Almanac Footy: Getting a grand final ticket




The 2020 grand final, between Richmond and Geelong is a truly historic event in unfortunate, historic times. The deadly COVID-19 virus crippled the football season and forced change. Hubs. Interstate games. Short quarters.


With Victoria under lockdown, the VFL/AFL grand final, by necessity, is being played outside the heartland for the first time, at the Gabba. It is the most unlikely of venues for the AFL grand final.


Tickets are sold out, with the crowd capped at 30,000. It will be the lowest grand final attendance since 1917, when 28,512 people watched Collingwood defeat Fitzroy. The previous year, just 21,130 people watched Fitzroy defeat Carlton in the 1916 grand final.


Those were war-time crowds.


Since the keeping of attendance records began in 1898, there has been just six VFL/AFL grand finals with 30,000 or less spectators. There has been just 15 grand finals with less than 40,000 people in the crowd, and all were before 1928.


The last time less than 40,000 people attended a grand final was in 1918, when 39,262 people watched South Melbourne defeat Collingwood. It was another war-time crowd.


The number of people attending the 2020 grand final is irrelevant to the result. It is a pandemic crowd. This is a grand final, regardless of where it is played, and I am lucky enough to have a ticket.


How much, a grand final ticket?


Grand final tickets really are priceless. Getting one is difficult, but not impossible. Being a club member, AFL member or MCC member grants access, but there are no guarantees. Each year, thousands of disgruntled people miss out while those lucky enough to attend offer no sympathy.


I lived in Melbourne for the first seventeen years of my life and never went to a grand final. I did attend the MCG on grand final day from 1978 to 1980, but that was to put my little feet on the boundary line with hundreds of other little league kids clutching helium balloons. After releasing the balloons, the kids were herded off the ground and into tents outside the MCG for a pie and a Big M.


Being on the MCG in those years, absorbing the atmosphere as the teams ran out and ran a warm up lap ignited my imagination. I was desperate to see a grand final.


By the time I moved to Brisbane in 1988, I had been to just three finals, one elimination and two semi-finals.  It wasn’t because I didn’t love footy.  I was either a kid or teenager and relied on my parents for funds…


In 2020, when COVID-19 forced the indefinite closure of society as we knew it, the AFL offered their members a deal. Defer your full membership for a year without penalty and save about $400 on the $660 annual fee.

I didn’t defer my membership. I figured the AFL had given me plenty of enjoyment through the years, and I’d support them and my club through the crisis.


Fortuitous, that decision was. Of the 30,000 people permitted to attend the 2020 grand final, the AFL allocated 4500 tickets to their members who didn’t defer their membership.


Last Sunday, at 9am I logged on to Ticketek and quickly secured a ticket to the 2020 grand final at the Gabba. It was easy, and cost me $205.


Since 1996 I’ve been to 15 grand finals. Getting a ticket hasn’t always been this easy or cheap…


The hustle for tickets


In 1996, 1998 and 1999, I used my North Melbourne membership to get a grand final ticket. In 2000, when Essendon thrashed Melbourne, I was a 60-year-old dentist called John.  When Brisbane won their first premiership the following year, I was John again, and my mate played his wife, Dot.


In 2002, it seemed my luck had run out.  John wanted to be John at the MCG.  I tried everything, to no avail.  On grand final day, as I lay in wretched hangover, my mate called on a public phone from the MCG.


Let’s call him Lucky Phil, so I can protect the guilty. ‘Wato, I’ve got you a ticket,’ Lucky Phil said.


My hangover was immediately gone.  I listened intently.  A former VFL goal umpire was taking his sick boy home.  That morning was eight degrees and raining.  The ticket cost me $200, which was delivered in a handshake outside the MCG as the rain fell.


From 2004-05, study and work commitments prevented me from going to the grand final.  But I was back in 2006, a great seat on the wing that cost me $660, to see West Coast win by a point.


The seats were in a similar area in 2007, when Geelong humiliated Port Adelaide.  The cost was also similar, as I was paying for the grand final ticket, and a little extra for the person who provided access.


Days after the grand final, I became an AFL Silver member. At the time, there was a nine year wait to become a Gold member, which granted access to a grand final ticket.


