AFL FANS ASSOCIATION (AFLFA): “GIVING FOOTY FANS A VOICE”
Footy fans have revealed what matters to them and praised their clubs’ communication during the pandemic in the first major AFLFA fan survey.
The biggest concerns impacting the enjoyment of the game included umpiring and rule changes, followed by ticketing, gambling ads, scheduling (non-COVID related), overall cost and grand final ticket access.
Conducted in late 2021, the survey drew 860 responses from fans of all AFL clubs, ranging in age from under 18 to 75+. Seven in 10 (71%) were club members.
AFL Fans Association president Cheryl Critchley says the results underline challenges everyone involved in footy has faced over the past two years, as well as some non-COVID concerns.
She says umpiring and rule changes topped the list, with the ‘stand rule’ singled out as a concern.
“We certainly wouldn’t criticise individual umpires, who are doing a great job under growing pressure,” Cheryl says. “Fan concern was mainly directed at constant rule changes that impact their enjoyment of the game and make it harder for umpires to do their job well.”
Gambling advertising was another big issue. “More than one in three fans (37%) worry about gambling ads, which was more than we expected,” Cheryl says. “Many have told us that they don’t like them and are concerned that they are normalising gambling for children.
“Researchers are demonstrating this and the AFLFA supports the work of various state government initiatives and campaigns focused on countering the normalisation of gambling and sport.”
On a positive note, most fans were satisfied with their club’s communication throughout COVID, with an average score of 4 out of 5. Only 7% rated their club poor or very poor.
“AFL clubs have generally worked hard to connect with their members throughout the pandemic and accommodate those having difficulty paying their fees,” Cheryl says. “We’d love to see that continue.”
The survey, which the AFLFA has sent to the AFL and clubs, also found:
- One in four fans is concerned about non-COVID match scheduling. Whilst there are mixed views in the open-ended feedback, the general preference is for family-friendly timeslots and no Thursday night or late Sunday afternoon games.
- One in seven fans (14%) listed combined football cost issues (ticketing, food/drink, memberships) as their main concern.
- Noise and flash advertising are a concern for some, with many respondents finding it frustrating that they cannot hear family or friends due to the noise level.
- Some respondents are concerned the AFL is ‘Victorian centric’ particularly regarding scheduling and umpiring.
- Interest was high in the return of curtain raisers, including reserves and AFLW.
- Accessibility is an issue, particularly for those with mobility impairments.
- With the last two Grand Finals played interstate, ticketing will be front and centre when it returns to the MCG, where many club, AFL and MCC members have not attended a final for two years – despite paying membership fees.
The impact of COVID-19 was a concern with respondents late last year. It remains to be seen if these concerns will linger into the 2022 season.
Considering the impacts of COVID, at the time of the survey
- 70% of fans had not attended as many matches as they would like due to crowd restrictions
- 26% were more likely to watch games at home rather than attend matches after COVID eases
- 17% did not attend some games due to fear of catching COVID
- 17% did not attend some games due to challenges accessing online ticketing during COVID
- 10% had less interest in attending AFL matches now due to other reasons
“While most of us can’t wait to get back to the footy, some fans may still be concerned about attending events with big crowds due to the latest Omicron wave,” Cheryl says. “But we hope that this has subsided, and fans turn up in big numbers again.”
“Like everyone, we hope the 2022 men’s season can go ahead as planned. We support the expert health advice and urge all fans to ensure they are vaccinated.”
AFLFA membership is free, and fans are encouraged to join at www.aflfans.org.au.
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