue that ATM the talent is spread to thin, and i tend to agree.

            QLD, the South Pacific, South Africa and in particular NSW need to supply many more players, to increase the depth, QLD seems to do OK, but south from the Illawarra to Newcastle and west to Penrith needs to be worked for more players, this is the area the AFL is hoping to get a share of.

            • April 3rd 2012 @ 9:08pm
              stabpass said | April 3rd 2012 @ 9:08pm | ! Report

              I should actually rephrase that – would a 20 team comp be limited by the lack of top quality footballers, rather than athletes, some people seem to think they are the same thing these days.

              Finding top quality footballers who are also top quality athletes is the big problem.

              • Roar Guru

                April 3rd 2012 @ 10:47pm
                The_Wookie said | April 3rd 2012 @ 10:47pm | ! Report

                its not as big a problem as people make out. the quality issue is driven these days by the fact that recruiters and clubs are taking a long view and going for the top talent in the under 18s while ignoring the slower developing talent that has recently matured in the VFL/SANFL/WAFL and elsewhere. More and more clubs will be looking at the like of Duigan, Barlow, Stephenson, Krakouer – all who came from state league sides at mature ages and are or have shown to be highly effective at the elite level.

                This problem could easily be solved by placing severe limitations on the drafting of players under 20, and might solve the homesickness problems many young footballers face as well, allowing them time to mature in their own regions before being thrust into the limelight. Let new players take baby steps not giant leaps.

              • April 4th 2012 @ 7:17am
                ManInBlack said | April 4th 2012 @ 7:17am | ! Report

                for a lead in to the compromised drafts (Suns/GWS), clubs were busily cleaning out the ‘chaff’ on their lists and trying desperately to get as many drafted kids through to find the champions.

                But, along the way, as if we hadn’t already seen how the rookie system had been working to allow the late maturers to come through and star – but along the way, the ‘mature age’ rookie appeared.

                That’s been a fabulous boon.

                The whole ‘quality’ argument I reckon was missing the point that a lot of clubs were deliberately list managing OUT of their club their 26-32 yr olds. They were playing ultra young lists – and Melb FC is a clear example.

                That list management methodology has been the worst sort of ‘tanking’ if you wish.

                Point is – the talent was there. Is there. 20 clubs – the more the merrier. I’m not sure that anyone was ever going to describe Cameron Ling or Sam Mitchell as top quality athletes. They’d never be competing in the Olympic athletics – – and yet, were footballers of the highest quality. With 18 on the field, there’s only so much room for show pony athletes.

                Grunt players with plenty of heart are also required and – to me – are the missing pieces in the majority of clubs that are struggling.

                Internationally – The Port Moresby Academy will start churning out potential draftees. We need an academy in Fiji or Tonga and surely in RSA. And an indigenous academy in Mildura along the Clontarf model.

          • April 4th 2012 @ 1:51pm
            Nathan of Perth said | April 4th 2012 @ 1:51pm | ! Report

            20 teams is a good, level number, I wouldn’t want to see it go beyond that. I like my American sports but 30-32 team leagues are absolutely farcical for fairness. Development past there would have to focus on women’s footy and professionalising the state leagues.

            WA certainly could handle a 3rd team. Eagles and Dockers generate $90m pa of revenue with no pokies, no leagues clubs, no dodgy property deals, no private owner largesse. Within Western Australia no other teams come even close to matching their brand, presence, supporter numbers or community goodwill. Question is where would you base them. With West Coast covering the general angle and Freo having the centre, the big options seem like Joondalup in the northern extremity of the city or Peel/Mandurah in the southern extremity. Both have their drawbacks, especially if you still plan to use Subi/StadiumWA as a central stadium. Potentially you could bring Rushton Park (beautiful home of the Peel Thunder, poor benighted souls) to AFL level which would let you tap into Rockingham/Kwinana, Mandurah, Success, Bunbury and chunks of the south-west.

