AFL is on the decline - the younger generation is just not that into you

blaisee

Norm Smith Medallist
Aug 11, 2004
6,629
9,058
Punt Road
AFL Club
Richmond
Other Teams
None
I was born in the 70s and I lived for footy.

I played as often as I could, and I listened to games on the radio, watched highlights and was generally engaged with my club, obsessed even. I was in the majority as well, most kids my age, most people I knew, even older where the same.

Nowadays, with kids, even adults under say 25, that level of commitment and engagement is the exception, not the rule.

Most people take it or leave it as far as the AFL goes, some have a passing interest, I would put it to you that most people do not really care.

I feel like the glory days of the AFL are over. Crowds when you compare apples with apples over time will decline, and ratings will continue to go down as well. This is especially true with these two things when you adjust for population growth.

The AFL is in trouble, maybe not now, but in the future this comp will be battling, and the reason is that rusted on supporters are a dying breed. Plastic corporates like Gil running the show do not help either just quietly.
 

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HPKS

All Australian
Apr 6, 2012
767
526
Perth
AFL Club
Sydney
Is it that surprising. I’m one of those older ones that has walked away from the top level.

Absolutely love my local footy now but have to keep an eye on what goes on in the AFL as it effects the lower leagues.

As for the younger generation, just like how they see politicians, they see through all the manipulation, lies & not looking toward the future.

And just like politicians the AFL take forever to adjust, for example the congestion issue. It’s been a problem for easily over 10 years n now they decide to act due to falling numbers. Just like a politician!!

Then there’s the FIXture, then the draft, then the MCG GF then the AFL management using the game as a money making scheme for their mates.

The thing is, is anybody really that surprised the younger generation have given the top level the middle finger.
 

Power Raid

TheBrownDog
Oct 15, 2004
65,056
54,558
West Perth
AFL Club
Port Adelaide
I was born in the 70s and I lived for footy.

I played as often as I could, and I listened to games on the radio, watched highlights and was generally engaged with my club, obsessed even. I was in the majority as well, most kids my age, most people I knew, even older where the same.

Nowadays, with kids, even adults under say 25, that level of commitment and engagement is the exception, not the rule.

Most people take it or leave it as far as the AFL goes, some have a passing interest, I would put it to you that most people do not really care.

I feel like the glory days of the AFL are over. Crowds when you compare apples with apples over time will decline, and ratings will continue to go down as well. This is especially true with these two things when you adjust for population growth.

The AFL is in trouble, maybe not now, but in the future this comp will be battling, and the reason is that rusted on supporters are a dying breed. Plastic corporates like Gil running the show do not help either just quietly.
It's not just the generational/ cultural changes that will hurt the AFL.

Sure we all understand structural changes in our workplace and time off don't lend themselves well to structured sport. We also understand football once competed with amazing alternatives of fishing, going to church, a visit to grandma where as today overseas holidays, the internet and everything a cashed up family can now afford.

The other big factor is the reality that the best time to follow a sport is what I call the in between stage. This is where a sport isn't amateur but also isn't professional. In this in between stage you see the rawness of amateurs but witness a higher quality spectacle. As it progresses, it becomes to polished, regulated and controlled.

Once fully professional, the cost is too prohibitive for the lower socio-economic groups meaning it is now exclusive rather than inclusive. Essentially breaking away from something that bonds community. You get media controls and lame arse comments of "we are taking this one week at a time", "we focus on our structures" etc etc rather than what they really think. You end up with players playing the game because of cash rather than enjoyment...........and that's evident with the mental health issues and level of player happiness. You get gambling, over legalistic and agenda driven lobby groups etc etc.


Think back of the hey days of 1960s boxing compared to the professional comp it is today. I think we'd all agree boxing was at its best when it was in the in between stage. Same said for cricket, film making and soccer.

It's sad but true, the best of AFL is behind us. It's still great but there are learnings, from other sports and industries for the AFL, to ensure it doesn't ruin the game it is supposedly a custodian for.
 

Rusty Brookes

Norm Smith Medallist
Aug 9, 2001
5,069
5,252
Preston
AFL Club
Hawthorn
Other Teams
Hawthorn, Manningham Cobras
There may be some truth to what you say but the rusted on, supporters in the 70s/80s didn't necessarily translate into big crowds. Membership numbers were nowhere near what they are today. And just about every traditional VFL club faced a moment of near extinction.

My guess is the younger supporter becomes a rusted on supporter later in life. My son who is 11 this year is starting to show his first signs of being rusted on - doesn't want to miss games, interested in who is coming back from injury, etc. I don't think he'll ever as psychotic about is as I am (and with some self reflection that's probably a good thing) but I don't think he'll be lost to the game.
 

Luv_our_club

Norm Smith Medallist
Feb 14, 2017
6,057
11,130
AFL Club
Hawthorn
It's not just the generational/ cultural changes that will hurt the AFL.

