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Record ticket sales and membership figures drive strong AFL 2023 financial result

Record ticket sales and membership figures drive strong AFL 2023 financial result
February 13, 2024

The AFL improved its financial performance in 2023 with operating surplus at $27.7 million, up $7 million from the previous year - representing a record year across all major metrics

Today forwarding its 2023 financial results to the presidents and chairs of its 18 clubs, in the lead-up to next month’s Annual General Meeting, the League reported an underlying operating surplus of $27.7 million in 2023, with a large part of the surplus attributed to new attendance records being set.

The all-time AFL attendance record was broken in 2023 with 7,475,145 fans during the 2023 Premiership season. This was 523,841 more than the previous record of 6,951,304 set in 2019, as the average crowd per round sat at 311,464 for last year.

The season also saw five matches with more than 85,000 fans attending and nine fixtures attracting at least 80,000 spectators - with the AFL’s first gather round thought to have contributed to the record figures.

AFL club membership also reached new heights as an all-time record of 1,264,952 signed up - a 6.2% increase on the previous record of 1,190,671 from 2022.

In his review of the year, AFL Commission Chair, Richard Goyder advised that the 2023 “AFL season was nothing short of remarkable, both in the quality of the football played on the ground and in the support of it, and the incredible momentum built through the year culminated in one of the greatest premiership seasons and final series the game has seen.

“The same was true of our AFLW season where the football was the best we have witnessed with an amazing finals series that enthralled all and we are committed to working with the AFLPA and players and clubs to continue to expand the numbers of those watching and attending.

“The inaugural Gather Round was a highlight and was the best of our game on so many levels and the interest in the round this year - and booming ticket sales - demonstrates how much fans and football families are looking forward to returning to South Australia in April to share in the experience again.

“This year we saw the announcement of a new team for Tasmania, and a new and historic joint Collective Bargaining agreement with the players which saw, for the first time, both the AFL and AFLW players part of a joint agreement. AFLW players received an additional 29% uplift on top of the 94% jump in 2022 and all AFL players a 10% uplift.

“We also achieved a record number of participants, off the back of the Commission’s 2022 commitment to enshrine at least 10% of all football revenue to invest back into game development and community football - a move that acknowledged the importance the grassroots level powered by the tens of thousands of volunteers have on not only the success of the elite game but the ability to bring communities together and provide a sense of belonging. Almost $90 million was spent on Game Development initiatives in 2023 - up by nearly $29 million.

“I want to thank the boards and staff of the 18 clubs, our players, umpires and our own AFL Executive and team, for the work they did, and the decisions they made, to ensure football prospered around the country, and the game remained accessible and affordable to all at a time when cost of living pressures increased.

“Most of all, I want to thank our members and supporters for their passion and commitment to their clubs and everyone who watched the games and supported us collectively across both the NAB AFL Women’s Competition and the Toyota AFL Premiership Season.”

AFL Chief Financial Officer Matthew Chun said the financial results were a testament to the planning and discipline of the industry, adding “as an industry, we have worked hard to recover from the covid years and rebuild the revenue base to ensure a surplus while at the same time increasing distributions to clubs, players, investment in game development and the running of AFLW.

“Our cash position was significantly boosted by the final instalment of the $225 million (Victorian) Government grant for the Marvel Stadium redevelopment which was completed at the end of 2023 and will provide ongoing benefits and opportunities for the tenant clubs, our fans, the wider AFL industry and the Victorian community.”

Player and Staff Payments
However, the AFL’s cash balance at the end of the financial year decreased from $178.2 million to $164 million due to increased player payments.

The number of AFL players in the top pay bracket more than doubled last year with a record 19 earning more than $1 million.

Total player payments have grown by more than $100 million in the last decade, going from $181.5 million to $280.8 million.

The total payments to AFL Executives equated to $13.6 million, compared to $11.8 million in 2022. This figure accounts for the change in executive structure and transition costs associated with the departure of former Chief Executive Gillon McLachlan on 2nd October last year, after 23 years at the AFL, and the appointment of his successor Andrew Dillon on 1st May 2023.

Key AFL financial summary
The AFL’s operating revenue increased by $104.5 million due to a combination of improved commercial returns from Marvel Stadium and commercial partnerships, the introduction of Gather Round and contractual increases in broadcast revenue.

This revenue was used to fund the following investments:

  • $393.8 million to AFL clubs (up from $337.5 million in 2022)
  • $89.7million to Game Development (up from $60.8 million);
  • $57.2 million in running the AFLW competition (up from $45.3 million);
  • $41.5 million to the AFLPA (up from $27.1 million);
  • $14.4 million to infrastructure comprising of elite and community facilities and contributions for stadia redevelopments (down from $17.4 million); and
  • $0.9 million to corporate and social responsibility initiatives (up from $0.7 million).

The financial result includes the AFL’s controlled state subsidiaries, Marvel Stadium and Champion Data.

Images: Collingwood fans during a night game at the MCG in 2023 (top) and the Magpies secure the 2023 Premiership (below). Credit: AFL Photos.

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11th January 2024 - Victorian Government and AFL partner to revitalise Dockland site and enhance Marvel Stadium

10th January 2024 - Australian Open tops AFL and Boxing Day Test as corporate crowd-puller

17th December 2023 - AFL’s Melbourne Demons investigate move to Caulfield Racecourse

7th December 2023 - Fanatics signs partnership with AFL’s Essendon Football Club

16th November 2023 - AFL innovates with 2024 fixtures

13th November 2023 - Northern Territory Government and AFL agree to three games for next three years

3rd November 2023 - Greg Madigan appointed as new Head of AFL Victoria

2nd November 2023 - AFL to enhance match day in-stadium experiences in new deal with TGI Sport

25th September 2023 - Calls for changes over AFL Grand Final ticket allocations as Collingwood and Brisbane Lions fans miss out

23rd September 2023 - Brisbane’s NRL and AFL Preliminary Finals anticipated to generate $10 million for local economy

14th September 2023 - Board announced for Tasmania’s AFL and AFLW team

28th August 2023 - AFL appoints Laura Kane as new Executive General Manager of Football

5th August 2023 - AFL fines Port Adelaide $100,000 over concussion breach

2nd August 2023 - AFLW secures extended sponsorship from resources giant BHP

31st July 2023 - AFL’s Carlton FC secures new five-year partnership with La Trobe University

8th July 2023 - Inaugural Chair announced for Tasmania’s AFL Club

20th May 2023 - AFL Chief Executive warns Tasmanian objectors ‘no expansion team without new Hobart Stadium’

3rd May 2023 - Gillon McLachlan confirms entry of Tasmanian teams into AFL and AFLW competitions

2nd May 2023 - AFL Club Presidents unanimously approve 19th team licence for Tasmania

2nd May 2023 - James Ellender moves from ActiveXchange to Head AFL’s Western Sydney Expansion Hub

1st May 2023 - AFL announces Andrew Dillon as successor for Gillon McLachlan as Chief Executive

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