The Roar
The Roar


The grand final ticketing debacle once again proves the AFL doesn't give a rat's about the fans

Autoplay in... 6 (Cancel)
Up Next No more videos! Playlist is empty -
Roar Guru
28th September, 2023

Back before the internet, people had to line up outside ticketing agencies to get their seats for big games.

That’s what we did for the 1990 grand final – camping outside Northland for over a week to ensure we got in early. I was part of my brother’s posse – about thirty or so fanatical Collingwood supporters who would attend games weekly and occupy the (half-forward flank) hill at Victoria Park.

My brother had meticulously drawn up a roster stating who’d mind our spot in the queue and when. We adhered to it for the second semi final, but for the grand final it became a party atmosphere. At night, we’d abscond to a movie at Northland Cinemas to escape the cold. During the day, it was revelry, drinking, and – once Essendon won their way through – good-natured banter with Bombers supporters.

It’s one of my favourite football memories.

Nowadays, most people book through the internet. But where physical queueing established a hierarchy once, the world wide web doesn’t allow that – everybody is jumping on at the same time. It’s (barely) functional anarchy.

The only differentiation comes, potentially, from your internet connection, the speed of your device, and the whim of the ticketing agency’s online mechanism – and just how capricious it decides to be at any given time.

Clubs try to impose some order on this madness – because it IS madness to ticket the AFL’s biggest game of the season this way – by arranging guaranteed seating. This comes by virtue of membership packages that are meant to ensure a grand final ticket.

But, as this week has proven, that’s not always the case.


Collingwood’s highest level of membership, the ‘Legends’, were treated like beggars, thrown into terrible seats – while lesser memberships were getting prime real estate – hustled into standing – unless they didn’t check standing as an option – or missing out entirely.

The latter is the most galling. That membership is meant to guarantee a seat. It’s effectively a lottery ticket – you’re buying into the possibility that your team will make the grand final.

Most years, that won’t be the case. Most years, a financial portion of that membership package almost constitutes a donation to the club, and that’s fine. Members can be zealous in their devotion.

But when it pays off? Well, it should pay off.

Ticketek asserted they followed their protocols perfectly. You’d accept that if only a handful of members had issues – there are always anomalies.

But the uproar was tidal. This was more than just a few disgruntled members. This was a large contingent of people who had paid for the right to a grand final ticket, only to discover they’d been, to put it mildly, screwed.


People who complained were referred back to their club, but Collingwood were as bemused as anybody. The onus quickly fell back onto Ticketek. They do have form in this area, operating as if they’re still using dial-up with an interface designed by Neanderthals who thought the best mechanism would be to hurl faeces at a wall and see what stuck.

How a higher standard hasn’t been exacted is astonishing.

It makes you think about how the AFL treat their premier event. With the preliminary final truly the last parochial supporter event of the season – you just had to listen to the noise at the Collingwood-GWS game, and feel the stands reverberate – the grand final has become a soulless boutique event that’s more about the occasion where the everyday supporter is some unwanted holdover to a past that’s been deemed no longer relevant – sort of like the music acts the AFL hires.

Collingwood fans celebrate.

Collingwood fans celebrate. (Photo by Dylan Burns/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

Surely the grand final should be predominantly about the two teams and their loyal members and supporters. Instead, it’s about packages, corporates, and grant tickets to non-completing clubs to do with as they please. You’d be forgiven for thinking that the latter is the AFL’s way of tacitly redistributing wealth and pumping money into clubs that need it.

Naturally, the league can’t accommodate everybody, let alone every member and supporter from the two competing clubs. But they do need to devise a better method to tier ticketing allocation.

Of course, I imagine that what happened earlier this week won’t even be a blip on the AFL’s radar. They’ll acknowledge it, comment that fans are their priority, and then it’ll be dismissed, which ensures there’s every likelihood that it will happen again.


As the old saying goes, ‘Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it’. Because who are we, right?

Whenever this stuff occurs, my mind always goes back to the season the AFL anointed ‘the Year of the Fan’ back in 2015. That was about as specious and condescending as you can get – or as the AFL could get. EVERY year should be the Year of the Fan.

The competition cannot exist without us fans. We are the lifeblood of the AFL, the reason dollars get pumped into the game and make it al happen.

You could kill off just about every AFL journalist, and it wouldn’t impact the competition – in fact, I’m sure there are people in the game who’d prefer it.

Sports opinion delivered daily 


But if you and I weren’t there? If the grassroots fan decided it was all to hard, and left the AFL to the aristocrats?


Credit to Collingwood and their membership department; I’ve whacked the club repeatedly in the past, and I’m sure will do so again in the future, but they were quick to address the issue and have worked tirelessly to ensure members are getting tickets – even at the sacrifice of tickets from the club’s own staff.

This probably won’t rate much of a mention, instead being buried under the AFL and Ticketek bureaucracy.

But well done to Collingwood.