Social Networking in Footy

Scan the crowd at your local AFL match at half time and chances are you’ll see a myriad of fans ‘tweeting’ or ‘Facebooking’ on their phones.

Social networking took the Australian Football League by storm in 2010 and the majority of clubs eagerly hopped onboard the new phenomenon.

Fans can now access their favourite team with the push of a button and receive instant updates, photos, and videos from wherever they are.

Facebook and Twitter are the preferred social networking outlets in the AFL with all 18 clubs, bar Brisbane, running a Facebook page and Twitter account.

Anthony Alsop, creator of Sports Speil digital media consultancy and Digital Marketing Coordinator at Richmond Football Club, said AFL clubs have recently integrated social networking high into their market plans.

“Previously Facebook and Twitter pages were done unofficially by fans wanting to share news and talk with other fans,” he said.

“In the past 12-18 months the AFL has finally realised how important they are.”

Currently the AFL and Collingwood are winning the social networking race.

The AFL has a combined total of 262,683 followers from both Twitter and Facebook, and Collingwood is the only club to have hit the 100,000 fans mark on Facebook.

Brisbane, who has neither a Facebook or Twitter profile, is missing out on reaching potentially tens of thousands of fans worldwide.

On a local level the Adelaide Crows have come out on top in the social networking Showdown beating cross-town rival Port Adelaide with roughly double the followers.

Adelaide Crows Communication Manager David Burtenshaw has seen the rise of social networking in the AFL first hand.

He said the key advantage of actively using social networking sites is the two-way communication they provide between the club and fans from anywhere in the world.

“The main benefit for the club is that we now have another way to stay in touch with our members and supporters and not only are we talking to the fans they are talking back to us,” Mr Burtenshaw said.

“The reality is that social networking activity is on the rise – and not just with the younger demographic – so if that’s where your fans are, why not join them.”

The 17 clubs who have a Facebook page are almost uniform in their social media content sharing training photos, links to stories on their official websites, and game day status updates.

David Burtenshaw’s Communication Assistant, Calum Young, believes fans are eager to connect with the inner sanctum of the club.

“Photos of the players from the rooms straight after a win, training footage, one on one interviews with players and much more content fans can view,” he said.

Sports Speil recently ranked the Adelaide Crows Facebook page in the top ten sporting pages in the world.

It was the only Australian mention and featured due to its design and ease of use.

The Crows strategically use Facebook to promote their brand by driving traffic back to their website.

They have also profited financially with the promotion of merchandise sales at CROWmania online directly linked from their Facebook page.

One football league that is yet to take advantage of the popularity of social networking is the South Australian National Football League (SANFL).

While they have just over 600 followers on Twitter they do not have a Facebook profile due to a short fall in staff resources.

Despite the SANFL’s lack of presence on social networking sites they recorded a 22 per cent increase in online traffic to their main website in 2010.

Melanie Reid, SANFL Communications Manager, said footy fans are now actively seeking information about the competition online.

“We understand many footy fans now use the internet to seek information and engage with others who share their passion for the game – and we are keen to encourage and share in this,” she said.

Like the Crows, she also recognises the importance of connecting with fans online.

“Social networking is a way in which the SANFL – and the nine League clubs – can make direct contact with the footy community and engage in conversations about the issues affecting the game,” Ms Reid said.

“Social networking also allows us to promote events and drive traffic to our official website, with the overall aim of encouraging more supporters to attend matches and support clubs.”

Someone who has seen the best of both worlds is passionate Collingwood supporter and media volunteer Luke Mason.

He helps run live online coverage of the club’s Victorian Football League matches by providing match commentary and answering questions from upwards of 1,800 fans.

He interacts with people from around Australia and the world including Collingwood’s own American rookie, Shae McNamara’s, father Tim.

“He generally logs on at 11pm in the US to try and make sense of the crazy game his son has taken up,” Mr Mason said.

“Other supporters seem to get a bit of a buzz from interacting with a person who has a unique tie to the club and actually seem to enjoy explaining the ins and outs of it to him.”

As a fan himself Luke is always keeping up to date with his beloved Magpies on the internet.

He said social networking increases the opportunity for supporters to feel like their voice is heard and strengthens their ties to the club.

He also can’t imagine living without it.

“Without the internet I’d have no idea what was going on and I live only 30 minutes from the Club so imagine being in the country, interstate or overseas!” Mr Mason said.

“We take it for granted, but it gives information instantaneously and is something we now expect from the club.”

While he is yet to believe that social networking is now a part of Australian football fan culture he does think that it will continue to entrench itself in the football landscape.

Social networking is fast becoming a normality on the football scene and the movement can only spreads it’s wings further in 2011.


  1. Great piece Anne :)
    Yes i agree Collingwood is steaming ahead with pendels, swanny, daisy, HarryO, Wellingham, heath shaw AND as of today Travis Cloke on twitter. :)
    Im still tyring to get a reaction from all mentioned above lol- came close enough to pendles when i got a direct message from his lovely wag- Alex.

    Almanacers on twitter make sure you follow me!- MadameDeficit9

  2. We’ve had the Baby Boomers, Generation X, Generation Y, – suppose the next modern generation should be called The Twits.

  3. Who can forget Nic Naitanui and Dean Cox updating their Facebook status during half time of the North v Eagles game earlier this year?

    Great piece Anne, good topic of discussion.

  4. Definitely worth discussing, even if it annoys the older Almanackers in some way.

    I’ve been starting to get into Twitter too lately. Very good for keeping track of AFL News. Been keeping track of trade and draft rumours that way as well as goings on around Punt Road.

    Phillip Hughes got a lecture from the high-ups after informing the world on Twitter he had been axed for the 3rd Test in Edgbaston in 2009 before it was official, too. And it’s an even bigger problem in American sports.

  5. Steve Healy says

    Fantastic piece Anne, you’ve certainly raised an interesting topic. Brisbane have a twitter page that im following but it doesnt look very official. It’s really fantastic for keeping up with AFL news, I agree with you Adam.

  6. Great piece Anne, facebook is good for keeping up with scores in the cricket when i’m at school, instead of having to go to pocketnews and wasteing credit, i can just go on facebook on my mobile i think its great anyway haha.

  7. Are we the Grumpy old men gen Dips?

    I went to a Roger Waters concert once and I’m sure the “gen Y’s” sitting next to each other in front of me were texting each other about the concert and missing what was going on.

    Don’t know what they were doing there. They looked more intellectually aligned to the early rounds of Australian Idol.

    Grumpy, frumpy Phantom.

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