Sure we all understand structural changes in our workplace and time off don't lend themselves well to structured sport. We also understand football once competed with amazing alternatives of fishing, going to church, a visit to grandma where as today overseas holidays, the internet and everything a cashed up family can now afford.

The other big factor is the reality that the best time to follow a sport is what I call the in between stage. This is where a sport isn't amateur but also isn't professional. In this in between stage you see the rawness of amateurs but witness a higher quality spectacle. As it progresses, it becomes to polished, regulated and controlled.

Once fully professional, the cost is too prohibitive for the lower socio-economic groups meaning it is now exclusive rather than inclusive. Essentially breaking away from something that bonds community. You get media controls and lame arse comments of "we are taking this one week at a time", "we focus on our structures" etc etc rather than what they really think. You end up with players playing the game because of cash rather than enjoyment...........and that's evident with the mental health issues and level of player happiness. You get gambling, over legalistic and agenda driven lobby groups etc etc.


Think back of the hey days of 1960s boxing compared to the professional comp it is today. I think we'd all agree boxing was at its best when it was in the in between stage. Same said for cricket, film making and soccer.

It's sad but true, the best of AFL is behind us. It's still great but there are learnings, from other sports and industries for the AFL, to ensure it doesn't ruin the game it is supposedly a custodian for.
The AFL is a truly indigenous code, and it cannot be exported. The only other sports that it can learn from are similar professional national codes, and they are few and far between.

The AFL needs to stop looking overseas for direction. The USA is a net exporter of culture.... the NFL could not give a shit what the rest of the world is doing. In Australia we import our culture from places like America.

So I don't think we need to look to other sports or industries for a guide. I think we need to look back and ask what really worked in the past in the AFL that we have lost.
 

PrideOf

Cancelled
Jul 17, 2001
10,321
16,015
Here, obviously
AFL Club
Adelaide
Other Teams
AFC
I was born in the 70s and I lived for footy.

I played as often as I could, and I listened to games on the radio, watched highlights and was generally engaged with my club, obsessed even. I was in the majority as well, most kids my age, most people I knew, even older where the same.

Nowadays, with kids, even adults under say 25, that level of commitment and engagement is the exception, not the rule.

Most people take it or leave it as far as the AFL goes, some have a passing interest, I would put it to you that most people do not really care.

I feel like the glory days of the AFL are over. Crowds when you compare apples with apples over time will decline, and ratings will continue to go down as well. This is especially true with these two things when you adjust for population growth.

The AFL is in trouble, maybe not now, but in the future this comp will be battling, and the reason is that rusted on supporters are a dying breed. Plastic corporates like Gil running the show do not help either just quietly.
The AFL is also eroding their own supporter base at the top end too.

There's a growing cynicism among the footy diehards: the rules get bent for whoever the AFL loves at any given moment in time, they prop up some clubs at the expense of others, the on-field rules are interpreted to meet an agenda, they alternatively hit clubs/players with a hammer and then wet lettuce, clear incompetence is protected and basic game integrity issues like the MRP and goal-line technology are a joke.

All to protect Gilligan's end-of-year bonus, and those of his mates.

And many, many people I talk to who've followed footy for decades are jaded because of it.
 

HavUEvaSeenTheRain

Norm Smith Medallist
Apr 20, 2006
5,067
5,585
AFL Club
Carlton
Anywhere you go overseas you hear the same things about their sport. In America all of Baseball, Basketball and now NFL the people claim it is not what it was and has/is losing popularity. You hear the exact same thing in England about the EPL. "It's not for the common man any more", "clubs have no soul" ect.
I think someone eluded to it before; people are just so much more cynical these days.
 

Power Raid

TheBrownDog
Oct 15, 2004
65,056
54,558
West Perth
AFL Club
Port Adelaide
The AFL is a truly indigenous code, and it cannot be exported. The only other sports that it can learn from are similar professional national codes, and they are few and far between.

The AFL needs to stop looking overseas for direction. The USA is a net exporter of culture.... the NFL could not give a shit what the rest of the world is doing. In Australia we import our culture from places like America.

So I don't think we need to look to other sports or industries for a guide. I think we need to look back and ask what really worked in the past in the AFL that we have lost.
The learnings aren't about other sports or industries like films. The learnings are about what is lost through professionalism and retaining the raw, the community engagement and enjoyment. The best way to learn is by looking at those industries that took it too far and lost it.
 

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HPKS

All Australian
Apr 6, 2012
767
526
Perth
AFL Club
Sydney
Anywhere you go overseas you hear the same things about their sport. In America all of Baseball, Basketball and now NFL the people claim it is not what it was and has/is losing popularity. You hear the exact same thing in England about the EPL. "It's not for the common man any more", "clubs have no soul" ect.
I think someone eluded to it before; people are just so much more cynical these days.
And can actually reply pretty much immediately via social
Media like this site these days.

