Good post. Some good arguments proposed throughout. In particular, noting the ‘bandwagon’ effect to truly ascertain a Clubs baseline support.Perhaps read my post again.
I am saying that the supporter base is those who nominally support a certain team, including passive supporters. Memberships and crowds increase when those people start to actively support their team. For example in 2017, Richmond scarves started appearing on people who I never knew had a team. Parents at school, etc who said ‘my dad followed Richmond’. Hey presto next season the kids are wearing Richmond jumpers and they are buying memberships. Now they are actively involved compared to possible being embarrassed to be a Tiger fan the previous 10 - 20 years. The Tiger fans who remained involved in the 90s and early 2000s are diehard. The 40k who joined in 2017 - 19 are obviously not. Those 40k may well become diehards, but some will jump off the bandwagon when the premiership window closes.
North Melbourne would have the most diehard supporter base. But it is small and there are not enough passive fans to jump on the bandwagon. Even if they won 3/4 flags, they still could not get to 80k. Same with Bulldogs. Already maxed out, only a small bump even after 2016.
I work in a job where I meet a lot of people, all over Melbourne. I have also been involved in junior footy and Auskick across Melbourne. Combining this, with other metrics mentioned, and giving a score out of 100 using the biggest supporter base as 100, this is my list
Cats 60 (adding in Geelong)
If you went back 50 years this list would be the same, except for swapping Dees and Hawks. It takes 50 years of rediculous success, for extreme failure to change the underlying support base significantly. People in Melbourne simply don’t change teams easily, and most immigration the since the 1980s has been from China and India with very little interest in footy so this is why the number don’t change much.
As you mention, supporter bases appear to surge or decline as their on field performances rise and fall. However, baseline support isn’t necessarily analysed accurately by taking aggregate attendances or membership figures at a point in time, in absolute terms. Even more so when comparing clubs over a period where on field form varied considerably or not noting limiting factors that tell the real story like stadium constraints and capacity differences.
That’s why I hold some real value in some of those broader and wider surveys of active support of AFL like Dreamteam or that SuperCoach breakdown. They tend to be markers of national team alignment that isn’t as impacted by whether a team has won 3 recent premierships of in my mobs case, not won a single final in 18 (yes, 18!!) years.
Every club can point to a layer of stats to justify their place in the pecking order. In my teams case, having 80,000 members on its books without winning a final in 18 years stands up well against any metric any fan of another club can post in a relative sense.
I also admire St Kilda having over 57,000 members given their relative on field failure the last decade.
I agree the Kangaroos rusted on support appears unrivalled. However I would mention that Clubs who’ve spent decades just keeping their heads above water tend the have a higher proportion of members / supporter base size because they’ve been implored to do so to safeguard the survival of their Club.
I think you’ve got the pecking order in Victoria almost entirely accurate, with sound rationale. Well done