The billion-dollar world of AFL clubs

The_Wookie Roar Guru

By The_Wookie, The_Wookie is a Roar Guru


116 Have your say

    Its that time of the year when all AFL clubs have lodged annual reports and we can finally get a handle on what they’ve been up to off the field for the last year or so.

    Club revenues in 2017 narrowly missed the billion dollar mark, totalling $998.13 million, averaging $55.45 million per club.

    That was a rise of $141 million (+17%), with AFL distributions up $46 million (+20%).

    At the upper end of the scale you have Hawthorn and Collingwood, each passing $70 million, boosted by the pokies. Essendon, Richmond and West Coast round out the top five – each making more than 60 million, with West Coast not having any pokie revenue at all.

    At the bottom end, Gold Coast and North Melbourne both made less than $40 million.

    Four AFL clubs reported comprehensive losses totalling $5.87 million – Collingwood and Geelong taking multi-million dollar hits in depreciation and amortisation – while 14 clubs reported profits totalling $26.62 million, although several required assistance from the AFL’s ‘Future Fund’ to get over the line.

    In an age where television revenue is considered the be all and end all, it’s worth noting clubs turned more than $240 million in revenue last season on memberships, reserved seating and gate receipts – this isn’t far short of the distributions handed out to the clubs from the TV deal.

    This doesn’t factor in signage and pourage rights, or onsite merchandise sales, figures up five per cent (about $13 million) in 2017.

    Collingwood, Adelaide and West Coast lead the charge in memberships, each taking in more than $20 million, while there should be real concerns at the bottom, with Greater Western Sydney taking in $1.8 million – and that figure includes its merchandise sales.

    Clubs also turned over more than $212 million in sponsorship, at an average of $11 million per club, up $8.3 million (4.1%) on the previous year.

    Collingwood and Sydney sit at the top of the sponsorship table, with more than $18 million each. Even GWS tops $11 million in sponsorship, however the Suns sit at the bottom, with less than $6 million.

    The AFL’s $418 million annual TV deal started last year, and the league appears to have distributed $277 million of it to the clubs in 2017, up $46 million on the previous year.

    With GWS and Gold Coast at the top, with more than $24 million, Brisbane and St Kilda also come in for more than $20 million in AFL distributions.

    It’s worth noting that the base distribution in 2017 was $10.6 million, and some clubs are entitled to money from central revenues pertaining to signage, pourage, promotion and game buyout rights.

    Clubs spent more than $450 million on their football departments in 2017, with the average club spending in excess of $25 million, up 10 per cent on 2016. Collingwood lead the way with $28 million, including expenditure on women’s football and their VFL or VFLW sides. GWS and Sydney make up the top three with more than $26 million.

    Clubs had more than half a billion dollars in assets, with West Coast ($77 million) and Hawthorn ($66 million) leading the way, and both clubs looking to build their own multi-million dollar facilities in the short term.

    At the other end of the scale, the Queensland clubs both languish at the bottom of the equity table, in the red – the Lions over $13 million in negative equity.

    West Coast is probably the largest football club in the country – certainly so in the AFL in financial terms. Other clubs have more members and bigger attendances, but it’s hard to go past the raw cash the Eagles bring in each year, with tens of millions in the bank and in investments.

    In the long term, of the established clubs, the Lions and Saints have issues to address.

    St Kilda have a promising move back to its traditional home at Moorabin to look forward to, and an improved deal at Docklands that will make an extra million or two a year.

    Brisbane are angling for a training facility at Springfield and for some funding there from the state and AFL to make that happen, but like most things in Queensland, the only real answer is getting back to the winners’ list more frequently.

    The AFL annual report for 2017 is due out any day now and promises to make fascinating reading, with the league including its Docklands assets and revenues for the first time.

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    The Crowd Says (116)

    • Roar Guru

      March 15th 2018 @ 3:25am
      The_Wookie said | March 15th 2018 @ 3:25am | ! Report

      Also: Eleven AFL clubs took $134 million in revenue from their pokie venues. Nine clubs reported $22.19 million in venue profits, while Hawthorn and Geelong didnt divulge venue costs. Hawthorn generally making several million in profit, while Geelong are actively reducing the number of pokies they have at hand.

