Halfway through the "Year of the Fan" things have improved but there is still a long way to go, the AFL Fans Association says. Kick-to-kick, cheaper food at the MCG and on Sundays at Etihad Stadium, better scheduling and free Sunday admission for kids in Melbourne have been big hits. But variable pricing remains, albeit under the clubs’ control, and fans in most non-Victorian states have not enjoyed cheaper food or giveaways.
AFL Fans Association president Gerry Eeman says it has been, "The Year of the Fan - Sort Of". "While the AFL has responded to general disillusionment with some positive moves, like kick-to-kick and cheaper food at some venues, not all fans have benefitted. An amended version of variable pricing still exists and in some cases reserved seats are more expensive than last year."
"Some new match-day experiences, such as fireworks and Carlton’s famous hovercraft, are fun for families with small children. But many fans have told us that they hate the LED lighting, which can be extremely distracting, and the music and announcements are too loud and intrusive.
"We are also disappointed that North Melbourne and Brisbane stopped diehard cheer squad members making banners for home games – a role that makes many cheer squad members feel connected to their club. Why can’t Brion the Lion and banners co-exist?"
Below are the AFLFA’s hits and misses so far in 2015.
Kicking goals. Kids and their parents, who enjoyed a kick on the field after the game as youngsters, have revelled in the return of kick-to-kick. Big tick.
The price is right. Cheaper pies, hot chips and soft drinks (all $4) have been a huge hit at the MCG. Etihad’s $3 Sunday pies and free popcorn were well received however Etihad missed a great chance to win fans by making food cheaper on all days. By doing so they have effectively crowned the MCG as the People’s Ground.
Good timing. The unpopular Sunday and Monday nights are gone, hopefully never to be seen again.
Sunday Funday. Free kids’ entry on Sundays, often teamed with activities, is popular with families.
Duck hunting season. The mid-season interpretation change of the ducking rule has been well received by the majority of fans who hate seeing players stage for free kicks.
Lights out. Few fans like the new LED lights and many can’t stand them.
Turn it down! It’s not just oldies covering their ears at the loud music and announcements – fans of all ages hate them.
Bun fight. Fans in most non-Victorian states have not enjoyed food price reductions.
Send Brion flyin’. If Brion the Lion is stopping diehard cheer squad members to make banners at Brisbane home games, then Brion the Lion should go back to his circus.
Twilight zone. Twilight games are unpopular, especially on Sundays for those travelling from regional areas.
Pricing pain. Variable pricing lives. There may be guaranteed general admission tickets way up high, but some reserved seats are even pricier than last year, especially for big games.
Not so grand. Too many competing club members will again miss out on Grand Final tickets, with some corporate packages already released and sold out. Dollars before club members.
Below are some comments from fans about the season so far:
WHAT THE FANS ARE SAYING (via www.facebook.com/aflfans)
Kevin: LED flashing lights at AO are terrible. I've been to one game there (live in NSW). It would be enuf to stop me going. It’s so intrusive. It’s less noticeable on TV
Kirsten: I think the LED lights are a health hazard and should be stopped due to medical reasons. I've been to a couple of matches and had headaches after both matches, and I don't even have any medical concerns regarding flashing lights. I also think it would be really distracting for the players as well - it's hard enough picking out your team mate in a congested field or kicking for goal, without having to ignore constantly changing signs.
Denis Bourke: The LED strips around the grounds are a total blight. Make it very difficult to see the ball and players when on the other side of the ground on Level One. Totally over the top advertising. Also, the new flat screens above the seats on Level One at Etihad have a large L shaped permanent advertising area with the image of the game in a rectangle about 2/3rd size of the screen - certainly smaller than the old CRT's that used to be there. Can't imagine who was positive about it.
Daniel: Geez if the LED lights are the only thing people are upset about we are doing well. I like them for the little extra stuff like when a goal is scored and when they display the old time banner's from grand finals.
Robyn: I do not know anyone who likes the LED lighting and Monday at the G was horrendous with the noise of that red beating heart, with worse to come when the D's ran on the field bells chiming...what the hell has that got to do with football???
Glen: As someone coming from regional Victoria, Sunday twilight games aren't fan friendly. Ticket prices haven't noticed as I'm a member who doesn't upgrade to a lower level at Etihad. Kick to kick has been wonderful.
Michael: Food prices at Metricon and Gabba are horrendous. The "match day experience" like noisy music and irritating match day MC make me wanna stay home and watch on TV.
Andrew: both Adelaide teams’ supporters hate late Sunday games as figures has shown and both clubs have said that but always got told you have to earn the right the following year and play a good brand of exciting football.
Brendan: Ticket prices are a little better but I still think they need to leave the whole top deck GA...still gotta pay too much to sit low in top deck...Etihad crowds are woeful these days and crowds at the G should be better. The best pre match entertainment they could do would be to play VFL curtain raises like the old days....every fan wants them back.
Dot: I don't consider the game times are time friendly for the people who actually go to the game. Why should TV viewers get all the consideration? The AFL has sold its soul to the TV networks and us people who actually go and fill those seats are not considered at all. I also feel that all the noisy entertainment and the glaring advertising signs can be dispensed with.
