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AFL support increases for 2019 Premiers Richmond as well as 2019 finalists Collingwood, Brisbane Lions and Geelong

Source: Roy Morgan Single Source, July 2018-June 2019, n=14,383 and July 2019-June 2020 n=15,004. Base: Australians 14+.

The Sydney Swans have again topped the annual Roy Morgan AFL supporter ladder – although down 48,000 supporters (-4.4%) from a year ago and now with 1.052 million supporters according to the 2020 annual Roy Morgan AFL club supporters survey.

Several clubs increased their support over the last year led by 2019 Premiers Richmond, 2019 Preliminary Finalists Collingwood and Geelong, and the big improver in 2019 the Brisbane Lions

Surprise packet the Brisbane Lions, who are now contending for this year’s Premiership to be contested at their home ground the Gabba, had the largest increase over the last year for their support base by a massive 143,000 (+27.8%) to 658,000 – and are now the fourth most widely supported club. 

Collingwood is again Victoria’s most widely supported club, and in second place overall, with a supporter base of 726,000, up 89,000 (+14%) on a year ago following their agonising Preliminary Final loss in 2019 – the Pies lost out on a place in the Grand Final after a 4pt loss to the GWS Giants.

Overall support and TV viewership of the AFL increases to above 7.7 million in 2020

In a tough year, with the COVID-19 pandemic forcing the AFL to conduct the majority of its season away from the football heartland of Victoria and the lack of crowds causing a huge revenue hole for the league and clubs, there is good news – overall support for the league has grown on a year ago.

Now 7,703,000 Australians expressed support for an AFL club, up 262,000 (+3.5%) on a year ago with a slightly larger number, 7,754,000, up 300,000 (+4%) on a year ago watched an AFL match on TV. 

AFL Club Supporter Ladder 2020

Source: Roy Morgan Single Source, July 2018-June 2019, n=14,383 and July 2019-June 2020 n=15,004. Base: Australians 14+.

Reigning AFL Premiers Richmond increased their support base by 61,000 (+13.5%) to 514,000 following their second Premiership in three years while their vanquished Preliminary Final opponents Geelong added 10,000 supporters (+2.4%) to 426,000 supporters.

Other widely supported clubs include 2018 Premiers the West Coast Eagles with 710,000 supporters in third place overall, the Adelaide Crows with 618,000 supporters in fifth overall and Essendon with 573,000 supporters and the second most widely supported Victorian club.

There were four other clubs that managed to increase their support over the last year despite failing to make the finals in 2019 led by 2020 ladder leader Port Adelaide with 287,000 supporters, up 11,000 (+4%) on a year ago. Also increasing their support in 2020 were Carlton up 23,000 (+5.5%) to 445,000 supporters, Melbourne up 8,000 (+3.3%) to 250,000 supporters and the Gold Coast Suns up 58,000 (+165.7%) to 93,000 supporters.

The Gold Coast Suns have benefited over the last few months as the AFL largely relocated to Queensland to stage games due to the second wave of COVID-19 which has struck Victoria. Just over half of all games contested during the 2020 AFL Season will be staged in Queensland – including the 2020 AFL Grand Final at the Brisbane Cricket Ground – The Gabba – in late October.

Hawthorn, North Melbourne, GWS Giants and Richmond are best at converting supporters

Although it is no surprise to see the traditionally well-supported clubs such as the Sydney Swans, Collingwood and West Coast at the top of the overall AFL club supporter ladder, a key metric for AFL clubs is their ability to convert their latent supporters into financial members that directly benefit the clubs. 

Despite many members not being able to attend matches during 2020 – including all Victorian-based members – AFL club memberships have remained remarkably strong in 2020 with over 990,000 Australians taking out memberships. The table below ranks clubs based on how effective they are at converting their supporters into financial members based on dividing the (official AFL club memberships divided by Roy Morgan supporter numbers) x 100. 

On this important metric it is the supporters of Hawthorn who have proven their loyalty in season 2020 with over 20% of their supporters becoming members, closely followed by North Melbourne. The two clubs have had divergent fortunes over the last decade with the Hawks being the most successful club of the 2010s winning three Premierships (2013-15) while the Kangaroos only made the finals four times. 

Last year’s Grand Final opponents also feature highly with the GWS Giants converting 19.7% of their supporters just ahead of 2019 Premiers Richmond (19.5%) while the league’s second newest club the Gold Coast Suns is doing a good job with its small supporter base converting 17.6% into members.

