Bendy Crowd Statistics

People just love to go to the footy, support their team, vent their spleen, and become one with the action on the field for a couple of hours a week, much like WEG’s depiction below. And attendances at AFL matches are at an all time high. Though the figure dipped slightly the past two years with new franchises the Suns and Giants, this was to be expected. Add to that the large sections of redevelopment occurring at the SCG and Kardinia Park, and the dip in attendances is merely a blip on the radar.

In the year 1980, with football yet to go national, the total attendance figure for VFL home and away matches was 3,280,129. From 2005 to 2012, it hasn’t been below 6 million, meaning in effect, league attendances have doubled with the introduction of the national competition. Case closed, Australian Football goes from strength to strength, and they all lived happily ever after. The end.

…Oh, you’re still reading? Well perhaps that’s not exactly right. There are a few questions now you mention it. Is the AFL (that’s the Australian Football League, not a reference to the sport; Australian Football) more popular than it’s ever been as the attendance figures suggest? Is the AFL an ever expanding juggernaut which will never stop? And just how accurate are these figures? Can they be bent to appear more impressive than they actually are?

Let’s look at some obvious differences between the years 1980 and 2012, and how they may have impacted the attendances.

WEG Footy crowd

-In 1980, games were played simultaneously on Saturday afternoon at two o’clock. If you wanted a second footy fix in 1980 then it was to the VFA on a Sunday! Come 2012 and it is rare to have any matches played at the same time, with Friday night, Saturday arvo, Saturday twilight, Saturday night, Sunday early, Sunday arvo and Sunday twilight filling each round. The point? You can attend 2, 3 or even 4 matches a week if you’re particularly keen.

-Round 1,1980. The previous years grand finalists, Collingwood and Carlton, were matched in a blockbuster fixture. However only 29,593 could cram into Victoria Park. The return match saw 43,903 shoehorned into Carlton, giving the fierce rivals an aggregate of attendance of 73,596 for the year. Fast-forward to 2012 and the two clubs boasted crowds of 84,259 and 75,890. The moral? In 1980, Collingwood, Carlton and Essendon played at suburban grounds, severely limiting their attendance figures. In 2012, more people can go. Simple. Crowd figures are becoming bendier!

Now we get serious…or silly, I’m not quite sure. There’s no doubting that footy now has a presence in rugby league strongholds NSW and Queensland that could only be dreamed of in 1980. Weekly footy, multiple premierships to Brisbane and Sydney with state of the art stadia. But what about the traditional footy states-Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania? Sure, attendances in the Apple Isle have risen 100% since 1980, but that’s yet another bendy stat.


Top level footy in the SANFL, WAFL and VFL brought plenty of people through the gates! Left to right, Sturt’s Rick Davies, Claremont’s Warren Ralph, and Footscray fans, I might need your help with these two!

In 1980, the top level of footy you could watch in South Australia and Perth respectively were the SANFL and the WAFL. In Victoria of course it was the VFL, precursor to the AFL. The average attendance figure for a weekend of SANFL matches in 1980 was 40,928. The WAFL, 37, 356 and the VFL 149,096. Combined, the three states on average attracted 227,380 per week.

Fast forward to 2012, and South Australia’s average weekly AFL attendance is 28,369. In Western Australia it is 35,516. Only Victoria has seen an increase to the weekly attendance of top flight footy, now averaging 171,836 patrons.

Interestingly, the weekly average attendance in 1980 for the three states combined, 227,380, has risen only slightly in 2012 to 235,721 patrons weekly. The table below will hopefully shed some more light! Suffice to say, perhaps the current figures aren’t as healthy and as amazing as they seem.


But let’s take things up a notch and get a little crazy! In 1980, Perth’s population was 898,000. With 37,456 on average attending the WAFL weekly, this meant that 4.17% of Perth’s population was heading to the footy. Perth now has 1,832,114 people, meaning that with an average of 35,516 attending AFL matches weekly, just 1.93% of Perth residents attend top level footy weekly.

Adelaide’s population in 1980 was 943,000, meaning that 4.34% of Adeladians went to the footy of a weekend. With the population now sitting at 1,262,940, just 2.24% of Adelaide’s population attends the AFL weekly. Finally Victoria. 1980 population was 2,806,000, and 5.31% of the population would attend the top level footy on a weekend. In 2011 it sits at 4.12%, still a large number, yet still a lower percentage.

So the three strongest footy states in Australia combined saw 4.8% of their combined population going to the footy in 1980, and just 3.24 in 2012? Where’s the growth? What happened to the record attendances the AFL often beat their chests about?


For some longer term perspective, 1965, a momentous year for Australian Football, saw just 2,458,697 through the gates in Victoria for home and away matches. But with just 18 rounds played, it still saw 141,594 Melbournians attend the VFL weekly, and with the population sitting at 2,068,000, this meatn that nearly 7% of the population were at the footy on a Saturday! (6.84%).

