AFL stat site anomalies

This (AFL owned) site has me perplexed.

It seems to suggest, for example, that in the 1910 home and away season Collingwood’s average crowd was only 488. This is obviously incorrect. So why is the site still up (I first noticed it this time last year)?

Have a look at the attendances of all clubs in the years leading up to WW1 and you’ll notice very low home and away crowds. Though Melbourne seems to do better than most.

What am I missing?


  1. Ian Syson says

    Come on guys, help me out here. You wouldn’t want me to start thinking that the stats are correct. There’s an interesting revisionist story to be told if they are.

  2. John Butler says


    You may be right, but the Telstra-run AFL site is such a dogs-breakfast of an effort, it could also be an a simple accident, or sloppiness.

    I reckon the real issue here is why the AFL is happy to put commercial deals ahead of the quality of product.

  3. Ian Syson says

    I doubt very much that I’m right. If the stats are correct that changes the social history of the game as we know it. Footy becomes a finals spectacle/carnival game (like the races) with the week-by-week prelims attended only by the diehards until after WW1.

    I think the point to be made is that the AFL should either get the stats right or get them down. With its badging loud and proud on the site it gives the info some authority.

  4. Possibly the stats are correct. But, on face value, they do challenge folklore.
    It could be an accounting number; for example, a tally of those members or those in the grandstand. The economy was not strong so paying customers may have been hard to come by. This would always help MCG numbers.
    Or maybe it was just suburban footy like today with a band of diehard supporters. The standard at the time, it is said, was very poor and SA appears to have been stronger. I’d like to see SANFL and VRC numbers to help clarify.
    Of course, the AFL should have the answer or not posted it prominently – even though, Ian, you seem to have been the only one to have raised an eyebrow in the past year at least!

  5. Richard Jones says

    HERE are my figures for the 1910 finals series, as listed in Stephen Rogers’ Toohey’s Guide to Every Game Ever Played (1897-1982).
    That was one of the perks of being a newspaper sports editor. You’d get all sorts of books in the snail mail, many of which would be previewed in the sports pages. A few just gathered desk in the shelves on the editorial floor, one memorably about The Axemen of Tasmania!!
    I received Rogers’ book in March 1983 and have heard from him, coincidentally, in the last few years a cuppla times on the blower. He was chasing up some country footy details, a la Old Kenny Piesse.

    1910 first semi, Ess v Coll (24,000); 2nd semi, Sth. Melb v Carlton (42,000); Final, Coll v Sth. Melb (43,000). Grannie, Coll 9.7 (61) def. Carlton 6.11 (47), Crowd: 42,577.

    So the FlagPies proceeded from the first semi to taking home the Cup. University under the stewardship of Harry and Ted Cordner finished sixth. Geelong was fifth (10 wins, 7 losses, 1 draw {with Richmond}). Uni notched up 10 wins, 8 losses.

    Oh, and shades of the current Storm shenanigans at finals time in 1910 there were some great rumours across Melbourne. It was said the old Carlton Blueboys had been paid to lose in the finals. that season.

  6. Thanks Richard. Finals numbers are pretty impressive ( as are Melb Cup attendances) but Ian’s perplexed by “normal” crowd figures.

  7. BTW, re #5, was Kreuzer available as a result of that “tossed” game?

  8. Ian Syson says

    Richard, the AFL site has figures of 111,000 for Collingwood’s finals games, 8000 under your stats. I suppose 7% is not too far out. What figures does Rogers show for home and away games?

  9. Dave Nadel says

    Rogers doesn’t show figures for home and away games (I have a copy of Rogers) Nevertheless I don’t for a moment believe the AFL figures although it may be possible that the website has listed “0” because it does not have any figures for the tears in question.

    If the VFL did not keep statistics on crowd size then you would be relying on contemporary copies of the Age, Herald and Argus and I am not sure that they reported attendances before World War One.

  10. So Dave, why are these figures listed and what is their alleged source?

  11. Dave Nadel says

    Your guess is as good as mine, Chris. The website (which I have never used before) seems to have been established as part of the AFL’s 150th Celebration/promotion. What does surprise me is that the AFL has an official historian in Col Hutchinson and he is usually very careful and very accurate with his statistics.

    Mind you if the website had said n/a rather than 0 when it couldn’t get reliable figures, Ian would have had no grounds for complaint and neither would I.

  12. Richard Jones says

    IAN: using Rogers’ figures, attendances at Collingwood’s 3 finals game tallied 109,500. That’s a lot less then 7% if the other figure available shows 111,000.

    Forget the South second semi crowd numbers. Just add the other 3 up.

  13. johnharms says

    Having read a lot of nineteenth century Geelong Addies over the years, and also read a lot of journals and diaries from Geelong people, attendances were always very strong – in the thousands. A day at Corio Oval was considered an event, an outing, and often began with lunch down town, and a horse-drawn cab or walk through the Botanical Gardens (where all things British were affirmed, including the notion of ordered lay-out) to the footy.

    They loved their stats. They gave precise crowd figures, precise numbers of horse-drawn vehicles parked, and precise numbers of those who came on the train (321 on the Warrnambool train, 1756 on the five Melbourne trains, 820 on the three Ballarat trains, and 34 on the SS Adina). This enables histoians to work out how many towsfolk attended.

    Jump forardw a few years to 1925 when the Pivotonians were on fire and when the population of Geelong was just over 40000, 20-25000 were attending matches (limbless soldiers got in for free), and you can work out that almost 20000 were Geelong folk. Nearly half. This is phenomenal – a significant social reality.