            Potentially you could also pull a Port Adelaide and try and generate an AFL structure atop an existing WAFL team, bring up something like the West Perth Falcons or Subiaco or Claremont.

        • April 3rd 2012 @ 9:52pm
          Nathan of Perth said | April 3rd 2012 @ 9:52pm | ! Report

          Fwiw, judging by my wait list number’s movement, no more than 200 seats changed hands last year for Eagles membership.

    • April 3rd 2012 @ 6:14pm
      Prince Imperial said | April 3rd 2012 @ 6:14pm | ! Report

      We’re a decade off thinking about expansion. With a 60k stadium on the way there should be enough capacity to meet Perth’s demand for football for a while. If Perth keeps growing as it has a third Perth team appears likely though it is difficult to determine where it’s supporter base would come from.

      • Roar Guru

        April 3rd 2012 @ 8:47pm
        The_Wookie said | April 3rd 2012 @ 8:47pm | ! Report

        I think its more than a decade. We’re looking at probably 20 years before the AFL goes down that track again. The only thing that could change that is a merger or relocation.

        • April 3rd 2012 @ 10:32pm
          Prince Imperial said | April 3rd 2012 @ 10:32pm | ! Report

          I agree that 20 years is about right but what I was trying to say was we are a decade off the AFL even beginning to think about it.

          • Roar Guru

            April 3rd 2012 @ 10:42pm
            The_Wookie said | April 3rd 2012 @ 10:42pm | ! Report

            yeah thats true, but i mean who knows if Gold Coast and GWS meet their targets earlier – bearing in mind the AFL says the Coast is already profitable – then we might see expansion sooner.

            Its not lost on me that the AFL took 5 years to bring Gold Coast from planning to its first season, and 6 years for GWS. Theres no 3-6 month notice like there was in 1987. a decade sounds about right – but if the two new clubs are failing it wont be looked at for much longer than that

            • April 3rd 2012 @ 10:47pm
              Nathan of Perth said | April 3rd 2012 @ 10:47pm | ! Report

              GC Suns profitability is a statement in need of a great deal of elaboration by AFL House…

              • April 3rd 2012 @ 10:54pm
                stabpass said | April 3rd 2012 @ 10:54pm | ! Report

                Indeed, would want to see something tangible.

              • Roar Guru

                April 3rd 2012 @ 10:56pm
                The_Wookie said | April 3rd 2012 @ 10:56pm | ! Report

                We’ve already been told that they made more money from one concert at the stadium in 2011 than they did from membership last year. With that in mind, and the low cost model they’ve been set up with, its likely that this is an operating profit which wouldnt take into account previous setup costs.

                Either way, as the AFL is currently the owner of the license the financial details will be folded into the AFLs Annual Report.

        • April 4th 2012 @ 4:28pm
          Veni, Vedi, Sherrin Calcitravi said | April 4th 2012 @ 4:28pm | ! Report

          Now thats a good point. In the next ten years if the AFL could successfully complete St Kilda’s attempt at a Geelong model down at Seaford, get North Melbourne established as a regional team by increasingly getting them to play games at Ballarat (sorry Kangas supporters) and consolidate GWS and GCS, that would be enough work. Then switch up to 20 and beyond after that.

          I could see us in 30 years having a competition of 24 teams having grown at a steady rate to keep the quality we have now without the competition becoming either unfair or chaotic. No lost teams Melbourne traditions maintained as a ‘heartland’ but not as over-represented as now. International feeders are fine, but no reason to base clubs o/s until we have tapped the strength of our own continent fully and made the competition truly national.

          • April 4th 2012 @ 6:02pm
            clipper said | April 4th 2012 @ 6:02pm | ! Report

            Nothing wrong with 20 teams – EPL does it, and the lower league have 24, but that would be the absolute maximum. Then you’ve got more interstate teams, and hopefully a new area. Good idea with North Melbourne, although a border regional team with southern NSW would consolidate that area.

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