% of supporters who are members

Roy Morgan Supporter
Numbers

Official 2020
AFL Club Memberships*

Hawthorn Hawks

20.5%

373,000

76,343

North Melbourne Kangaroos

20.1%

192,000

38,667

GWS Giants

19.7%

156,000

30,841

Richmond Tigers

19.5%

514,000

100,420

Gold Coast Suns

17.6%

93,000

16,236

St. Kilda Saints

16.3%

297,000

48,588

Port Adelaide Power

16.3%

287,000

46,820

Melbourne Demons

16.2%

250,000

40,571

Western Bulldogs

15.3%

254,000

38,876

Carlton Blues

15.1%

445,000

67,035

West Coast Eagles

14.2%

710,000

100,776

Geelong Cats

14.1%

426,000

60,066

Fremantle Dockers

14.0%

369,000

51,577

Essendon Bombers

11.6%

573,000

66,686

Collingwood Magpies

10.6%

726,000

76,862

Adelaide Crows

8.9%

618,000

54,891

Sydney Swans

4.6%

1,052,000

48,322

Brisbane Lions

4.4%

658,000

29,277

TOTAL

12.9%

7,703,000

992,854

*Full AFL Membership Figures available at:
https://www.afl.com.au/news/2019-08-06/thanks-a-million-afl-club-memberships-hit-alltime-record

Julian McCrann, Industry Communications Director, Roy Morgan, says 2020 has been a year like no other for the AFL with the Grand Final set to be played outside Victoria for the first time but the good news is that support for the AFL has increased despite the challenges: 

“Over 7.7 million Australians now support an AFL club and 7.75 million watched an AFL match on TV in the last year – equivalent to 37% of all Australians aged 14+.

“The increases in support and TV viewers for the AFL are an impressive achievement in a year that has been disrupted and led to the Grand Final being shifted to ‘The Gabba’ in Brisbane, game lengths being shortened and clubs relocated around the country – but mainly to Queensland – to enable the season to go on.

“The biggest winners in terms of increasing their support are clubs that had successful seasons in 2019 including reigning Premiers Richmond who increased their support by 61,000 to 514,000 and are the third most widely supported club in Victoria. The Tigers are well placed to repeat their heroics from a year ago and sit comfortably near the top of the ladder again approaching finals.

“Also building on a successful challenge in 2019 were Preliminary Finalists Collingwood with 726,000 supporters – up 89,000 on a year ago, and Geelong with 426,000 supporters (up 10,000). Geelong is one of the favourites to win this year’s Flag which would be its first for nearly a decade since 2011.

“Perhaps the most important trend seen over the last year is the increasing support for the two Queensland clubs. The Brisbane Lions have lifted their support by a massive 143,000 on a year ago to 658,000 following a second-place ladder finish in 2019 and the improving Gold Coast Suns have more than doubled their supporter base to 93,000.

“The rise in support for the Queensland AFL clubs follows improving performances on the field for both teams and coincides with an unprecedented relocation of the competition to the State. Over 80 AFL games will be played in Queensland this year which has given the code a level of exposure in the State its never had before.

“The AFL will be hoping the more than 50 extra games played in Queensland this year – including the AFL Grand Final – will provide a long-lasting boost to the sport in a State often regarded as a developing market for the sport. On that score only time will tell.”


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Roy Morgan is the largest independent Australian research company, with offices throughout Australia, as well as in Indonesia, the United States and the United Kingdom. A full service research organisation specialising in omnibus and syndicated data, Roy Morgan has over 70 years’ experience in collecting objective, independent information on consumers.

Margin of Error

The margin of error to be allowed for in any estimate depends mainly on the number of interviews on which it is based. Margin of error gives indications of the likely range within which estimates would be 95% likely to fall, expressed as the number of percentage points above or below the actual estimate. Allowance for design effects (such as stratification and weighting) should be made as appropriate.

Sample Size

Percentage Estimate

40%-60%

25% or 75%

10% or 90%

5% or 95%

1,000

±3.0

±2.7

±1.9

±1.3

5,000

±1.4

±1.2

±0.8

±0.6

7,500

±1.1

±1.0

±0.7

±0.5

10,000

±1.0

±0.9

±0.6

±0.4

20,000

±0.7

±0.6

±0.4

±0.3

50,000

±0.4

±0.4

±0.3

±0.2