Despite attendances dropping in A-League matches over the past few years, supporter numbers across the board have grown in the past 12 months, according to a recent Roy Morgan report.
“A-League clubs have enjoyed a substantial increase in support over the last year in line with the increases seen for other football codes such as the AFL and NRL,” Roy Morgan Industry Communications Director, Julian McCrann, stated.
“Over 3.6 million Australians now profess support for an A-League club, an increase of over 1 million (+38.3%) on a year ago.”
“As we have seen across other football codes the COVID-19 pandemic has forced many sports to be played in front of empty stadiums but live on TV to supporters stuck at home in the many lockdowns we have seen over the last 18 months around Australia.”
Sydney FC have the biggest supporter base with 640,000 fans according to the report, a 32% increase on last year’s numbers.
Melbourne Victory were also well placed on the supporter ladder, slightly behind Sydney with 632,000 fans, an increase of 46% on a year ago.
A-League Men’s champions Melbourne City and expansion side Macarthur FC also saw impressive numbers of increased support.
“Another big winner over the last year has been Melbourne City which won its first A-League Men Championship earlier this year after defeating Sydney FC in the Grand Final (between Melbourne’s fourth and fifth lockdowns) in late June,” McCrann said.
“Melbourne City’s support has increased by an impressive 50.9% on a year ago to 249,000 to have the highest support of any A-League Men expansion team.
“The newest club in the A-League Men, Macarthur FC, has had a successful first season in the league with a finals appearance, a victory in an Elimination Final, and a loss to eventual Champions Melbourne City in the semi-final.
“Not only has Macarthur FC performed strongly on the pitch but they have already attracted 84,000 supporters to rank in tenth place overall.”
Whilst all A-League sides saw an increase in supporters in 2021, Central Coast Mariners experienced the largest percentage rise from 2020 – with fan numbers growing by 90%.
In regards to television numbers, over 1.5 million Australians watch the A-League Men’s competition.
However, the report states that 3.5 million Australians watch any football match on television, including leagues such as the English Premier League or international tournaments such as the FIFA World Cup.
This represents a huge untapped audience of around 2 million Australians, something which should be capitalised on.
“Looking ahead, the challenge for the A-League will be to continue to grow the league in an increasingly competitive sporting market and find a way to connect with the millions of Australians who love their football but don’t presently engage with the A-League,” McCrann said.
“There are over 2 million Australians out there who watch high quality football competitions, such as the English Premier League, who are yet to become fans of the A-League. This at-hand market of 2 million Australians is a significant market for the A-League to target during the recovery from Covid-19.”
The Australian Professional Leagues (APL), the new body running the professional game in this country, have continually emphasised in their messaging that they want to target football fans of all types to engage with the local elite competition.
The organisation’s investment in a $30 million digital hub is set to play a big part in converting these fans into A-League supporters.
“It is the biggest single investment football has made in itself. It’s a $30 million investment into digital infrastructure and data infrastructure that will serve the football fan. It won’t be the home of Australian football; it will be Australia’s home of football,” Danny Townsend, Managing Director at the APL, recently told FNR.
“What it will deliver is content – audio-visual, editorial and everything else you need.
“Part of the reason we are doing that, and investing in what we are calling APL studios, is ensuring that by organising the football community in one place we are able to deliver the utility in their everyday lives and focus on how they choose to consume football. If you do that – they’ll keep coming back.
“You put great content in there, you serve it, and you will continue to understand that fan and all of their preferences.”