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AFL fans the focus of new research

AFL fans the focus of new research
February 11, 2010

The impact of the new Gold Coast AFL team on community engagement and fan development will be studied by Griffith University and partner organisations in landmark research that will be the first international study of its kind.

The five year project, beginning this year, will study two new AFL teams, including one on the Gold Coast, with funding from the Australian Research Council (ARC) and the AFL.

Chief investigator and sports marketing expert Professor Dan Funk from Griffith University's Department of Tourism, Leisure, Hotel and Sport Management said they will work with the new clubs to look at how they develop their fan base, promotional strategies and grass roots approaches.

Professor Funk explained "we'll look at ways to get more people involved with the club, not just tickets and merchandise, but other ways to get engaged such as a ticketing system that allows people to buy different packages or a ‘buy back’ ticket program if a fan can't make it to a match.

"Of course online merchandising is also critical for any club."

The researchers will create large panels of data, including 50,000 people involved in public opinion surveys.

"We'll survey non-fans and fans locally around the new club areas and track people for three years and gauge the change in their attitude and behaviours.

"It's the first international attempt, with government and industry, to look at the impact of a new team on community and fans."

"By the second and third year of the study, we'll start to work with the AFL to develop promotional strategies and work with them on commercial and community initiatives.

"More broadly, this type of research can be applied to other commercial professional sports."

Professor Funk said the AFL targeted causes and groups such as at risk youth, the under privileged, increasing active life styles and a number of areas to improve their corporate citizenship and build the brand.

Within two years, the AFL will have more than 30 full time employees on the Gold Coast.

"New professional sporting teams are costly, often requiring substantial infrastructural support and government subsidies.

"This study will clarify the benefits gained in terms of the fan base they will stimulate as well as the well-being of the communities they enter, and identify ways to maximise both outcomes.

"This knowledge will increase the likelihood of AFL survival in a highly competitive global industry, and ensure governments and communities receive the best return for their investment in the new teams.

"In an effort to stimulate interest and participation, professional sports codes have introduced new teams into areas promising growth.

"Governments have often supported these developmental efforts and the costly infrastructure and promotion they require, in the expectation of significant community benefits.

"This study is the first comprehensive examination of the relationship between the introduction of new professional teams and the impact those teams have on individual fan development and overall community well-being.

"The introduction of two new AFL teams in non-traditional markets – Gold Coast and western Sydney - over the next five years provides a rare opportunity for the longitudinal study needed to refine theory and improve stakeholder decision-making and benefit."

The funding includes $397,000 from the ARC plus contributions from the AFL and it will include a three year PhD scholarship, based at Griffith University.

The two other chief investigators on the project are Associate Professor Heath J McDonald of Deakin University and Professor Simon J Bell from the University of Melbourne. 


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