AFL logo on red backgroundThank you’ is the message coming loud and clear from AFL Clubs as fans are flocking back to their beloved game, and membership numbers across the league surpass one million. The CEO of the Australian Football League, Gillon McLachlan, explained the grandness of this membership surge, noting that 1 in 26 Australians is now a reserved seat member for the 2021 Toyota Premiership AFL Season.

McLachlan acknowledged that last year’s season was tough on AFL clubs, and saved by the dedication and loyalty of club supporters who were crucial in keeping all 18 clubs afloat during the global pandemic.

“The connection that footy supporters have with their clubs is unmatched in world sport.”

These are sentiments no doubt endorsed most passionately by the Lions, Cats, Carlton, and St Kilda, who all boast record member numbers for this season already.

After only eight rounds, fans are donning their team colours and taking their places to support their clubs in numbers exceeding last year’s total season memberships. The 2020 season attracted 992, 854 members. This year, more than a million members have joined, with membership sales not due to cease until the end of July.

Since the 1980s, total club membership has been on a steady increase with the exception of two seasons. The first being the year 2000, which saw the season shuffled forward to make way for the Sydney Olympics, and the other being last year’s disrupted COVID-19 marred competition. The fact that this year’s season has seen a revert to the membership-climbing trend of pre-pandemic times is a reassuring sigh of relief to clubs, players, and fans alike; AFL is as robust and popular as ever.

Last year, cardboard cut-outs and canned crowd noise was the only way around COVID restrictions. This year, fans are happy to return to their seats in the flesh for all the action. McLachlan continued his praised for the commitment of fans.

“Their loyalty and unwavering support has allowed the game to bounce back this season, showcased by the record number of attendances around the country since the COVID pandemic hit.”

The return of non-cardboard spectators has coincided nicely with the Victorian Government’s announcement that all Victorian AFL grounds can now fill their grandstands up to 85% capacity. Reserved seat members at the MCG and Marvel Stadium can return after round nine, and a week later, Geelong supporters with reserved seating can return to Kardinia Park.
The one million members or more will without a doubt enjoy the action and excitement of being at the games, although strict COVID safe measures will be in place to ensure high touchpoints are minimized and sanitized. Digital memberships will also replace regular tickets to further reduce any chance of unnecessary contact.

Round nine of the 2021 Toyota AFL Premiership commences this weekend with a million reasons to be energized for the season ahead. Many clubs are planning to mark the membership milestone by thanking their loyal members in their own special way. It should be a great round of footy!