Round 1 – Carlton v Richmond: Back to the future at the G

 

By Cheryl Critchley

It’s not often that you can say people power has made a difference at AFL level. But last night’s Carlton-Richmond season opener showed just how much fans achieved at a grass roots level last year.

Not only that, Richmond beat Carlton by 27 points. Could life be better?

Upon arriving at the ‘G, Jess and I we felt like we’d been transported back 20 years to a more innocent time when footy was still about the fans and you didn’t have to empty your wallet to see your team play.

When Jess asked for a bucket of chips, no longer did I have to drag out the usual excuse: “I’m not mortgaging the house for that overpriced crap.” For the first time in years, I could honestly say yes without that sinking feeling you get when you know you’re about to be completely fleeced.

Thanks to the MCC subsidising its caterers to slash some food prices, pies, chips and hotdogs were all just $4 – something Jess, 16, hasn’t seen since she was a toddler and Richmond actually won a final.

As a result, food outlets were pumping with fans who could not believe they were walking away with change from $5 for a hotdog that last year cost $6.50. It literally put a spring in their step.

The clubs had also gone to a big effort to entice fans to the game after the controversial and expensive variable ticketing system kept them away in droves last year.

As the home team, Carlton dusted off its cheesy hovercraft and had Captain Carlton doing burnouts around the ground. It also let off fireworks as Blues players entered the ground and emitted a pulsating light show of ads and team slogans from the electronic fence signs.

Richmond even had a pre-match entertainment area near Punt Rd where fans could meet and greet players on the way in. It was all very naff and ultimately irrelevant to fans who simply wanted their team to win. But it’s the thought that counts and at least they were trying.

The game itself was ordinary, with Carlton skipping away to a 23 point lead before Richmond clawed its way back to win by 27 points. But it seems that both clubs, and the AFL, are serious about bringing bums back onto seats.

Over summer the AFL ditched its unpopular Sunday and Monday night games, resurrected kick to kick and encouraged Etihad to introduce food deals after the MCC took the lead. All these moves are a boon for grassroots fans, who last year felt more disenfranchised than ever.

Largely due to variable pricing and some truly awful match times, the MCG and Etihad Stadium had their lowest attendances in recent memory. The G only had three 80,000+ crowds in 2014, including the Grand Final.

Encouraged by the new AFL Fans Association, supporters signed a petition, hit the media and called talkback radio to express their disgust with variable pricing, which added up to $20 or more for the same seats as the previous year, particular at big-drawing games.

Much to their delight, particularly in Victoria, new AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan did listen. McLachlan has dubbed 2015 the Year of the Fan and introduced the aforementioned popular initiatives. If last night’s crowd of 83,493 is any indication, he has already won some of them back.

But we still have a long way to go. While fully ticketed games apart from Anzac Day have been scrapped, we still have a modified version of variable pricing. Home clubs now set their own ticket prices, which has resulted in up to nine categories.

While general admission may be more readily available for many games, some tickets are even more expensive than last year. If clubs become greedy and try to charge a premium for matches likely to draw a medium sized or bigger crowd, fans will stay away again.

Last night I paid $50 to sit on level 1 and Jess’s concession ticket was $43. That is more than comparable games last year and too expensive for average families. If my husband and two other kids came, we would have ended up at the top of level 4, where the only general admission tickets ($25 adult/$17 concession) were available.

Fans were prepared to pay a premium last night, but will they continue to do so if their team underperforms during the season? Probably not.

Supporters in other states also face inflated ticket and food prices. If Port Adelaide and Adelaide start losing this could become a big issue at the Adelaide Oval, where tickets, food and drinks remain incredibly expensive.

Let’s hope our clubs try to build on the McLachlan administration’s apparently genuine attempts to return the game to its rightful owners – the fans.

*Cheryl Critchley is a volunteer with the AFL Fans Association, which helped raise awareness about variable pricing last year. Membership is free and you can join at www.aflfans.org.au. Join the Facebook conversation at www.facebook.com/aflfans.

 

 

 

Comments

  1. bob utber says:

    You little ripper Cheryl! Will Gillon become the first knight of the AFLFA? He certainly is trying his hardest at pleasing the people that really matter.
    Your next test is to see if the corporates are paying more for their ill gotten gains. Let them eat cake!
    As for the game. Poor Mick it is going to be a long, long hard year.
    Congrats again to Ms Critchley and her fellow republicans. Liberte, Equalite, Fraternite!
    Viva le footballe (or something like that)
    Citrus Bob

  2. Malcolm Ashwood says:

    Well done Cheryl yes some common sense and listening to the fans , unfortunately in sa demand still exceeds supply with the fascination of the new ad oval so idiotic pricing continues at least some things remain the same , Troy Chaplin is still crap

