Low crowds at the Richmond and GWS clash on Saturday has sparked debate over attendance numbers. (Picture: gwsgiants.com.au)

The state of Australian rules football is in a good space, yet crowd numbers have declined in 2021 so what is the reason why fans have chosen not to attend?

Many agree that the state of the game is the best it has been in some time. However, one thing has been concerning so far this season, and that is the crowd numbers.

According to a report in The Age, when comparing the first eight rounds of the season in 2019 to 2021, over 700,000 fewer fans have gone to watch the football. Why is this? Well, there are numerous reasons and perhaps the biggest one is that the COVID pandemic is still at the forefront of people’s minds.

The panic that ensued when fans that attended the Richmond/Geelong game in round eight had to get tested after a patron who was on the Craigieburn line train while traveling on the train at the same time as fans were arriving to and leaving the match was COVID positive, instill’s the fear which is still very mutch attached to the virus.

The sharp drop in attendances is partially from the fear of COVID but also the fact that during the 2020 season because fans were not allowed into games, many resorted to watching football on the television.

Now while that does not seem like a big deal, but in fact, it seems that many fans after last year, have become accustomed to and prefer to watch football from the comfort of their own home rather than going to games and that will concern the AFL. Then there is the cost that is involved too. While fans were happy to pay what was necessary to go watch their team play, in reality subscribing to Foxtel/Kayo seems like a much better alternative.

Going to the football is an expensive outing

Taking into account the ticketing pricing for the MCG, for a family of four to go to an AFL match, that would cost them above $150 and that is not including food and drinks for the duration of their time there.

For a level 1 ticket at the MCG, it will cost you $58 and for families of three or four, it starts to add up. On the other hand, a Kayo subscription will only cost $15 a month depending on what you have subscribed for, so seems on paper at least, to be the much better option. 

On top of that according to ESPN.com.au, since 2019, Kayo has seen an increase of 15% when it comes to its viewership. It appears many hardcore supporters and even casual supporters would rather watch football on television rather than go in person.

This was perhaps highlighted by the fact that the Richmond vs GWS Giants match this past weekend, which only managed to attract just under 19,000 spectators to the live game.

Richmond coach Damien Hardwick made the point post-match that it had to do with the venue of the match in Marvel Stadium and insisted that had the game been at the MCG, those numbers would be significantly higher. In reality, less than six kilometers separated the two stadiums so is that a reason not to go? Only Tigers and Giants fans will know in this specific case.

Attending matches is harder than in previous seasons

Many fans have voiced their frustration when it comes to ticketing for games as well. Stadiums having to reduce their capacity because of COVID restrictions and the QR code debacle at some grounds, it is just messy. Also, the fact that fans were not able to sit in their normal reserved seats, and if they wanted to, they would have to pay more to do so.

On top of that, fans have not been able to get tickets at the gate like in previous years. Fans have a feeling that going to the football in 2021 is more of an inconvenience and is more trouble than what is it worth.

Has the three-month layoff from going to the football last season impacted people’s comfort levels when going to the football? Even though the country seems at this stage to have a really good handle on the virus, there is always that thought in the back of the mind of an outbreak and the chaos that ensures. 

So is that the reason for the low attendance this season or is it that it seems far easier and cheaper to watch the game at home? Either way, it is rather concerning for the AFL and it is a situation that they hope will improve itself sooner rather than later.

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