      • March 15th 2018 @ 8:17am
        cbeb said | March 15th 2018 @ 8:17am | ! Report

        if you want to see real profit from pokies check out what clubs like Panthers, Bulldogs, Eelsand Roosters earn form them. AFL club pale into insignificance fortunately.

        • Roar Guru

          March 15th 2018 @ 9:05am
          The_Wookie said | March 15th 2018 @ 9:05am | ! Report

          Gaming Revenue

          Canterbury – $74,390,104
          Penrith – $65,374,000
          Eastern Suburbs – $44,965,581
          Parramatta – $41,172,597
          North Queensland – $11,218,900
          Cronulla – $8,407,201

          • Roar Guru

            March 15th 2018 @ 9:09am
            JamesH said | March 15th 2018 @ 9:09am | ! Report

            Holy s*** that’s a lot of money being thrown away. Sad.

            • March 15th 2018 @ 10:47pm
              Kris’ said | March 15th 2018 @ 10:47pm | ! Report

              their full back so they put the guy who never passes the ball back there(ok slight hyperbole) Unless Barba comes back I think the sharks need to find a 5/8 and put Moylan back there. Actually don’t.

          • March 15th 2018 @ 11:06am
            clipper said | March 15th 2018 @ 11:06am | ! Report

            So 2 NRL clubs make more in pokie money than the all the AFL clubs – quite striking.

            • March 15th 2018 @ 12:30pm
              Kris said | March 15th 2018 @ 12:30pm | ! Report

              ‘Clubs’ and clubs. In the AFL the football clubs own the poker venues and so profit flows into the football clubs.

              In the NRL system the poker venues tend to own the football clubs and money does not necessarily flow down to the NRL clubs.

              • Roar Guru

                March 15th 2018 @ 12:34pm
                The_Wookie said | March 15th 2018 @ 12:34pm | ! Report

                the clubs listed above are fully integrated leagues/football clubs

              • March 15th 2018 @ 1:15pm
                Kris said | March 15th 2018 @ 1:15pm | ! Report


                Indeed they are but that is still the point I was clumsily making.

                If Hawthorn make several million dollars profit, then that is money that goes into a bank account that they can spend on their footy team.

                Penrith’s revenue figure doesn’t go to the footy team. If goes to running the poker venues, the entertainment venues and whatever else. It is a bit misleading to presume that the Penrith NRL team has that $65m to spend on their rugby team.

                It is a slightly different operating model.

                This last year the Penrith NRL team, had to get extra cash from their Leagues Club parents.

                “PENRITH Panthers this year spent a whopping $16 million — and will post a $5m loss — ensuring Western Sydney remains rugby league territory.

                The huge sum of money, spent above the NRL’s annual grant, went towards overseeing the 8500 junior players in the area plus hefty injections into the club’s academy and home ground.

                The Panthers’ highly-profitable six licenced clubs have agreed to cover the $5m loss, which Penrith considers an “investment” in the game’s future.”

      • Roar Guru

        March 15th 2018 @ 10:16am
        AdelaideDocker said | March 15th 2018 @ 10:16am | ! Report

        I really think it’s disingenuous to boost profits by pokies. No club should be earning cash from them.

        • March 15th 2018 @ 11:29am
          Perry Bridge said | March 15th 2018 @ 11:29am | ! Report

          #Adelaide Docker

          As of 2015/2016 in Victoria there were 500 licensed pokies venues with 240 clubs and 260 hotels.

          Woolworths annual revenue from pokie machines in Victoria was reported as $669 million. And July last year Woollies were still trying to expand into some of the lower socio-economic communities.

          There’s around 200,000 pokie machines in Australia. In Vic, 29,165 reported at that time – however there had been a reduction and the cap until 2042 is set at 27,372 machines.

          Crown Casino had about 9% of the total Vic number at that time (2015/2016).

          Now – I’d hate for some moral do-gooders to shame AFL clubs out of that revenue stream only to see a corporation like Woollies or TabCorp or Tatts to swoop in to make bigger profits.

          At least – when a venue is a known venue for an AFL club – there are those who will attend it, bring along their $50 or $100, and figure, if they loose it all – it’s a ‘donation’, and if they win a bit back then it’s akin to having bought the book of raffle tickets etc.

