Analysis of AFL Club Memberships Shows That You (Sometimes) Get What You Paid For

Related: Easter Uprising Highlights Contrasts Between AFL Variable Pricing and Club Memberships

It is true that the AFL has moved a long way from its suburban roots. Gone are the days when the most stringent away expedition for players and fans alike was the trip to Kardinia Park to take on the Cats. Nowadays, players are travelling interstate on a weekly basis and are more acquainted with aeroplane food than those of yesteryear were of the Werribee fish and chips that they used to devour on the way home from Corio Bay.

An analysis of each of the fixtures and accompanying pricing categories of each of the nine Melbourne teams shows that not only are teams playing less games in Victoria than they used to, but that the price of going to the footy can vary greatly depending on which team you support.

Club Memberships Analysis

As this table shows, the days of the 12-team VFL competition, where each team was Victorian, are long gone and Melbourne-based fans are seeing their teams play less than ever before. Whilst in the 1970s, a Hawthorn supporter could follow ‘Kennedy’s Commandos’ for 22 Saturdays, they are now only able to gorge on the delicious Cyril Rioli and his teammates 13 times without leaving the state. This is the equal lowest figure and is due to the fact that Hawthorn (as well as North Melbourne) play four home matches (the Kangaroos play three) in Tasmania.

What is also apparent is that the fortunes of your team now have a direct correlation to the amount of money you are to hand over and the amount of value which you receive for your membership. Given that the new variable pricing structure requires fans to book a seat for ‘A Reserve’ and ‘B Reserve’ matches and strongly encourages them to do so for ‘A’ matches, the table displays the extra costs involved in purchasing these reserved seats on top of the general admission, home and away club membership.

Given Melbourne’s recent record, it would not surprise many to see that their effective price per game is the lowest of the nine clubs. What may surprise some people though, is that Essendon, a club who has not won a final since 2004 (compared to the Demons’ most recent in 2006) has the highest effective price per game, which at $28.50 is just over 47% higher than that of Melbourne’s.

ANZAC Day 2010 - Courtesy of Essendon FC website

ANZAC Day 2010 – Courtesy of Essendon FC website

Admittedly, the new variable pricing structure is not necessarily based around quality of football. If that were the case, the model would be a bit more dynamic and games would not be categorised two months before the season starts. The various categories are allocated based on the historical attendances for each game. Essendon, for example, is continually fixed to play Collingwood on ANZAC Day, which traditionally draws a crowd a 90,000 or more. They also feature in the ‘Dreamtime’ game against Richmond, which attracts over 75,000. In their first five Melbourne-based games in 2014, Essendon has played to a total of 276,997 (55,399 average, ANZAC Day included), whereas the Demons have played to a total of 133,308 (26,661 average).

What the table clearly demonstrates is that a club membership can still provide very good value if a member is able to attend all Melbourne-based matches. Although the analysis takes into account the token ‘membership pack’ that each member receives, value can also be gained through voting rights, early access to tickets, club recognition and placement in a ballot for Grand Final tickets. When you throw in the intangible feeling of being a member and not a supporter, there is a lot that a club can draw upon to get you to sign up.

The challenge for clubs lies in the historical attitude of supporters which have been taught in previous years to pay early for the membership to avoid later costs. An Essendon member who pays $290 in November will end up having paid $484 by the end of August if they wish to attend every game based on the new reserved seating requirements. Whilst that still works out to be a good deal, it does not necessarily appear that way when one is constantly trying to recall their Ticketmaster or Ticketek user name and password.

About Andrew Else

Andrew has self-reported to this site as a lifetime Essendon supporter. He also played local footy for Lara and Melbourne Uni Blacks.


  1. craig dodson says

    Great analysis. I just got my introduction to the additional fees on top of my membership recently.

    As a Melbourne based Swans member as instructed in a recent email by the club I went to the Ticketmaster website to book my ticket for the Round 9 Match vs Essendon at Etihad.

    To my dissapointment an additional charge of $8 was requested (for the cheapest ticket option) as well as a $7.50 booking fee for a total of $15.50 to get the cheapest seat available.