Even further back to 1924, a year before the VFL’s expansion from 9 to 12 teams, and the VFL, with just 4 games a weekend, still averaged 81,974 patrons each round. The population of 800,000 meant that a whopping 10.24% of Melbournians attended the VFL weekly, a most remarkable figure. I’d go back further except that reliable records have not been kept prior to 1921.

Ok, so I’m going way over the top and am now bending stats to say just what I want, but that’s the point of this piece, to show that figures can be manipulated to say what you need them to say. The AFL themselves have said on numerous occasions that they fixture games to maximise attendances, and I’m not saying this is a bad thing (unless it compromises a fair fixture.) But it should be taken into consideration when we hear that the game is more popular than ever due to record attendances.

(The author does still acknowledge that AFL crowds are somewhat a phenomenon when compared world wide)

With a little help from my friends – Image of Rick Davies from bigfooty, while images of Claremont and Footscray games from ‘The Australian Game of Football-since 1858’

And as per usual, thanks to for your comprehensive VFL/AFL stats!


Adelaide v The Eagles


West Coast and Adelaide are often lumped together. Both teams represent their state’s local leagues, the WAFL and the SANFL, and are considered the ‘big brother’ of their respective cross town rivals, Fremantle and Port Adelaide. Both also enjoyed early success, prising away two flags each from a bitter Victorian landscape during the 1990’s.

Why is it then that I consider Adelaide a bona fide footy club, and the Eagles still as a franchise, a bit plastic? I was only 6 when they entered the competition so I’ve grown up with them, but there’s something not quite right for me.

So what’s in a name?

Let’s start with Adelaide. It is what it is, it represents the town of….Adelaide! The previous incarnation of the Adelaide Football Club disbanded in 1893 and is in no way connected to the current day club, which meant that upon entrance to the AFL in 1991, their was no hesitation in simply calling the club Adelaide.

West Coast on the other hand is to me a vague choice of name to represent a Perth based club. In their defence, the name Perth Football Club was already taken, the Perth Demons being a member of the WAFL. However, the ‘West Coast’ of Australia represents a landmass four to five times larger larger the United Kingdom, and as all landmasses possess a west coast, to me the name is generic and far from inspiring.

Think I’m being harsh? Consider the words of respected footy commentator and proud West Australian Dennis Cometti. He describes the “dumb name” as “American crapola!” The usually affable Cometti continued “It’s a real blight on the competition.”

Cometti coaching WAFL side West Perth, who he also played with. Image from-

Part of Cometti’s reasoning is a lack of a geographical focus. “I have struck many people who I have met overseas who follow Australian rules who ask me where West Coast is located. They ask me how far from Melbourne is it.” The Perth Eagles is Cometti’s preferred choice.

While the name ‘Perth’ was out of reach, perhaps something such as ‘Greater Perth’ could have worked. That’s what marketing and branding people are out there for. ‘West Coast’ seems a poor choice.

Nicknames and Monikers

The Eagles. Easy listening pop-rock music, from the West Coast of the USA. That’s right, ‘West Coast Eagles’ conjures up images of harmonic pop melodies, sweetly sung by hairy, good natured ‘boy next door’ types. It hardly sounds befitting of a hard and tough football team, which is what West Coast have been for the majority of their existence.

The Eagles from the US West Coast. Perhaps Eagle Ben Cousins modelled his open shirt look from the bloke on the left? Image from-

But what should a team from Perth have been called? Like the Perth name was taken, so was the obvious W.A football name of Swans; snatched by South Melbourne after an influx of West Australian recruits many years ago. The state team was also known as the ‘Sandgropers,’ a colloquial term for West Australians. However ‘Greater Perth Gropers’ would struggle to secure the sponsorship dollars needed to run a football club. I don’t have the answer, but ‘West Coast’ with ‘Eagles’ is too American.

Compare this with Adelaide’s moniker, the Crows. This is no throw-away nickname, instead it is steeped in more history than most. South Australia’s state football team has been long known as the Croweaters, a unique name which started out as a term of ridicule. It can be traced back to 1851, seven years before the recognised ‘beginnings’ of our national game began fragmenting themselves together.

As the South Australians rushed to the Victorian gold fields they began to run low on food, so out of necessity, “killed, cooked and ate some crows.” Arriving at the gold fields in a “very hard up state” and after relating their experiences, they were soon dubbed the ‘croweaters.’ The name stuck.

So whilst ‘Crow-eaters’ and ‘Crows’ confusingly brings up thoughts of cannibalism, this too adds to their footy club culture, as all the old clubs have the ability to ‘eat their own’ in times of trouble.