  3. Cheryl Critchley says:

    Thanks Malcolm and Bob. It has been great to see the powers that be sit up and take notice of fams at long last. Gillon McLachlan seems genuine in his attempt to reconnect with fans which is brilliant. It will be interesting to see how things pan out with the ticketing (in all states not just Victoria), but at least they’ve tried to do something. As for the Tigers, I’m taking it one game at a time

  4. The Wrap says:

    I can’t wait to get my 100g bucket of chips for $4.00 Cheryl. That’s $40/kg for potatoes. Or if you like, $40,000/tonne. Value adding amounts to cutting by machine, transportation to the ground and deep frying. Go and tell them that down at Kooweerup. They haven’t seen prices like that since the Second Fleet was 6-months late getting into Sydney Cove. But congratulations; it was a great effort getting them down to that.

    On The Tigers, I thought they did a mighty job getting themselves back into the contest — albeit with a lot of help from Mick’s Bluebaggers. That the revival was driven by the youngsters speaks volumes for our depth. Taylor Hunt was magnificent, as was Brandon Ellis. And I couldn’t believe what I was seeing from Kamdyn McIntosh. He made Juddy look like an old man. Not since Carl Dietrich for burst onto the scene at the Junction Oval against Ron Barassi way back when has there been such an explosive debut game. He was sensational.

    Eat ’em Alive in Two Oh One Five Tigers!

  5. Hi Cheryl,
    Great to read your take on the game. I wondered what I had been waiting for for the first quarter and a half, but then McIntosh … oh boy :)
    I haven’t been to a game for a couple of years and am wondering – are there many options other than just the standard fare of chips, pies etc? Any chance of a salad?
    Have you ever joined in the walk to the G with other Richmond fans? One of my favourite memories of going to Richmond games was walking down Richmond Tce and joining in with the growing number of Richmond fans. Even if the walk to the G is managed by the Club and thus rather formal, I imagine it would be a great pre-game ritual.
    best,
    Andy

  6. Peter Fuller says:

    Congratulations, Cheryl on the result but even more on the Fans’ Association achievements.
    Your Tiges were much too good for my mob, although the winners also seemed pretty rusty. Perhaps like arguing with an idiot, Richmond were dragged down to Carlton’s level of ineptitude.
    Good luck from here on.

  7. John Butler says:

    Onya Cheryl.

    I think the game said it all about the relative merits of the 2 teams.

    Re food prices: being new to the position, and with lynch mobs clearly forming after the debacle of last year’s fixture, it could be argued that Gillon had little choice but to throw the fans a few bones. Whether he’ll maintain that attitude remains to be seen. And I noted that outside of a few select items prices remained largely the same.

    Interesting observations about ticket pricing – I think you’re right to wonder if this won’t become variable pricing by another name, at least in effect if not in exact practice. The end result either way is that there remains a premium price on all the favoured areas in the ground.

  8. John Zito says:

    Well done Cheryl, Didn’t know you were involved with the AFL Fans Association. You’ve always been a champion of the people. Thought the entertainment was a little over the top. Didn’t think the smoke was going to clear before 1/2 time!! The picket fence and the names of the stands was a sentimental throw back to happier times at Princes Park. Enjoyed that. That thing that zipped across the scoreboard everytime Carlton scored a goal was annoying. Yes it is difficult to take the whole family when you set a high standard with seating arrangements, which is my situation. I’m happy to stand, but it wouldn’t cut with my son and two girls. My son went up to grab some food just before 1/2 time. He came back with his crust pizza, no discounts there, and without my pie, that vendor had run out.
    In the end, even though the skills were poor by both sides the Tiges seemed a little more intense and with a better forward line structure, prevailed. As they say winners are grinners and the rest can please themselves!! By the last quarter all my mate ‘Lazy Dave’ was talking about was what ‘Mad Mick’s’ press conference was going to be like and all I wanted to do was sidle up to Damien Oliver, who was a couple a
    of rows in front of us, and get a smokey for Saturday but thought the better of it.
    Keep up the good work Cheryl.

    John

  9. Dugald Jellie says:

    Cheryl, you deserve many plaudits for your advocacy of fans, and I think it’s no coincidence the AFL have constructed this year of the fan hoopla. At the game on Thursday night I thought it was the year of the banner backlit advertising. Our spectacle is turning increasingly electronic, and slowly becoming Americanised.
    I like the comments posted above on the profit margins on a sack of potatoes.
    I’m a BYO kinda guy at the football, and often that has included a nice drop of fiery Tiger merlot, stowed down my pants.
    You can’t keep a good Tiger down.
    Go Cheryl! Go the Footy Almanac! Go Tigers!

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