Lana: Both games I've attended at Etihad this year have had food and drinks at last year’s prices. MCG have had the cheaper food and drinks (which is great as most games I attend are at the MCG).
Glen: I am not happy with the twilight game time on a Sunday because it is far too late for young children. It was 8.40 pm before I got home last night from the Saints vs Hawks game. Most adults (without children) who sit near me each game dislike the twilight game time. Food prices at Etihad have not changed much at all. Pregame entertainment is good.
Chris: As a fan my season has gone considerably better than expected. Because: Giants. Nice curry at Etihad too.
Siobhan: By the way STOP putting Friday night games in Perth at 610pm. Make them 640pm!! Traffic is horrendous! Why is it always about the eastern states? 830 on a Friday night is NOT too late at all.
Darren: Food prices at the MCG are better, pity Etihad Stadium only do it on Sundays. Surely if they can sell a pie for $3 on a Sunday, they can do it every day.
Tanya: I am an AFL Collingwood club support member and I can tell you I won't be renewing my membership next year. Why the AFL have introduced a American style of entertainment by having loud music, advertisement been shown and displayed throughout the game, the light show and cheer leader mascot dancing during half time is beyond me. As of next year I will be staying home and watching the game on TV so that way I don't need to watch the rubbish at the game.
Rachel: Port Adelaide pre-match has stayed amazing and I think the biggest issues with the 'year of the fan' so far is the fact that whoever did the fixture clearly didn't even try to keep Friday nights quality and the weird negative media that highlights everything that goes wrong, especially the constant questioning of whether or not fans are allowed to show dislike of opposition players. I thought this year we would be celebrating the fans that make a positive impact on the game a bit more.
Mark: At the MCG the food prices are a lot better than last year, don’t need a loan to buy chips and a drink! As for the entertainment before and during the game ANNOYING! Don’t like the flashing billboards as they are that bright, you really do need sunglasses. Can’t imagine what it is like at ground level. The constant boom of the speakers every time a goal is kicked or during the breaks when the commentator is trying to talk over all the fans at once, getting a bit too much. Get rid of the singers/dancers and leave it to the crowds to entertain themselves while waiting for the football. After all this is AFL not the Superbowl!
Jutta: I want to take my young kids more often but too many night and twilight games for Collingwood so just can't do it. I hate the times and think they are just as bad as previous years.
Annie: As a proud and passionate member of Port Adelaide. ...our game day experience is totally awesome....always something different. The March from the Mall is brilliant....even had 2 past legends of our great club do it last Saturday night Gavin Wanganeen and Byron Pickert with the supporters. THEN.....you have NEVER TEAR US APART....spine tingling so I am a very proud fan of how my footy club goes about it.
Travis: I have been banging on about game times. It is still poor. Yes they got rid of Monday and Sunday nights. But they were a new initiative and it's a disgrace that they were ever tried in the first place. Who decided "Monday and Sunday nights might work". So I give NO credit for removing something that was ridiculous to start with. The only real improvement is that there are more Sunday games in Perth starting at 2.40 Perth time therefore 4.40 Melb time. That is logical and should be done as much as possible. But look at today, 3.20. Next Sunday, another 4.40 game in Melb. It is Sunday's that are poor. A standard game has 3 games of which 2 are twilight at 3.20 and 4.40. Ridiculous. Chanel 7 should be forced to change their 3.20 game to 2.10. That their demands outweigh everything else is ridiculous and inconveniences many fans. They can have a news service at 5, or do a after match like they do Friday and Sat nights. This weeks 4.40 should be encouraged to be boycotted. Get a crowd of less than 10,000 and send the AFL a message.
Mal: Personally I don't mind which times the Saints play but I'd like them to have more prime time games for their sponsors. Probably Friday night is the best for me but like I said, I have no real preference. Also not worried about food prices because I don't buy food at the footy and haven't done so for years but I can understand if you have kids and they want a treat or a snack it would be very expensive. The biggest disconnect I've had is with the 'match day experience', mainly with the sound levels and the back to back ads during the breaks and also the animations around the LED signage was too much during the games. The audio is too intrusive and I wasn't able to have an easy conversation at the quarter breaks with the people I go to the footy with. It was so bad that I was considering not going to the games. However last night during the Saints-Hawks game I'm not sure if it was because of the extra crowd absorbing the sound of if someone finally worked out how to move the fader down on the mixer desk but I didn't find the audio levels anywhere near as intrusive so that was welcomed. Other than that I understand the club wanting to be more entertaining for kids, the music is Ok as long as it isn't too loud, don't mind the LED signage as long as it isn't distracting during the game or if it changes while players are moving in to take a set shot. I think it should freeze for set shots at goal.
Michael: Game times are more fan friendly if you live in Victoria but those of us outside of Victoria have had to pick up the majority of Sunday night/twilight games.......
Robert: Port Adelaide had 4 Sunday twilight games in a row the worst time in my opinion for going to a game, other than that, my experience at games has been good.
B.J.: I think the LEDs are great... would be useful for "around the grounds" scores, except TV says no games should be on simultaneously. Those who think the Docklands roof should be closed on sunny days have got to be kidding. How many parents have said to kids "It's a beautiful day, go outside and play" - nothing wrong with fresh air and sunshine. Do these people who want a closed roof also not go to any other ground when it's sunny?