The Jumper

We now turn our attention the two teams guernsey designs. This is important to me. If the jumper is right, I can turn a blind eye to other aspects. When West Coast and the Brisbane Bears entered the VFL competition in 1987, they brought with them two jumpers which challenged the definition of a ‘footy jumper.’

The original 1987 Brisbane and West Coast jumpers, along with the WA state jumper. Upon putting these together I noticed that perhaps a picture of a bird in the middle of the guernsey was possibly a shout out to tradition.

The first thing to notice is that there was far more yellow than had been used in the VFL to that point . But for me this worked, as yellow seemed a colour representative of far warmer climates than the Melbourne competition they were joining. West Australia’s state team had a predominately yellow jumper, and this provided a nice link.

Anthony Costa, whose site looks at sporting logos, branding and uniforms amongst other things, also prefers the “gold jumper, which for me is the club’s most distinctive onfield look. There’s a lot of blue and dark sombre colours in the AFL… reckon this jumper would really light things up.”

West Coast reversed the colours in 1988, the colour blue becoming the more dominant, though many shades of blue have since been used. I found and continue to find the Eagles jumper a tad fiddley, with both the writing and the picture being rather non-descript when viewed from any distance past ten metres, though the word Eagles is long gone. The guernsey has never felt settled and is often tinkered with. I am still unclear which is their ‘official’ jumper. 

Adelaide on the other hand have ticked ‘all the boxes’ as the clichéd footy saying goes. Their colours, red, blue and yellow are those of their states football team. Their design is simple and striking, like a Geelong jumper on an acid trip.

South Australia’s jumper left, Adelaide jumper right.

A look through Adelaide’s home jumpers from 1991 to today shows the most minor of tinkering, which would indicate that they have got it right. No fancy pictures, words or designs, which incidentally are impossible to see as a player is chasing the pigskin in the distance. Just simple, bold colours and patterns.

To illustrate my point, the past few years have seen Port Adelaide, Fremantle and Footscray all simplify their jumpers, removing all imagery, to near-universal praise. Port Adelaide’s current jumper was even designed by a 7 year old fan. Consider all the money wasted on professional advice from marketing and design companies!

Club Song

This is my final point. As a a musician, I can’t help but see this as integral to the fabric and culture of a club. I’ll kick this section off with a tweet I came across after West Coast’s recent thrilling victory over Hawthorn.

Simple statement. True statement. West Coast’s ‘modern’ rock-pop themesong severely lacks the punch and heart thumping pride found in old fashioned brass band music. It sounds corny, but it’s amazing what can happen when you mix a tuba, trombone and banjo with a barbershop quartet on heat! The rock beat which sits behind West Coast’s song also sucks the number dry of emotion and feeling.

*click* West Coast’s themesong (Warning! Contains mediocre footy song!)

While Adelaide’s song is far from the best in the league, again you get the sense that they have aimed for the type of song which blokes can sing together post-match, a cappella. They have the right idea, I’m just not sure about the execution. But it has the desired effect as the Adelaide players congregate post-victory. I think I can even hear the Coodabeens South Aussie representative Greg Champion’s voice in there!

*click* Adelaide’s themesong (Warning! Contains MIDI instruments)

Final thoughts

When it comes to club image, marketing and all that jargon, the Crows have just kept it simple and rooted in the past. And just think, anything fancy wouldn’t have matched the heads of McDermott, Weideman, Maynard, Rhenn or Riccoutiou!

West Coast on other hand were and are a slick, professional outfit. Business like and clean cut, seemingly an emotionless machine. Much of that could have been due to coach Mick Malthouse’s approach and demeanor at the time. But just think of McKenna, Worsfold, Pyke and co…. they would have looked just as comfortable on the footy field as they would have in business suits.

Sure, West Coast had the rough heads of Gastev and Ishchenko run around, while the Crows had glamour boy Modra and the clean-cut Tyson Edwards, but these are the exceptions rather than the rule.

Perhaps the ‘American’ West Coast image suits this club? Perhaps it was what the Eagles founders saw as their aim? But I don’t think so. Think of Worsfold’s toughness, the skill of Matera, Dean Kemp and Guy McKenna’s courage, Ashley McIntosh throwing his light frame around with little regard for himself. What of the toughness of the pint-sized Daniel Kerr, the gut-running of Cousins and Judd, the fear Beau Waters instils in opponents. A team renowned for their miserly defence and toughness.

West Coast Eagle fans, you deserve better. Your club’s image does not match the reality of your club, whilst the Crows, love them or hate them, would appear to have done things well.

What’s your take? I would love to hear from Eagles and Crow fans alike!

With a little help from my friends…

-Click here for more of Anthony Costa’s thoughts on the West Coast logo

-All jumper images were found at For a comprehensive look at VFL-AFL and state jumpers, this website will not leave you disappointed!

Cometti’s comments were courtesy of

And the Crow-eaters history lesson was found here-