401,100 crazed footy followers that’s the crowd the Australian Football League (AFL) are predicting for the opening round of 2017 season. They are punting on a huge blockbuster between 1970s era traditional rivals Carlton and Richmond in the opener on Thursday night, a big one between Reigning Premier Western Bulldogs (yes can your hear that in the western suburbs, Reigning premier) and Collingwood on Friday night and another between 1980s era traditional rivals Hawthorn and Essendon on Saturday night. That’s 3 big games at the MCG plus some intriguing clashes around the country.
Of course, Aussie Rules has been always been a well-supported sport. The celebrated historian Geoffrey Blainey, in A Game of our Own calculated that Aussie Rules was one of the most well attended sports in the world in the 19th century and indeed boasts football clubs like Melbourne, Geelong and Port Adelaide that are older than Manchester United, Liverpool or the Green Bay Packers.
How does AFL compare to its traditional rival the National Rugby League (NRL)? In 2016, the first round of the AFL attracted 360,850 or an average of 40,094 a game whilst the NRL attracted 117,155 or an average of 14,644 a game and this gap has remained pretty constant over the last two decades or so. Rugby League relies on NSW-Queensland state of origin for its blockbuster crowds, soccer has its big exhibition games with glamour clubs Liverpool, Real Madrid or this year with Brazil and Argentina in town and Rugby Union has the Bledisloe Cup and other international games to get the turnstiles ticking over.
Data source: Repucom see www.repucom.net, AFL. NRL.
This article was originally published in the Herald Sun
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