What is the AFL Fans Association?
We all recognise that Australian football is now big business as well as a sport. However, it’s the fans who keep this business afloat. There are many interest groups involved in the AFL, so fans often have little say over decisions despite being the game’s largest stakeholder.
The AFL Fan Association (AFLFA) was established in December 2013 by a group of everyday fans who felt that grassroots AFL supporters needed a collective voice. The players had the AFL Players’ Association, the coaches had the AFL Coaches Association and the umpires had the AFL Umpires Association. But fans had no voice.
The AFLFA has since worked hard to change that and give fans a strong independent voice. We want to make sure that fans are treated as stakeholders who need to be consulted, not just ‘consumers’. We are independent and not affiliated with the AFL or any AFL clubs.
How is the AFLFA run?
The AFLFA is an incorporated association run by a committee that is elected each year at an AGM. The committee is supported by state representatives around Australia. All AFLFA staff are volunteers who juggle their commitments with professional and family lives. Current AFLFA patrons are Justin Madden and Sue Alberti AC.
Who do we represent?
We represent the interests of our members and everyday fans who love the game of Australian Rules. This includes grassroots supporters who turn up every week, casual fans, and those who passionately follow the game from home. Many AFLFA members are club members, but we also recognise that others are not able to be members due to financial constraints and other commitments.
Membership is free and is open to anyone who is a fan of the AFL. We invite you to join – just fill in the on-line form with your details. The more members and social media followers we have, the stronger the AFLFA’s bargaining will be.
What does the AFLFA do?
The AFLFA acts as a lobby group and a watchdog. When appropriate, we lobby the AFL, clubs, stadiums and governments. We monitor the decisions of the AFL and its clubs very closely, and work with various media outlets to provide a voice for fans. This means calling out decisions which we feel are not in the interest of fans, or where balance is needed. We are frequently quoted in print media and interviewed on radio and television.
What are the views of the AFLFA?
The AFLFA does not see its mandate as telling fans what to do. Rather, it sees its mandate as providing a voice for fans, especially everyday fans who have historically not had much of a say. When an issue becomes topical, we look to feedback from fans to help us settle on a position. On issues where there is no clear consensus, we generally do not comment as it is not our role to tell fans what to think or do.
Below are our views on some ongoing key issues which have been shaped and formulated through fan feedback.
The AFLFA believes that the AFL, AFL clubs, stadiums and the football shows are far too beholden to gambling interests. Gambling advertising saturates the AFL world and parents frequently complain about their children discussing their team’s chances with reference to gambling odds.
We are told to ‘gamble responsibly’ but the message presented seems to actually be, ‘gamble responsibly but make sure you gamble’.
The issue of oversaturation of gambling advertising in the footy world needs to be addressed. We recognise that betting companies bring an enormous amount of sponsorship money to the game, however the ubiquitousness of gambling in the football world is unhealthy and something which concerns many fans.
The AFL, AFL clubs, stadiums, and the various football shows need to show more leadership in seeking a balance between chasing the gambling dollar and respecting the wishes of fans. Great leadership on this issue has been shown by the Geelong Football Club and Kardinia Park, which have removed gambling advertising from Kardinia Park stadium.
Grand Final tickets
AFL clubs are built on a membership model. The inference of club membership marketing campaigns is often that ‘real fans’ become members and that fans should support their clubs by becoming members. However, we believe that this loyalty is not adequately reciprocated when it comes to the allocation of grand final tickets to members of the two competing clubs.
The AFL continues to allocate thousands of seats to non-competing AFL clubs, which they funnel into expensive corporate packages and pass on to sponsors. The AFL does the same, selling Grand Final packages to those who can afford the exorbitant prices, well before the finals series even starts.
Currently, the AFL allocates just 17,000 AFL Grand Final tickets to each competing club’s members. We believe it should increase that to at least 25,000.
We also suggest that increasing the competing clubs’ allocation would provide a powerful incentive for fans to become or remain members. For example, if the ‘first right to buy’ Grand Final tickets was linked to the number of consecutive years’ membership, fans would be far less likely to consider dropping theirs when their clubs experienced cyclical onfield downturns, which is of course when clubs need their members most.
We believe the AFL, AFL clubs, and stadiums must introduce policies to ensure that the best seats at a stadium are full.
We respect that certain seat categories are more expensive than others, however the last 30 years has seen a growing trend where the best seats are often the least populated during games – largely due to exorbitant ticket prices. It is not acceptable for swathes of the best seats at stadiums to be empty while fans cram into upper deck seating directly above.
Docklands Stadium in Melbourne is a case in point. When the Stadium opened, the public was told that Level 2 offered incredible views. However, nearly without fail, it is far less populated than Level 3. This is not right.
In 2016 the AFL introduced dynamic pricing, which allows clubs to increase or decrease the price of reserved seat tickets up until gameday. General admission prices cannot increase but can be reduced.
At the time, fans were told that tickets prices would increase for the more popular games, and decrease for the less popular games to maximise attendance. The AFL insisted that the new system would be “favourable” for fans.
We object to dynamic pricing on two primary grounds. First, it punishes fans of the more popular clubs. Second, our research shows that clubs are overwhelmingly using this mechanism to increase reserved seat prices. Therefore, what goes up is not really coming down. Again, this is not favourable to fans.
Fan behaviour at AFL games has been in the spotlight recently following incidents of violence, booing, and offensive social media posts.
As a representative body, the AFL Fans Association seeks to provide a voice for fans. Accordingly, on issues where there is no clear fan consensus, we generally do not comment as it is not our role to tell fans what to think or do. However, there is a line that should not be crossed, and we strongly reject any behaviour that involves physical violence or is motivated by discrimination.
Making defamatory, insulting or offensive comments via social media is unacceptable. Simply put, whether we are commenting about football or any other aspect of life, on social media we must all learn to be the better version of ourselves by playing the ball and not the person. Flippant and insulting remarks made through social media have real outcomes: they may affect the mental health of who they are targeted against.