  14. JTH – they’re staggering figures around 1925. Imagine if the Geelong FC could get half its current population as members.

  15. Peter Flynn says

    It helps to explain the really strong bond between town and footy club.

  16. Ian Syson says

    John, that stat and its story are pretty impressive. So why does the AFL site have Geelong as having an average home and away attendance of just over 700 in 1910?

    The site gives the stats for 1925 as an average of 15,843 for home and away games and an impressive 57,772 average for the 2 finals Geelong played in.

    Just found this stat in the Argus of 15 June 1925:

    Match. Attendance. Receipts.

    Melbourne v. Fitzroy 23,500 £694
    St. Kilda v. Collingwood 24,500 £625
    Carlton v Richmond 25,500 £510
    Essendon v. S. Melbourne 18,000 £382
    Footscray v. N. Melbourne 15,000 £290
    Geelong v. Hawthorn 11,000 £229

    I wonder John if Geelong’s successful season means that their crowds grow towards the end of the season. An attendance of 11K counterbalanced by the kind of attendance you refer to might produce the AFL stat site’s average.

  17. The AFL only has ‘official’ home and away match attendance numbers prior to 1921 for matches at the MCG.
    The anomalies come in by dividing total recorded attendances by total matches.

    Average recorded attendances for home and away matches at the MCG 1897-1920.
    Highest attendance in brackets.

    Carlton 8,540 (13,574)
    Collingwood 10,512 (24,406)
    Essendon 7,859 (12,085)
    Fitzroy 8,496 (12,245)
    Geelong 4,042 (8,495)
    Melbourne 7,869 (27,712)
    Richmond 9,488 (27,712)
    St Kilda 7,111 (9,986)
    Sth Melbourne 8,585 (16,270)
    University 6,437 (12,245)

    Source AFL historical records.

    One can also note that ‘official’ attendance figures from 1921 to the 1960’s usually with the exception of the MCG contain many rounded figures. For example round 1 1937 the attendance at the MCG is given as 19,726 while the attendance at all other grounds end in 000.
    As a further example no recorded attendance at the Punt Road oval ends with figures other than 000 or 00 until 1961.
    How much many of these figures were estimates or ‘guesstimates’ we may never know.

  18. johnharms says

    G’day Michael

    Appreciate all your research and effotrs. Very interesting.

    There is a some info on crowd numbers in articles themselves of the day – which I suppose is where some of this info came from. It’s many thousands of hours to get through the old newspapers etc to find them. And then they would be guesstimates.

    Standard historical/archival research I suppose. Just need an army of undergraduates to all give four hours a semester to go looking!

  19. Ian Syson says

    Michael, so the figure of 488 for Collingwood is the number of people who attended their game/s at the MCG divided by the total number of home and away fixtures for the season?

    Does the figure given of a 3230 average suggest that Melbourne had an average home crowd of around 6.5K in 1910?

    John, for some reason ‘receipts and attendances’ become significant to the Argus in 1925. The figures are given for just about every round that year.

  20. In answer to Ian Syson’s questions:

    “Michael, so the figure of 488 for Collingwood is the number of people who attended their game/s at the MCG divided by the total number of home and away fixtures for the season? ”

    Exactly. Whoever set up the attendances tables on didn’t take that into account, so matches with no recorded attendance are taken as zero attendance.

    “Does the figure given of a 3230 average suggest that Melbourne had an average home crowd of around 6.5K in 1910?”

    Yes. Recorded attendances for Melbourne’s 9 matches at the MCG in 1910 are 58,139 giving an average of 6,460.

    The precise nature of the attendance figures at the MCG in this period suggests either a more professional approach by the administrators of the ground or perhaps the MCG was the only ground with mechanical counters installed on turnstiles? There may also be something going on with football clubs under or over reporting/estimating attendances for reasons to do with financial arrangements with various bodies controlling the grounds.

    “for some reason ‘receipts and attendances’ become significant to the Argus in 1925. The figures are given for just about every round that year.”

    Just as the league has attendances for all matches from 1921 I suspect at some stage they started making these figures public, for what reason I don’t know. Match reports in the press prior to the 1920’s only sometimes give estimates of what are deemed to be particularly significant crowds.

    Finally, I have question for those following this topic.

    When did the VFL/AFL stop publishing individual match “receipts”?

  21. Ian Syson says

    Thanks Michael, I’m grateful. That clarifies things a great deal. I was searching the NLA newspaper archive using the term “attendances and receipts” which pointed me at 1925. A search for “attendances and takings” indeed reveals this fascination going back to 1921.

    A further question I have is: do the pre-war figures then suggest that an average home and away crowd is around 6000 or is Melbourne FC atypical?

  22. “A further question I have is: do the pre-war figures then suggest that an average home and away crowd is around 6000 or is Melbourne FC atypical?”

    From 1897-1920. From various sources, I have 24 home and away attendances from matches at grounds other than the MCG. The average of these is 16,733. This figure may be somewhat over inflated as it includes attendances that were reported because they were exceptional.

    Melbourne’s figures pre 1921 are probably lower than average. They lost nearly 2/3 of their matches, won 3 wooden spoons and only competed in finals on 4 occasions. I believe they also didn’t have a substantial working class demographic of supporters like the other inner suburban clubs.

    These average home and away attendances from 1921-4 may give some idea of Melbourne’s relative support.

    Carlton 23,053
    Essendon 20,156
    Richmond 19,902
    Collingwood 19,300
    Fitzroy 19,100
    Sydney/SM 18,812
    St Kilda 17,441
    Geelong 14,091
    Melbourne 14,009

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