Muted fans out of pocket, out of cheer

Cheer squad members tend to be tarred with less than flattering brushes, yet their enthusiasm is the burning embers of what’s left of ‘the people’s game’. So the story of two Bulldogs cheer squad members of 50 and 37 years’ service being blamed and consequently bumped by the club last December for not getting enough bums on seats was instructive, and depressing.

Having all been sacked in 2008 and required to reapply, the Collingwood crew recently had banner making duties removed by their club’s administration. It doesn’t end there – Magpie cheer squadders need approval for any hand held sign and must carry their membership on their person at all times. Whether they must raise their hand to go to the loo is yet to be confirmed, but they daren’t complain to the media (the 12th of fifteen commandments).

Nor does the AFL hold much faith in consumers. This season five senior coaches will feature in a scoreboard message each week lecturing good behaviour. Comparing the days of yore in the ‘outer’ to today’s mostly self-regulating crowds that pull offensive morons into line (in conjunction with ample security and CCTV), maybe next on the agenda will be a Craig Willis voiceover intoning ‘quiet please’ when Jack Hawkins lines up for goal.

Meanwhile, online the AFL found a way to delete en masse what they considered offline twitter responses (not abusive, mind you) to its quoting of Andrew Demetriou at the Hall of Fame dinner, when he richly espoused the AFL ‘will always put the fans first. Always’.

Whilst the AFL, clubs and venues have facilitated a more civilised experience and all the mod cons we take for granted, passion and freedom of speech have been casualties. Worse, the fiscal reality of supporting one’s football addiction is stretching the rusted-ons’ budget to the limit.

Two dollars fifty might represent half a meat pie at the ‘G, however for disillusioned fans, on principle, the new ‘administration’ fee for self-printing their online tickets is as palatable as a frozen Four ’n’ Twenty.

This year further games will be fully presold and MCG ticket categories tweaked to extract more from those whose presence engenders such a vibrant code and the live experience so appealing. Essentially, anything under $45 now equates to a date with vertigo. But why would League execs even care about crowds when their personal gravy train is predicated upon TV ratings and rights deals?

The not-for-profit AFL, which recorded a $15m surplus from $440m revenue in 2013 (up from $6.7m in 2012), is not alone in testing the depths of supporters’ wallets and commitment.

When a certain club announced a record $5.2m profit last year it was some consolation after an underwhelming season on-field. That was until just-renewed members were subsequently cold called to purchase a ‘special limited offer’ $200 raffle ticket. One might suggest in the throes of Christmas the Salvos et al might trump the Westpac Centre’s new Olympic Park Memorial Wing in a list of worthy causes.

The Cattery’s desire to charge supporters to attend training was just as staggering.

Meanwhile, another power club that’s been keeping newspapers afloat for another year, determined a $75 ‘donation’ on High Mark memberships (assumed unless opting out) was a clever way to cover legal fees and elite training facilities.

Needy, or just plain greedy?

Whilst Collingwood has expressed frustration at Grand Final ticket allocations to non-competing clubs and a willingness to return their share, on the flipside the hopelessly lopsided supply-demand equation provides tremendous opportunity. A $780 ‘Legends’ membership guarantees a Willie Wonka golden ticket should the ‘Pies make the big dance (Essendon’s equivalent comes in at $570, Hawthorn $389 and Richmond $340). The rich get richer, their poor get the picture (in standard definition).

As pundits postulate over Andrew Demetriou’s legacy, the recently incorporated AFL (Australian Football Lovers) Fans Association aims to become a timely, unified voice for supporters. President Brian Clarke and his volunteers face a mammoth task to reclaim the game for the common man, woman, child and concession cardholder.

The first challenge is simply to be heard above the whirring spin cycle and cash registers.


About Jeff Dowsing

Washed up former Inside Sport and Sunday Age Sport freelancer. Now just giving my stuff away to good homes. Not to worry, still have my health and day job. Published & unpublished works fester on my blog Write Line Fever.


  1. Brilliant Jeff. Rampant consumerism is my #1 loathing in life. I love the political incorrectness of the Almanac in all its diversity. My 3 hours at the footy is my right to voice all my momentary prejudices and frustrations – provided they are not overtly offensive.
    “What’s good for the AFL (and its corporate partners) is good for footy” : Kim Il Demetriou Newspeak.

