Variable ticket pricing, split rounds and runners in pink – The AFL Five

It’s been a big first three rounds of the AFL season so let’s get down to dissecting the really important stuff of the season so far in the  brand new segment – The AFL Five.


1. Split rounds

The AFL took head on the NRL and it’s early March start to the season and failed. The Foxtel only NAB challenge had generated a ‘massive’ (read: minimal) groundswell of enthusiasm for Round 1 except it finished a full 13 days before the first game. A round of practice matches ensued and then the season proper kicked off with 30,000 watching Collingwood v Fremantle at Etihad Stadium in the earliest start to a season since 2000. The AFL complained that the MCG was off limits, blaming cricket. Well, it’s not cricket’s fault that the MCG is not available for football, it’s because the AFL wanted to start their season during the cricket season that there is a problem. Anyway the split of 4 games one weekend and 5 the next did not appear popular with fans, as was pushing back the season opener of the past 7 seasons – Carlton v Richmond to Round 2. Never fear there are only 5 more weekends of split rounds this season. That’s right the 6-6-6 games in Rounds 8,9 and 10 then a split of  5-4 over two weekends for Round 18 after the AFL Players Association successfully campaigning for 2 byes per season. Split rounds and byes – they are increasing, get used to them!


2. Variable ticket pricing

Yep, this is a stinker of an idea designed purely to increase revenue from popular matches. How many more people are going to go to a Melbourne v Fremantle game because they could sit in a seat that normally costs $50 for the  general admission price of $25? Not many, if any. The real misnomer here is that the AFL are being generous to fans and giving them ‘discounted’ tickets. Well until the general admission price is lowered for some games (ie only $17.50 to come watch Melbourne slug it out with someone equally inept rather than the usual $25) then ‘variable ticket pricing’ is of no real benefit to the fans.

Variable ticket pricing is blamed as one of the factors that crowd numbers are down and it’s possibly true but the AFL won’t care as 60,000 paying on average $40 is better than 70,000 paying an average of $30. As in so many things in AFL cold hard cash is the answer.


3. Runners in pink

Yes AFL runners are now wearing pink and club trainers, water cariers, doctors and physios are wearing pink vests. The AFL has seen the light that dressing runners in orange when Gold Coast and GWS wear orange was not a good idea – only took them two seasons. Unfortunately the lovely baby blue colour the runners were decked out in some games last season is gone too. Bring on the pink. Also there is only one runner per club this season down from the previous two who could work as a tag team and amazingly after 3 rounds the sky is yet to fall in.


Mick Matlhouse about to blame the one runner system for Carlton's poor start to the season
Mick Matlhouse about to blame the one runner system for Carlton’s poor start to the season


4. Interchange cap

Another thing that astoundingly hasn’t caused the sky to fall in is the interchange cap. Yes, AFL clubs can only make 120 moves per interchange movements per game but it’s yet to cause a stir  – thank goodness. Players and coaches have managed to adapt – truly unbelievable. Just wait for the wailing and gnashing of teeth when the AFL decide they want to bring in the original limit they had in mind of 80. But why did the AFL introduce the interchange cap in the first place? Initially the AFL wanted to increase the speed of the game by allowing quick kick ins from full back, four boundary umpires, shorter time for players to kick the ball from a mark and various other rule changes to speed up the game. Ultimately through some space time continuum that hasn’t been discovered the AFL believed that speeding the game up in this way would actually slow it down – the sort of knee jerk, counter intuitive stuff the AFL Laws of the Game committee does best. Anyway surprisingly it didn’t work, or more accurately there was no way of measuring or determining if it had worked so the AFL changed tack and decided to slow the games down by restricting the interchange movements. The jury is out if this latest rule change has had any effect: positive, negative or otherwise.

AFL interchange - not complicated at all.
AFL interchange – not complicated at all.


5. The Quote

AFL fixturing is a contentious issue as seen this year with the early start and split round not being well received. It was good to see the AFL general manager of fixturing (yes, this is a real title), Simon Lethlean, get on the front foot early about what is happening with the 2015 fixture and the Cricket World Cup which runs until the end of March. Nothing would give the fans greater comfort than knowing that the AFL fixturing guru is aware that the cricket World Cup is happening next yearat  AFL venues and the complexities this poses in avoiding another dog’s breakfast meets mad woman’s shit that the start of this season has been. Nothing except perhaps if that fixturing boffin was a keen student of history. Unfortunately Lethlean is not, as quoted on the AFL website.

“It’s not as unusual as it sounds to have a Grand Final in October,” 
“I think we’ve had it during the Olympics and I think the Commonwealth Games as well.”


Recent October grand finals have included: 2011 (due to 17 teams taking 24 rounds to play 22 games), 2010 drawn Grand Final replay), 1994 (due to a 15 team competition) and 1990 (due to a draw in the Collingwood v West Coast final)
The Sydney Olympics caused the 2000 season to start on the first weekend in March and the Grand final was on September 2nd. Not even close, Simon, and in some miracle of ironman proportions the players played 22 games plus finals without a bye! Amazing, what a super human effort, yet just 14 years later players can’t go without 2 byes per season!

The 2006 Commonwealth Games affected the availability of the MCG for the first couple of rounds but didn’t alter the start or finish dates of the AFL season with the Grand Final on the last Saturday in September.

Nice work Simon, AFL fixturing is in safe hands. Perhaps the AFL should try researching before doing a puff piece on their own website.





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Ross Slater

Blogging about the important things - AFL and cricket

2 thoughts on “Variable ticket pricing, split rounds and runners in pink – The AFL Five”

  1. Good Work Rossco, I actually think the problems with crowds also goes back to the clubs, if memberships with reserved seats were a little more affordable more people would sign up and variable ticketing wouldn’t be an issue. For example in today’s paper Collingwood is offering a 3 game reserved seat membership for $195. It includes everyone’s favourite blockbuster ANZAC day, but the other 2 games are Adelaide & Brisbane so you are effectrively paying $150 (you would easily get General Admin ($25) to the other games) to go to ANZAC DAY, bit much.

    1. Hi Mick, Thanks for the feedback.

      Yes, I think membership costs could have a negative impact on crowds. $195 for a 3 game membership is very steep! I paid $170 for an 11 game Essendon membership in 2010 (not including Anzac Day). I didn’t renew my Essendon membership in 2012 when they moved to a model where all memberships had a reseved seat for every game. For example I wouldn’t be able to use my membership to sit with Geelong supporting friends if I went to Essendon v Geelong. Instead I’d have to buy another seat and my reserved seat would be empty.

      Money grabbing like this by clubs certainly affects crowd number. I saw a 3 game Essendon membership is now $75 (it was previously $80) but it now has the added bonus of you have to pay a booking fee of $8.50 for each of the 3 games you choose to attend (excluding Dreamtime) so the real cost is $100.50.

      Booking fees are bunk now that tickets are booked online and you print your own tickets. Ticket agencies are the new banks with their outlandish fees and charges. Time to lobby the government to legislate against ticket booking fees and charges. Their anti ticket scalping laws have worked so well….

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