Analysis Our Mid-Season Break

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agmsy

Team Captain
Sep 28, 2014
402
1,181
AFL Club
Port Adelaide
This is something I've been thinking about for a while, but which I also consistently forget to mention in member feedback surveys. Our mid-season break is very long, and getting longer. I'm talking specifically about the break imposed on fans, and more specifically about the average 11-game member, upon whose subscription and attendance the club lives or dies.

The standard H&A season comprises 11 home games, 11 away games, and one bye. For us, that's 11 home games at AO (plus an away Showdown at AO, but most 11-game members don't have, and many don't want, access to that game). Let's define a Round Gap as the number of rounds between games played. For example, if you play a home game in round 4 and your next home game in round 5, that's a Round Gap of 1 week. You can also measure Round Gaps across seasons; if you play a home game in round 22 and your next home game in round 2, that's a Round Gap of 3 weeks. Playing a constant 11 home games over 23 rounds yields an average Round Gap of 2.091 weeks. If we played every second game at AO, that'd be 10 Round Gaps of 2 weeks and one Round Gap of 3 weeks.

Since 2017, there's been an added wrinkle in our schedule, because of the Shanghai game. We ask to have our bye round immediately following the Shanghai game, but there's no reason this should complicate things too much. Play at home the week before Shanghai, then away in Shanghai, have our bye, and then back at home the week after that. That yields a Round Gap of 3 weeks. At best, we should be able to play every second game at AO. At worst, the AFL might have to arrange our fixture so we have two Round Gaps of 3 weeks, and one Round Gap of 1 week (back-to-back home games).

But this isn't what we've been getting:
  • 2014: We never had a Round Gap of more than 2 weeks. We played every second game at AO, with, effectively, back-to-back home games around our bye in Round 9.
  • 2015: Inexplicably, we had a Round Gap of 4 weeks in the middle of the season. We played Geelong at AO in Round 11, and Collingwood at AO in Round 15. 27 days between home games, despite there being o Shanghai game to “complicate” our fixture.
  • 2016: We had consecutive Round Gaps of 3 weeks in the middle of the season. West Coast at AO in Round 9. Footscray at AO in Round 12, and Richmond at AO in Round 15. 21 and 20 days between home games, respectively, or just one home game in the 40 calendar days between May 22 and June 30 (inclusive).
  • 2017: We had a Round Gap of 4 weeks in the middle of the season. West Coast at AO in Round 7, and Hawthorn at AO in Round 11. 26 days between home games, and just one home game in the 41 calendar days between May 7 and June 17 (inclusive).
  • 2018: We had a Round Gap of 4 weeks in the middle of the season. Adelaide at AO in Round 8, and Richmond at AO in Round 12. 27 days between home games, and just one home game in the 47 calendar days between April 22 and June 7 (inclusive).
  • 2019: We had a Round Gap of 5 weeks in the middle of the season. Gold Coast at AO in Round 9, and Geelong at AO in Round 14. 34 days between home games, and just one home game in the 41 calendar days between May 12 and June 21 (inclusive).
  • 2020: We'll have a Round Gap of 5 weeks in the middle of the season. Brisbane at AO in Round 9, and Geelong at AO in Round 14. 36 days between home games, and just one home game in the 48 calendar days between May 3 and June 19 (inclusive).
There's a clear association between our big mid-season break and falling crowd numbers, too:
  • 2014: No significant mid-season break and no significant dip in home attendance. You can even see crowd numbers surge as we approach the finals.
  • 2015: Average home attendance before the break (Rounds 2-11) is 44,934. Average home attendance after the break (Rounds 15-23) is 40,870. The crowd drops by 4,064, even with home games against Adelaide and Collingwood after the break.
  • 2016: Average home attendance before the break (Rounds 1-12) is 40,146. Average home attendance after the break (Rounds 15-22) is 38,355. The crowd drops by 1,791, even with home games against Adelaide and Hawthorn after the break.
  • 2017: Average home attendance before the break (Rounds 2-7) is 43,385. Average home attendance after the break (Rounds 11-23) is 35,136. The crowd drops by 8,248, and we don't crack 40,000 after the break, even as we approach finals.
  • 2018: Average home attendance before the break (Rounds 1-8) is 42,757. Average home attendance after the break (Rounds 12-23) is 35,639. The crowd drops by 7,118.
  • 2019: Average home attendance before the break (Rounds 2-9) is 38,464. Average home attendance after the break (Rounds 14-23) is 30,188. The crowd drops by 8,275.
Doubtless, there are other factors that contribute to that drop, but I wouldn't be surprised if the mid-season break has some impact.

So, why do we have it? We're giving people the opportunity to form the habit of not going to the footy every other week, and not everyone is able to break that habit. This is especially dangerous when you couple a big-break with chest-beating about 11-4, or a membership in near open revolt over co-captains and other issues of club tradition and identity.

Your experience may differ, but, for me, it kills momentum in the middle of the season. Every year starts with promise and optimism (less so under our current dud coach). That big break feels like starting the season anew, except with the risk that pre-break performances and setbacks may have significantly diminished any promise the season once held. I still go to every game, but I can understand why some might stop turning up.

If we're requesting a big mid-season break when the AFL devises the fixture, I think we need to stop. Moreover, I think we need to start specifically requesting not to have a big mid-season break.

Nothing's going to fully restore the novelty value of footy at AO in 2014-15, and nothing short of sacking Hinkley is going to restore faith in our football program, but, if we can take other steps to try and shore up our attendance and finances, we must. Fixing our mid-season break feels like one of those steps.
 

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