  2. DBalassone says

    Totally agree with the thrust of this piece Jeff. To focus on one part in particular – you’ve hit the nail on the hit with that ‘Willy Wonka golden ticket’ line. I’ve been a season ticket holder since 1986 (and have had a reserved seat for home games for the last 10 years) yet if Collingwood make the Grand Final I am not guaranteed a ticket, unless I’ve forked out for the Legend’s membership at $780 a pop i.e. I am paying an extra $400 just in case my side plays of in the GF. When you add the actual purchased price of good seat i.e. $300, I am effectively paying $700 to watch my side in the GF (despite 28 years of membership). This is what you can buy a ticket from for a scalper for – so in essence, the richest club in the land is effectively acting as a scalper to it’s most loyal supporters. Disgraceful stuff.

  3. Thanks Peter, Damian.

    I believe CFC sold their limit of Legends memberships last year but you’d have to be a very optimistic or well heeled Pie fan to fork out the extra $400 this year. I’ve also heard the H&A seats that come with it aren’t too flash either.

    I’d contend GF member allocations should be based on length of membership. Only problem is most clubs records are useless – CFC reckon I’ve only been a member for half as long as I really have (since 1987 or 1988).

  4. Bob Morrow says

    Hear bloody hear. Agree with everything. Years ago I took a Melbourne games membership with Geelong. The first & only game I used it for was at the MCG [1/2 full]
    & was ushered up to the nose bleeds. What’s the use of being a member ??

  5. Good call Jeff. The clubs are all whores. Maintain the rage.

  6. Cheryl Critchley says

    While my club (Richmond) is far from perfect, Collingwood seems to take the most from it’s members in terms of Grand Final guarantees and cheer squad memberships. Cheer Squad members have to pay almost as much as Legends members, while those at many other clubs just pay a token amount on top of a regular membership. The overall thrust is everything is becoming corporatised and if you have dough you are OK; if not you will struggle to see your team if it makes the big one.

  7. Cheryl Critchley says

    Great story by the way Jeff!

  8. Thanks Cheryl, I’m looking forward to tucking into your book that covers similar territory. Vive le resistance!

  9. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Spot on Jeff and why because most sports clubs live outside there means well and truly
    In another words give $ 1 and they will spend $ 10 the lack of governance and ramifications over what clubs spend is a disgrace , if business laws were enforced the majority would be declared bankrupt yet what is the majority of clubs reaction let’s screw the average fan more and more for as much dough ray me as we can get .
    So out of touch with the average fan it is disgraceful to say the least
    Thanks Jeff

  10. Neil Belford says

    You should all barrack for Freo – Couldn’t be fairer. Even after making the Grand Final last year, you had to pay an extra $30 on top of your membership this year to be guaranteed the right to purchase a GF ticket at list price if Freo makes the GF- ~$200 from memory last year, and it was quite a good seat.

  11. Freo’s is a good system in theory, but when they let people pay the $30 part way through last year, and now have let only them pay the extra from now on, they have created a new class of membership based on a single year’s opportunism. Have no problem with those who’ve paid for years for the guarantee, but for single year payers, they should be back of the line this year.

    No mention of the biggest rort, which was the only way most Freo fans got GF tickets? The $1600 grand final breakfast! They should be banned from selling them after semi final week and all unsold tickets returned and added to the competing club members ticket pool.

  12. Skip of Skipton says

    This type of thing has made its way down to the bush footy level. 33% jump in membership this year. Stubby of beer getting into the nightclub price range. Clubs have to keep raising more and more each year to pay for players just to keep competitive. It needs to be knocked on the head.

  13. Luke Reynolds says

    Well said Jeff. There’s no reward for being a long term member. How do I sign up to be a corporate??

  14. daniel flesch says

    I tell this story because it’s a case of a club NOT wanting my money. Living in Northern NSW i could have taken out Hawthorn’s “NSW Membership” which would get me into the Sydney game for “free.” I wrote to them asking if i could perhaps have Queensland membership and get the Brisbane game “free” as i was living in Tweed Shire 160 kms / 2 hrs’ drive from Brisbane , and 860 kms./ 12 hrs’. drive from Sydney. Even if i was to fly to Sydney i’d have to go to Queensland to catch the plane ; nearest airport being Coolongatta. No reply at first , so another letter sent. This time they came back with “As you are resident in NSW …” They want their players flexible , but their administration isn’t. S’pose that’s better than the other way round. Drove to Bris. General Admission , Hawks led till 15 mins. last quarter then beaten.

  15. G’day Daniel, is this the match from 1995 which cost Peter Knights his coaching career?


  16. daniel flesch says

    No Glen ! It was either 2003 or 4 .

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