Back in the good old days head office via your cities major newspaper could spew our bs with no1 pretty much questioning it as no1 had a voice, Fitzroy supporters would be thinking of Sheahan immediately, but now they get to say what they think n news travels a lot faster in today’s social media than a yarn at the local pub.

And what do younger generations love? Social media, they see through the bs of today a hell of a lot quicker than us older people and every person they have on there social media site reads this within seconds.

So when Gill tries to spin that the game doesn’t look so bad, most of the younger generation call bs n it spreads pretty damn quick.....
 

Speakeasy

Debutant
May 15, 2010
90
50
AFL Club
Hawthorn
Other Teams
Toronto Maple Leafs Melbourne Ice
I see your point taking into account population growth, however how much more immigration has happened since the 70's?

I would say that both Rugby Codes are in far worse shape than Aussie Rules, I don't think its going to decline anywhere near as much as Rugby Union has, and I still believe the game will grow.

You do have a good point with under 25's though
 

Hank Scorpion

Premiership Player
Nov 17, 2013
3,055
5,463
Victoria
AFL Club
Brisbane Lions
Other Teams
Sheffield Wednesday
My personal experience is that I was an absolute fanatic as a kid, yet ever since I turned 16/17 or so, my interest has steadily declined to the point where I'll only watch a game every few weeks.

Obviously Brisbane being terrible is a part of that, as well as the bullshit around the Essendon saga and the make-it-up-as-we-go-along rule changes/umpiring/suspensions being major turn-offs, but I think the wide availability of other entertainment is a more universal reason for any decline amongst younger fans. It would be a lot harder for me, 20 years ago, to find niche interests that attract me away from AFL, certainly none that I could access as quickly as I can today.
 

Lavender Bushranger

Norm Smith Medallist
Aug 25, 2005
6,026
9,292
Grogansville
AFL Club
Gold Coast
Anywhere you go overseas you hear the same things about their sport. In America all of Baseball, Basketball and now NFL the people claim it is not what it was and has/is losing popularity. You hear the exact same thing in England about the EPL. "It's not for the common man any more", "clubs have no soul" ect.
I think someone eluded to it before; people are just so much more cynical these days.
I don't think that's the case.

Sport used to be tribal - then it became an industry.

It's an entertainment product. Nothing more.


Sport will always prosper, as long as it is actually entertaining.
And therein lies the problem for the AFL.

It's not tribal anymore. There's still a few loser tragics that are conned by the marketing that they're part of some army or something - but they're a dying breed.

So sport has to be entertaining, or its stuffed.

When it's tribal, no one cares what it looks like. It just doesn't matter.

But when it's not, it's got to be entertaining enough to pay to watch, ahead of other entertainment products.

This is why I fear for the AFL. They have killed off the key forward, or at least been asleep at the wheel whilst it was happening. They've removed the characters from the game.
They've allowed coaches to hijack it into a clogged up defensive mess.

It's an ugly sport to watch, with no reason to sit through a whole game. To be fair, it's actually always been a pretty ugly game - but there were other factors that you'd pay to see. Superstar players, characters. Villains. Drama.

These are all gone now.

I watch the NRL on Friday nights more than the AFL. I certainly watch the NBA ahead of the footy.

If you rip the tribalism out of the game, you'd better be sure that your product is entertaining.
 
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mehow2g

Premiership Player
Apr 12, 2009
3,902
2,037
Perth
AFL Club
West Coast
Technology, propaganda of fear and political correctness is to blame.

Technology being born in 89 I've lived without and with technology, the stuff is addicting before I got my first computer at 12 I was never inside the house, now kids are given phones iPad and pcs when they are basically learning how to walk.

Competive video Games are huge in the young generation way more viewership and money in alot of sports these days, you pair that with parents who watch propaganda shows like the news today tonight aca and news.com.au and you have parents scared shitless for their children to even go outside or play a contact sport, so giving the child an iPad suits them well.

Look at all the top sports on the world right now, all the best athletes that are still dominating are born in the 80s bar a few.
 

citizen-erased

Brownlow Medallist
Jun 11, 2007
17,445
12,809
Victoria
AFL Club
Essendon
Other Teams
Tottenham, Bayern, Milan
Bigfooty, supercoach, AFL fantasy, foxfooty, 6 fta footy shows, dominant conversation piece in 90% of my social circles, 18 clubs, games in China, pubs overseas showing games, afl teams spending offseasons with NBA, NFL, MLB and EPL teams

A dying code indeed

We even finally got to Switzerland a couple of years ago
 

Checkered

Club Legend
Oct 21, 2015
2,244
4,411
AFL Club
Brisbane Lions
Other Teams
Dockers & Eagles
To be fair we have endless content readily available such as the internet, video games, streaming services etc to diversify interests.

The only other thing you old motherf***ers had back in the day was probably a ball and a cup so of course you spent all your time focussed on footy lol
 

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