I spent the 2008 grand final in the ABC broadcast box as Hawthorn upset the Cats. In 2009, I sat in the media seats, behind the goals at the Punt Road end when Geelong outlasted the Saints.  When Collingwood drew with St Kilda in 2010, I was on the wing again, at a cost of $700.  Though I could’ve got a ticket for the replay, I stayed in Brisbane because of the cost of flights.


My ticket for the 2011 grand final was organised by a man who played for Collingwood and North Melbourne.  I paid face value for that one, about $150. From 2012-14, I missed the grand final due to family and financial issues.

In 2015, I was in Melbourne without a grand final ticket. I was resigned to watching the game at a mate’s house. But Friday night before the grand final, a midnight discussion at the Melbourne Public bar secured me a ticket. All I had to do was get to Wallan in the morning, to pluck it from a letterbox. Remarkably, there were four tickets in the letterbox, and all were free.


By 2016, my AFL membership turned gold. For the first time in years, I legitimately entered the MCG on grand final day to watch the Bulldogs upset Sydney. The following year, I saw Richmond do the same to Adelaide.


My AFL membership costs me about $660 annually. As I live in Brisbane, I barely get to the MCG or Docklands for home and away games. My AFL membership has no affiliation at the Gabba, which seems ridiculous in a national competition.


Simply, I pay my AFL membership to get access to the grand final.


The chatter about the ticket


Geelong and Richmond members were allocated about 8,000 tickets each for the 2020 grand final. Ticketek barely sold 6,000. That’s understandable. Brisbane isn’t the heartland, and most of those club members live in Melbourne.


On Tuesday, when the AFL released about 10,000 tickets to the general public, I sent a bunch of text messages. Get online. Good luck.


By 9:05am, there were 16,000 people in the queue. The allocation was exhausted in about 10 minutes. Thousands of south-east Queenslanders who follow footy missed out in that last, mad scramble for tickets. One man I know got timed out because he had to update his credit card details.


I have sympathy for all of them.


Lucky Phil, who is stuck in Melbourne, told me a couple of people wanted to know why I was going, when I don’t support either team. Lucky Phil provided my defence. I pay a lot of money to get access to a grand final ticket, and I don’t care who is playing.


I just want to go.


Lucky Phil offered blunt advice to those aggrieved. Join the AFL, or pay $2000 for a corporate ticket.


Who would pay $2000 for a grand final ticket?


Hours after tickets sold out, they were available on social media and other platforms at inflated prices. People can go if they’re willing to pay between $1000-2000 for a seat.


People will pay that amount of money to see a grand final. It happens every year, because there is never enough seats to appease everyone.


Getting a grand final ticket is priceless. You have to be lucky. You have to pay the price.



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About Matt Watson

My name is Matt Watson, avid AFL, cricket and boxing fan. Since 2005 I’ve been employed as a journalist, but I’ve been writing about sport for more than a decade. In that time I’ve interviewed legends of sport and the unsung heroes who so often don’t command the headlines. The Ramble, as you will find among the pages of this website, is an exhaustive, unbiased, non-commercial analysis of sport and life. I believe there is always more to the story. If you love sport like I do, you will love the Ramble…


  1. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Enjoy your evening Matt.

    Saw my first AFL GF in 1997. I’d actually fallen asleep jetlagged during the Crows v Dogs prelim (I’d just returned from an o/s business trip that morning, but woke up for the last quarter).

    It was just a matter of lining up at the Arts Centre early the next morning, for about two hours, but as a Crows member, I was in.

    It got a bit trickier in 1998 – Adelaide had a Gold Membership that guaranteed a GF ticket if they made it. They weren’t certain of a spot in the eight until they beat the Eags in Perth on a Saturday nigh in Round 22. My faxed application (sent after the match) for Gold Membership was somehow accepted and I was in (along with my the 6yo daughter).

    In 2000, I got a phone call on the morning of the match and was offered three standing room tickets.

    2001 and 2004 were assured by dint of Medallion Club membership, which wasn’t renewed once it couldn’t be passed off as business expenditure.

    That was it until 2017, where my Crows Gold Membership got me in. I wish it hadn’t.

    But I’m prouder of my SANFL GF streak from 1974-86.

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