          As indicated above – the AFL clubs are low end of the scale compared to the NRL clubs – given that Leagues Clubs/pokies venues have financed that code for decades (such that match attendance and memberships for such were far from a priority – no need!!. Sydney had a very, very different sports culture to Melbourne – the NSWRL vs the VFL were very, very different beasts).

          • March 15th 2018 @ 12:45pm
            Kris said | March 15th 2018 @ 12:45pm | ! Report

            Gambling is a $5.9 billion tax on the stupid Victorians alone.

            Woolies has to pay the full tax rate because they are a commercial operator.

            AFL clubs get to pay 8.3% less. tax because they are a ‘community club’. They have to spend that 8.3% ‘saved’ on community activities. They spend that money on operating costs for the venue and claim that operating a venue is a community service.

            This makes the AFL operated venues more profitable and is a massive rort. It is for this reason that Woolies operates the Carlton pokies. They get to book the operating costs as a community grant. In exchange Carlton (and the other AFL clubs) get paid a cut for effectively acting as pimps.

            This is the first article I found but is symptomatic.

        • March 15th 2018 @ 10:00pm
          Kris’ said | March 15th 2018 @ 10:00pm | ! Report

          West Brom and Stoke went down the path of having very heavily specialised squads (big, strong, physical, direct). When it stopped working the new managers didn’t really have too many other reins to pull.

          Now we just need SBS to stop putting Manchester teams on the telly every week for a title chase that is already over. Huddersfield v Palace will be very tense this weeken

        • March 15th 2018 @ 11:59pm
          Kris’ said | March 15th 2018 @ 11:59pm | ! Report

          Disingenuous again

    • Roar Guru

      March 15th 2018 @ 3:38am
      The_Wookie said | March 15th 2018 @ 3:38am | ! Report

      also raw data and source material

    • March 15th 2018 @ 9:00am
      Davio said | March 15th 2018 @ 9:00am | ! Report

      All the more impressive that North Melbourne refuse to have pokies and are on of the smaller clubs. Also good on you West Coast as well for having no pokies. Unless you can’t have pokies in Western Australia unlike Victoria?

      • Roar Guru

        March 15th 2018 @ 9:06am
        The_Wookie said | March 15th 2018 @ 9:06am | ! Report

        you cant have them in WA clubs

      • Roar Guru

        March 15th 2018 @ 9:07am
        JamesH said | March 15th 2018 @ 9:07am | ! Report

        Nope, WA is pokies free outside of casinos. Good on ’em.

        I really wish Essendon would get rid of them, particularly now that they have their finances back on track after the supplements saga and they are looking at record memberships.

        • March 15th 2018 @ 9:23am
          Aligee said | March 15th 2018 @ 9:23am | ! Report

          Casino – as in singular, i want one in Broome TBH.

          • March 15th 2018 @ 9:36am
            Aligee said | March 15th 2018 @ 9:36am | ! Report

            Similar to the ones in the ski fields in NZ, just reasonably small, not huge hotel complexes.

        • March 15th 2018 @ 10:17am
          Rissole said | March 15th 2018 @ 10:17am | ! Report

          I believe they are actively looking to reduce their reliance on the revenue generated from pokies with the view to get rid of them.

          • March 15th 2018 @ 10:37am
            Aligee said | March 15th 2018 @ 10:37am | ! Report

            Grog destroys far more lives than pokies ever will, you can actually drink and play the pokies at the same time responsibly, millions of people do.

            • March 15th 2018 @ 2:25pm
              Kangajets said | March 15th 2018 @ 2:25pm | ! Report

              You can lose your life savings gambling in one night

              Hard to do that through alcohol in one night

              • March 15th 2018 @ 3:26pm
                Aligee said | March 15th 2018 @ 3:26pm | ! Report

                I disagree, it would be pretty hard to lose your life savings, unless you liquidated everything, that would take a fair bit of planning, alcohol has ruined millions of more lives than gambling, incited more random violence and domestic violence, led to people losing everything and also leads to a myriad of medical problems with cancer amongst them.

                Get rid of alcohol before gambling if you are serious.

                Whatsmore i can actually have a beer or a bourbon and a punt or when i want play a pokies at the same time responsibly, like many millions of Australians.

