Why is the Popularity of Big-Time Sport in Australia Flat-Lining?

Discussion in 'Blog' started by walesy, Feb 20, 2020.

By walesy on Feb 20, 2020 at 11:02 AM
  1. walesy

    walesy Administrator Staff Member

    Nov 30, 2015
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    For sports fans outside of the country, it generally comes as something of a surprise to learn what the most popular sport in Australia is.

    Most would anticipate the love of rugby – with both codes feverishly followed – to be reflected in huge attendances and TV viewing figures but it is actually Australian rules football that remains the most popular sport Down Under.

    The AFL broke its own attendance record for a third consecutive year in 2019, with some 6,984,771 attending games in the competition.

    That is a positive headline in itself, however the reality is that those numbers are actually stagnating somewhat. In 2005, the total AFL attendance was 6,283,788, so perhaps the competition isn’t moving forward as quickly in popularity as its organisers might like.


    'AFL Grand Final' by Flickerd (CC BY-SA 3.0)

    Will that manifest itself in the other sports gaining in numbers? Well, looking at the attendance figures of the Australian A-League, the country’s leading soccer tournament, the answer is perhaps not.

    In the 2017/18 season, the average attendance at A-League matches was down to 11,322 per game after hitting a high of 14,610 just a decade prior.

    One sport that is bucking the trend for fan participation is rugby league, with the NRL enjoying a 2.29% increase in attendances from 2017 to 2018 – in real terms, that was some 60,000 or so people.

    So why is rugby flourishing, whereas Aussie rules football and soccer crowds are, at best, flat-lining?

    Stars Who Shine
    As far as soccer is concerned, a lack of major Australian stars is clearly hampering the growth of the game Down Under.

    In the past, the likes of Harry Kewell, Tim Cahill and Mark Viduka have gone on to star in the English Premier League and the Champions League, helping to foster a bit of respect for the country’s ability to produce world stars.

    That generation of players has helped the Socceroos gain some traction too, with the whole country getting behind the teams that qualified for the World Cup in 2006, 2010 and 2014.

    In 2018, they finished bottom of their group and barely raised an eyebrow at the tournament, and once more it seemed as though soccer was slipping out of the nation’s consciousness.

    An inability on the part of the A-League to attract world-class talents – the likes of Alessandro Del Piero and Robbie Keane have strutted their stuff on Aussie soil in the past – also means the scramble for popularity is a battle that is largely being lost. [​IMG]'Australian A-League' by Roke (CC BY-SA 3.0)

    As far as football is concerned, one of the major issues is that the sport hasn’t expanded outside of Melbourne to the extent that most expected. And so attendance figures are skewed: the AFL grand final generally attracts an audience of 100,000 to the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

    Both soccer and football have extensive TV deals that may just have an impact on the number of people getting up off the sofa to attend a game, and today many bookmakers offer live streaming services to go with their A-League as well as Aussie rules betting odds, meaning that games can be watched on smartphones and tablets with ease.

    This is a tough time for sport in Australia: there has ever been as many distractions as there are today, and people are generally voting with their feet.

    And while rugby attendances continue to grow, A-League and AFL chiefs have to find a way to future-proof their sports before the decline becomes terminal.
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Discussion in 'Blog' started by walesy, Feb 20, 2020.

    1. Bearfly
      Good article Chief.
      I honestly think the biggest issue facing AFL with attendances boils down to affordability - it's just becoming too damn expensive to regularly go to the footy these days, especially with the constantly rising costs of food and drinks at the game (Adelaide Oval prices are getting downright ridiculous).
      • Like Like x 2
    2. stripey
      There would be an argument to say that some of the timeslots have been deliberately set to be TV friendly without regard for attending games (especially for families). I'd probably like to see what TV ratings were also doing over the period discussed in the article before agreeing or disagreeing with the conclusions in this article.

      For instance I was extremely keen to see the Swans/Eagles game at the SCG last season (a 6 hour drive for me) but didn't go given it was a twilight Sunday game, the absolute worst possible timeslot for me to be getting home early enough to work on Monday. I did take my two girls (7 & 5) to a Sunday twilight Carlton/Eagles game last year (their first game) but getting home at 11pm on a school night isn't ideal.

      EDIT: In 2005 we didn’t have GWS or Gold Coast.. but I guess that just suggests the expansion hasn't really helped with attendances, even given the extra game each week. Not enough GWS or GC fans to make a difference.
      Last edited: Feb 20, 2020
    3. TerryinBangkok
      As a sports fan outside the country, the perspective is that soccer is numero uno in Australia. This is largely due to the ABC adopting and promoting it, often at the exclusion of footy. The rise in popularity of rugby is difficult to comprehend given how pitiful the national team has been of late and how poorly Australian teams are performing in the Super series.
      I am a bit with Bear. Australia has an aging population which means an increase in numbers on welfare/pensions. Admission and other prices (even club membership) do not reflect the market. The huge income from TV rights and the introduction of pay for view needs to be balanced by making attendance affordable.
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    4. TerryinBangkok
    5. stripey
      Yes @walesy will have a much better argument this time next year ;)
      • Like Like x 1
    6. TerryinBangkok
      Seriously though, this is the time of year when journos are truly desperate and the experts are busy swapping Marshmellows in and out of their squads. Why then has nobody done an analysis on the potential effects of Covid 19? Can you imagine what it will be like playing before an empty stadium? Will the scoring of big occasion players like Dusty and Danger be affected? Will the Giants and Suns have an advantage because they are accustomed to small crowds? Since audience participation is not a factor, will some games be switched to Footy Park, Princes Park, Alberton, etc.? We have the blood rule, but will umps carry toilet paper? Will the AFL make more games available free to air? Will the commentators do it from the screen or will they still be allowed in the box? Good luck if you are tipping this year.
      • Option 5 Option 5 x 1
    7. walesy
      It's bloody anyones guess though, isn't it. Thing is, once one player gets diagnosed, you can expect the league to take a 2-4 week break like the other comps around the world- what effect will that have on things!?
    8. TerryinBangkok
      Was stunned by the difference between AFL Fantasy and SC scores. This can only be a result of the shorter quarters? It appears SC have adjusted while AFLF have certainly not. No spectators didn't seem to hurt Dusty's score.
    9. stripey
      Yes SC scoring has 3300 points spread among the players regardless of the length of the game. AFLF is points per disposal/act so would be 20% down.
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