Sugar! Don’t miss the fun and adventure at Tigerland.


Don’t miss the fun and adventure at Tigerland

By Tony Hardy, author of Finding Jack Dyer
Tigerland, more than ever, is sugar. It’s weekends of Mickey Mouse roller coaster rides, fairy floss and people in cartoon-character suits. There’s no depth to the playing list or the ‘fun’ that’s staged to keep you coming back. It’s 70,000 members and a match-day experience that families usually get at Wet ‘n’ Wild on the Gold Coast. Want tension before a Tigers game? Nah. How about Darryl Braithwaite sings Horses, to sell car insurance, instead. Want to go in at half-time feeling like you’re a chance against the Hawks, the best side for the past 10 seasons? Nope, let’s grab some poor Tiger drunk and make him race an animated JEEP along the boundary line for $100 bucks.

Richmond people will be the dupes for that stuff. We’ll help anyone sell anything and it’s got to the point that Richmond supporters don’t support the club anymore, we support sponsors. We support tile companies, cars and the insurance you need when you crash that car listening to the goddam game. We’re not yellow and black, Jack ‘Captain Blood’ Dyer, Jimmy Jess, T-Shirt Tommy Hafey, Brian ‘The Whale’ Roberts, Jack Riewoldt, Richoooo and Cotch-lovin’ crazies anymore. We’re none of that stuff that makes you smile. We’re a database.


Richmond is a conduit for the brands that target the fragile of mind and shaky of hand. Marketers know we’re so mixed up after three and half decades of supporter rope-a-dope, that we’ll open our wallets to anybody that’s connected to the club. It’s a brand-builder’s dream to watch a demographic have their emotions washing-machined for 35 years, then hit them at their place of worship with sell after sell. We’re stupid enough to take cold calls from a ‘membership department’ staffed by 20 year olds with British accents and a six-pack of Strumpy cider in their backpack. We’ll ignore yet another atrocious second quarter, because look! Up there on the big screen is Kiss-Cam, and isn’t it hilarious that that woman doesn’t want to kiss that man?
But wait, there’s more. No, no, no, not more football – more marketing. Hey Tiger fans, it’s half time and there’s that woman and that bald guy masquerading as Richmond people. They use a microphone even though they shout everything. Forget that Cotchin, with his third and fourth efforts at the ball, is having the midfield and captaincy battle of his life, let’s instead stroll through the merchandise department and buy more stuff. Week after week, not for one second do these two gameday hosts realise how ‘off’ it is to smile and joke and sell when our club is 10 goals down. Why don’t they ever stop and think; ‘Hang on. This is the only four hours of a week that the members are all here, together, in one place, to talk football and our future. The members are actually hurting. Isn’t what we’re doing a disconnect from reality?’

You couldn’t make this stuff up. But they do. Every week. And they’ll be at it again this Saturday when, at half time, some poor fool will be dragged from his seat to kick a footy into a green rubbish bin and win 50% off a plastic sink while unknowingly be suckered into the off-field game that is trashing the Richmond Football Club. This is the same brand that took over a century to build and is made of stories of men who played football. It’s a brand founded in 1885, yet it’s being squeezed for every cent in 2016.


The match doesn’t matter anymore. Sure, the product is football, yet the customer experience is king, which, by the way, mirrors the strategy behind all successful retailing, from Macy’s in New York to Myer at Chaddy. Richmond home games are now the football equivalent of walking into a shopping mall, except we pay to get in. But this notion that we’re only here to be sold to is belittling to the supporter. It’s disgusting. They’re the ones who care, who cry after a loss, who direct-debit their membership money every February. We’re the people who keep the club afloat, but, sadly, we’re also the people the marketers know will keep turning up, no matter what.
Or will we? Despite 70,000 members, the attendance at the Round 6 Port Adelaide game was around 27,000. Just under 50,000 watched Richmond V Hawthorn, our shot at the triple premiers who were playing without Hodge, Roughhead and the annoying champ Mitchell. Yep, a horrible start to the season will destroy the will to watch, and would spook supporters of any club, but the collapse in attendance is proof that perhaps people are seeing through the sell. They know sugar is bad for you. It hurts your guts and blackens your smile. It makes you ugly. And feral. And so, after seasons littered with chook poo and microwaved memberships, the thing I’m left wondering is just what the supporters will do with all that bad energy.


  1. ouch

  2. Double ouch! Brilliant.
    I’m looking forward to the remainder of the finals but dreading what comes with it!

  3. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    That was very funny Tony. Seems to be fair bit of turd polishing going on at Tigerland.

  4. Sharp and spot on.

    I was at the Tiges game in Hobart last year watching the North Melbourne hoopla (wrote about it here and thinking about how the guy shooting t-shirts into the crowd and the girls dressed as The Spirit of Tasmania would be paid the same whether North won or lost; this was a watershed moment for me. I was invited into the Tiges (losing) rooms that day and for the first time thought about all the club staff whose job is exactly the same, win or lose. It’s a majority, maybe a large majority of club personnel. This is so enormously different to the experience of a fan that our whole sense of what ‘Richmond’ means is poles apart.

    And yes, for those people the outcome of the game (let alone the finer details we obsess over) is utterly unimportant.

  5. Well played, Tony.

    And none of this is unique to Tigerland, of course.
    It seems AFL (industry) wide. Cricket, too.
    Businesses doing business.

  6. Painful and true.

  7. Why was this not published earlier? It is very good.

  8. Beautifully put, Tony, but as ER says, this is par for the course across the comp (and any other professional sport) these days. I reckon we quickly forgive the 100th rendition of “Eye of the Tiger” if the team has a good win. And I don’t think the RFC marketing hype is any particular reflection on the gullibility of our supporters. Most fans I know simply grumble about it or try to ignore it. Perhaps the Richmond “match day experience” is more irksome for us because we have to put up with the same drivel every second week. The drivel at away games is at least fresh drivel but I’m sure the regulars find it just as tedious.

  9. Well put,Tony but Stainless is spot on above it is the same for every club just fresh dribble when it is a away game press the repeat button at just about every clubs home games match experience wah wah

  10. Spot on, Tony.
    And I thought it was only the Lions that served up this crap.
    It explains why fans wait until the last minute to enter the ground. Sometimes it feels like I’m at a Wiggles concert.
    The constant rotation of footballers on the screen telling me how wonderful Four n Twenty pies are, its annoying and its a lie. Every damn fortnight.
    And now the club has asked me to complete a survey on my membership and the match day experience.
    I fear that the poor to average rating I (and presumably others) gave them will only result in more t-shirts being cannoned into the crowd.

  11. My dog's name is Richo says

    Well penned, Tony.
    The “match day inexperience” of people handed the reins to those precious weekend hours simply feeds their lack of understanding of what a day at the football represents.
    For 25-30 minutes, four times, we walk a high wire of tension and immersion … it’s one of the game’s unique features, the connection to every minute, every moment. Equally, it’s the down time before the game, and between quarters, as you regather yourself, talk to friends, family or members near you – about how they need to send Jack back to the square, or put Edwards in the middle, or how was your week? – that round out the experience, and add depth and context to the game itself.
    My wife and I are Tiger members, as are three teenage kids. The assault on the senses that is a home game at the MCG (incessant loud music, pointless screaming into microphones, one sponsor shill after another … and those appalling “live” boundary fence signs) has betrayed that delightful culture of eased tension, of enjoyment in the pause.
    But what would we know?

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