              • March 15th 2018 @ 11:58pm
                Kris’ said | March 15th 2018 @ 11:58pm | ! Report

                Very contrarian

      • March 15th 2018 @ 9:20am
        Kangajets said | March 15th 2018 @ 9:20am | ! Report

        I totally agree on north anti pokie money stance . Working in welfare makes u appreciate that .
        Now to rid Australia sport of sports gaming money also .

        • March 15th 2018 @ 11:06am
          R King said | March 15th 2018 @ 11:06am | ! Report

          Well said, but greed will win every time, unfortunately.

          • March 15th 2018 @ 11:13am
            Aligee said | March 15th 2018 @ 11:13am | ! Report

            There is greed and then again there is also greed, it can be argued the central tenant in a society like ours is greed, greed is good and also greed is bad, like any vice, a bit like playing the pokies you must exercise restraint – some people will always slip through the cracks – that’s life

      • March 15th 2018 @ 1:04pm
        Kris said | March 15th 2018 @ 1:04pm | ! Report

        As moral as North no doubt are, it also true that they missed the boat and their venue was losing money. It is a bit easier to hand back the licences of something that isn’t making you money and then be smug about it.

    • March 15th 2018 @ 9:03am
      Kangajets said | March 15th 2018 @ 9:03am | ! Report

      This paints an sorry picture for Brisbane, Gold Coast And Gws , is it really worth having these clubs that drag the chain , or will it take the 20 years it took the swans to get established?

      • March 15th 2018 @ 9:29am
        Aligee said | March 15th 2018 @ 9:29am | ! Report

        Yes, because at some stage nearly every club could have folded, Collingwood and Richmond included.

        There will always be a weakest club – and a strongest one, should we cut both?

        • March 15th 2018 @ 9:52am
          Kangajets said | March 15th 2018 @ 9:52am | ! Report

          Who are colllingwood , Wikipedia says 2 flags in about 40years 😂

      • March 15th 2018 @ 11:09am
        Mattyb said | March 15th 2018 @ 11:09am | ! Report

        Of course it’s worth having Brisbane,GC and GWS.
        Brisbane will be fine when their onfield situation improves.
        GC and GWS are investments into the future,investments that appear logically sound.
        What are the prospects for team like North or StKilda over 20 years? I’d say the prospects of growth for North is very limited, I think in 20 years support for StKilda will continue to erode as Hawthorn will continue to grow in the Saints traditional heartland.
        If we are going to ask what clubs are worth maintaining we should be considering if it’s worth maintaining 10 clubs playing out of Victoria when 6 would be more than enough and far more profitable going forward.

      • Roar Guru

        March 15th 2018 @ 11:26am
        Cat said | March 15th 2018 @ 11:26am | ! Report

        The AFL have always said GWS and GC were 20-30 year projects. You just catching up now?

        • March 15th 2018 @ 11:33am
          Kangajets said | March 15th 2018 @ 11:33am | ! Report

          The Gws is a 20 project in futility though . West Sydney is a different world to the area that the swans have won over .
          Can’t see it working imo

          There are places far more interested and deserving of a footy team then Western Sydney .

          • Roar Guru

            March 15th 2018 @ 12:11pm
            Cat said | March 15th 2018 @ 12:11pm | ! Report

            ‘deserving of footy’

            Who exactly does ‘deserve’ footy? What metric do you use to rate how much a place ‘deserves’ footy?

            The entire point of the last round of expansion was to start teams in places that had no previous interest in AFL. The point was to expand the game. The game does not actually expand by adding teams in places that are already AFL bastions.

            It’s not that you can’t see it working, its that you don’t want it to work because of your Tassie Team bias.

            • March 15th 2018 @ 12:37pm
              mattyb said | March 15th 2018 @ 12:37pm | ! Report

              It’s also not like the AFL intend to take over Western Sydney,they are just investing in an area with a large market.
              The investment strategy is a niche market share in Western Sydney is a better financial prospect than a large market share in a place like Tasmania.

              • March 15th 2018 @ 12:52pm
                Kris said | March 15th 2018 @ 12:52pm | ! Report

                Yep. About 10% of Australia’s population live in Western Sydney. They don’t need to take over, a niche minority sport appealing to only 5% of the 2m people still has a 100k base upon which to build.