    It is very dissapointing to have to pay an additional fee to attend a match on top of my membership fees. In the membership collateral it States the membership provides ‘General Admission entry to all Sydney Swans Home and Away games played in Victoria’.

    What they are saying is that the fee is for a reserved seat and the additional charge is to cover the difference between the GA ticket purchased in my membership and the new seat. Well I can sit in the same seat when we play the Doggies at the same venue and I don’t get stung anything.

    This is my sixth year of membership and I can’t recall having to pay an additional fee for tickets before.

    I think it needs to be displayed more clearly in the membership collateral that additional fees may be required to attend matches.

    Whole expereince has left me pretty dissapointed.

  2. Cheryl Critchley says

    Great analysis, but the add-ons are assumed to be at the lowest price. Those seats are at the top of level 4 at the MCG and many fans refuse to sit there, meaning they have to pay up to $39 for an upgrade if they want a half decent seat. Ironically the AFL said this new system aimed to give members an advantage over walk-ups, but in many cases it has actually disadvantaged them.

  3. Excellent stuff, Andrew.
    AFL Footy club memberships are now in the same bracket as health insurance and mobile phone plans.
    Under the ideological guise of providing “choice” to “consumers,” big corporations routinely deliver questionable value.
    Even with the patience of a Nepalese goat-herder, myriad variations in options and add-ons make comparison between products impossible.
    It’s not user-friendly. It’s the opposite.
    Clubs should clear this mess.

  4. Steve Ingham says

    As a former AFL Member with Essendon as club support, and now an Essendon club member, the extra fees relating to our home games at Etihad have been there for as long as I can remember. The bizzare situation was when Essendon was the ‘away’ team against North, St Kilda or the Dogs at Etihad, and I could just scan my AFL membership card and sit in the General Admin section, but all Essendon home games against the same opponents (and interstate teams for that matter) are fully ticketed affairs. Craig is correct, it leaves a very sour taste in your mouth, especially when you are booking for a group of fellow members to sit together.

    As the Dreamtime game has grown in popularity, Essendon members this season only have 3 out of our 11 home games where there is an option to sit in General Admin and not cop booking or reserved seat fees. These are Carlton (Rd 3 on a Sunday night), Melbourne (Rd 13 Sunday Twilight) and Collingwood in Round 17 that could yet end up being a fully ticketed match.

  5. matt watson says

    It’s a bit like having comprehensive car insurance and having to pay an excess.
    It is like having a pay TV subscription but being slugged for pay-per-view, which is what’s already being paid for.
    I’m an AFL member with North Melbourne affiliation.
    I’m already paying extra for my privileges.
    Now the AFL want extra on top of the extras…
    This ‘user pays twice’ system is keeping people away from the football.
    The AFL must know that everyone wants our money. They seem to want it more than most. Of course, they won’t do anything about it because, in time, people will just put up with it.

  6. Andrew Else says

    Thanks for the comments.

    Craig,, I know what you mean re: Essendon games. This has been the case since the Bombers became the major tenant of Docklands before the 2000 season. As part of the deal, it was decided that every game would be a ‘ticketed’ event. Hence why Essendon’s effective cost per game is the highest. Essendon fans have let the club know about their distaste for it, which is probably why, unlike other clubs, the Dons have explained variable ticketing very clearly on the membership web page.

    My wife is a Lions fan and has the same issue. It’s pretty frustrating when, like you, she only gets to see her team 5-6 times a year. We explored AFL memberships, like Steve, but as they too have to pay extra for Bombers games, it just wasn’t worth it.

    Cheryl, I assumed the lowest priced seats as the exercise was to demonstrate the extra, unavoidable costs for fans who buy traditional (ie general admission) home and away memberships. I didn’t want to comment on seat locations as they can subjective (I go in standing room and I love it).

    The real issue isn’t variable ticketing, it’s what a club general admission membership actually stands for. I think it’s outdated.. If it’s not a reserved seat, what is it? Right now it seems to me to be money up front for clubs and a way to a construct a ‘membership tally’ that can be inserted into a sponsorship proposal.

  7. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Totally agree with your last paragraph above re your comment well put spot on !

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