              • March 15th 2018 @ 2:10pm
                Kangajets said | March 15th 2018 @ 2:10pm | ! Report

                Good luck to that investment.

                So how will it be termed a success . If they manage to fill Homebush regularly,, 17000 out of 3 million people , most of who would have tagged on to the swans anyway or are just expat Victorians (( and that 17000 isn’t looking good )

                If Gws win flags , it just annoys the other clubs because they had so many concessions to do so .

                If Western Sydney produces a few afl players, well they would have found a path through the swans or gone through the neafl wafl anyway .

                And ratings. It will never happen . New South Wales is at afl maximum capacity. Even with Sydney swan making regular finals , you can only see them on seven mate .

                So imo. Western Sydney is not interested in having or deserving of a team

                A place like Tasmania or Canberra are far more deserving.

                Analyse that however you want . But the afl are wasting money on a project destined for indifference or mediocrity .

                Come to Western Sydney and see what I mean, you might change your perceptions .

              • March 15th 2018 @ 4:06pm
                Kris said | March 15th 2018 @ 4:06pm | ! Report

                @Kanga. You could say all the same things about the Storm. Niche market in a big city, rarely broadcast, few local players added to the pool, very little media attention etc etc – but arguably the most successful club of the last 20 years.

              • March 15th 2018 @ 4:19pm
                Perry Bridge said | March 15th 2018 @ 4:19pm | ! Report


                While yes – many of the GWS fans probably would have tagged onto the Swans, and likewise the Suns have probably split the existing Lions local fan base – it’s a hard sell then to convince of the value for 2 teams in each state, thus allowing a ‘home’ game in the broader Syd and SE QLD markets each week. It doubles the players to go out and do clinics/school visits etc and it doubles the chances for kids to be Auskickers on ground. These things are important.

                That there are 4 AFL teams servicing NSW/QLD compared to only one Aust NRL team outside of NSW/QLD. That the AFL is able to promote 2 ‘local derbies’ into each of those markets each year – and it means there can at least be local bragging rights irrespective of making the finals. These things play out in WA and SA. The AFL has achieved a minimum 2 teams per mainland state – and – provided for 2 ‘associate’ teams so to speak for Tassie to attach to in a similar sense.

              • March 16th 2018 @ 12:00am
                Kris’ said | March 16th 2018 @ 12:00am | ! Report

                Nobody cares in New South Wales .

              • March 16th 2018 @ 3:44pm
                clipper said | March 16th 2018 @ 3:44pm | ! Report

                I don’t believe many fans would’ve tagged on to the Swans – when GWS entered the competition, there was no decline in Swans attendance – if anything it went up – quite different to the situation re the Lions and Suns.
                Quite different demographics between the two areas.
                Kanga – how on earth can you say if GWS fill Homebush regularly they will be considered a success – has there been any team in NSW that would fill that stadium?
                The mere fact that they have a better attendance than 3 Sydney NRL teams means they are gaining some traction, although limited – The Storm, even being the most successful NRL team for the last couple of decades, has not even come close to the poorest AFL team in Melbourne.
                I also wouldn’t be too dismissive of 7mate – most of the Soccer matches are on a secondary channel as well.

      • March 15th 2018 @ 11:39am
        Perry Bridge said | March 15th 2018 @ 11:39am | ! Report

        The GWS sponsorship shows the potential.

        The AFL has committed to the long term and if they can keep to that trajectory – the pay off will come.

        The FFA lost their nerve on the Gold Coast and the NRL having sold off the Titans to a local consortium have made what they hope to be a long term embedding in that community (rather than a desperate last resort sell off to someone else to take the risk on).

        The AFL pretty well must hold strong in SE QLD, the participation numbers at grass roots, the clubs in the last 10 years in Northern NSW up to and around SE QLD is such that the momentum is building and, the optimists are just waiting for some better on field performances. Need to see Brisbane and Gold Coast retain good players rather than being pillaged by the Vic clubs. The Swans found success when the COLA gave them a chance to do so. That’s my main concern – the Vic centric free agency push might be the worst thing for a national comp. Wait and see.

    • March 15th 2018 @ 9:31am
      Tom M said | March 15th 2018 @ 9:31am | ! Report

      Collingwood are actively trying to replace their Pokie revenue atm. Jeff Kennett said on radio it was hypocritical for the AFL to put pressure on clubs to dispose of Pokies when the AFL makes millions off Sports bet companies. I tend to agree with him, I have been at games where kids under the age of 12 start talking about odds and its a terrible look.

      • March 15th 2018 @ 11:47am
        Perry Bridge said | March 15th 2018 @ 11:47am | ! Report

        “I have been at games where kids under the age of 12 start talking about odds and its a terrible look.”

        Probability and chance.

        It’s a maths unit.

        I actually disagree – I think it’s fine that kids observe this. It’s an educational tool. Learn the maths. Understand the logic. But that doesn’t mean you need to bet on it.

        Taking a hard line otherwise – we’d then suggest that no kids should be allowed to join a footy tipping comp (even if a free entry one done for a packet of TimTams).

        I believe in empowerment via education. There will always be those who reckon they can beat the system.

        btw – I grew up where the footy radio broadcasts were interrupted by ‘correct weight from Rose Hill’ and the scoreboard carried the race results from Flemington. I’ve never had any interest in punting on the nags – if anything – the exposure demystified it.

        • March 15th 2018 @ 12:19pm
          Julian said | March 15th 2018 @ 12:19pm | ! Report

          Yup, but you’d be in the miniscule minority of people who gamble less when exposed to more gambling.

          Australia has the highest rated of gambling in the world, higher even then Singapore which is full of expats and business men going there to gamble. Our losses are hugely disproportionate to our GDP.

          Travelling abroad really opens your eyes to how brainwashed we are over here. For such a nanny state, it’s amazing that we have deregulated gambling….. But then again, money pretty much explains everything.

        • March 15th 2018 @ 12:49pm
          Tom M said | March 15th 2018 @ 12:49pm | ! Report

          Are you actually trying to argue that the gambling promotion in the AFL was worse in the 90s than it is now? Before every game, on every AFL related TV program and even at the games the advertising and promoting sports betting is everywhere. In the 90s gambling had to compete with Cigarettes and Alcohol for airtime now Gambling is king and it fills the bank accounts of AFL house.

          • March 15th 2018 @ 4:24pm
            Perry Bridge said | March 15th 2018 @ 4:24pm | ! Report

            #Tom M

            I’m pointing out that demystifying a topic can lead to more rational decision making – at least for those capable of it.

            Many people do gamble and I dare say gambling on the footy – about something that many people follow very, very closely (fantasy leagues etc) – is probably a far safer bet than the nags. Many people have a betting account and manage it appropriately and have a bit of fun.

            There’s more involved in setting up a betting account (as easy as it may be) than waltzing into a pokies joint and blowing the groceries money.

            • March 15th 2018 @ 4:40pm
              Tom M said | March 15th 2018 @ 4:40pm | ! Report

              I can make a bet on my phone within seconds and I don’t even need to leave my couch. Also most sportsbet companies make setting up and depositing into an account very easy, its only when you try to withdraw that the account needs to be verified.

    • March 15th 2018 @ 9:45am
      Liam O'Neill said | March 15th 2018 @ 9:45am | ! Report

      Would North be better on and off the field if they had pokies?

      • March 15th 2018 @ 10:11am
        Kangajets said | March 15th 2018 @ 10:11am | ! Report

        Yes they would in a football sense

        Morally, I like where north stand .

      • Roar Guru

        March 15th 2018 @ 10:35am
        Paul Dawson said | March 15th 2018 @ 10:35am | ! Report

        They should be fine without, continuing to support north in 2018 is a long odds gamble in itself

        As a bit of a sports $ wonk myself I enjoyed this one wookie. Some interesting numbers. Just on the lions and Springfield that is about politics rather than money now, the state government is sitting on that til the optics look better. They’re a bit cagey about being seen to spend money on luxuries when so many essentials are busted in this state, like the Bruce Highway

        • March 16th 2018 @ 1:20am
          Matto said | March 16th 2018 @ 1:20am | ! Report

          “West Coast is probably the largest football club in the country”
          What did you think of this being said about your Weagles Pauly d