Australian rules football culture
Australian rules football has attracted more overall interest among Australians (as measured by the Sweeney Sports report) than any other football code, and, when compared with all sports throughout the nation, has consistently ranked first in the winter reports, and most recently third behind cricket and swimming in summer.
Women have been involved in Australian football since its inception, with many early match reports remarking on the equal representation of both sexes in the crowds.
Australian rules football is the most highly attended spectator sport in Australia: government figures show that more than 2.5 million people attended games in 2005–06. In 2007 (including finals matches), a cumulative 7,049,945 people attended Australian Football League premiership matches, a record for the competition. In 2005, a further 307,181 attended NAB Cup pre-season matches and 117,552 attended Regional Challenge pre-season practice matches around the country.
As of 2005 the AFL is one of only five professional sports leagues in the world with an average attendance above thirty thousand (the others are the NFL in the United States and Major League Baseball in the US and Canada, and the top division soccer leagues in Germany and England). In 2007, the average attendance of 38,113 made the AFL the second best attended domestic club league in the world, after only the NFL in the United States.
The Melbourne Cricket Ground is the largest stadium used for Australian rules football and the permanent home of the AFL Grand Final. It is one of the largest sporting stadiums in the world and was the venue for the record Australian rules football attendance of 121,696 at the 1970 VFL Grand Final, between Carlton and Collingwood – which game was also historic, in that it heralded the dawning of a new style of football – still largely in use today, wherein handballing was introduced more to commence the attack from the back line. Redevelopment since then to a mainly seated stadium has reduced the current capacity to approximately 100,000.
In addition to the national AFL competition, some semi-professional local leagues also draw significant crowds. Although crowds for state leagues have suffered in recent years, they continue to draw support, particularly for finals matches. The South Australian SANFL drew an attendance of 309,874 in 2006 and the Western Australian WAFL drew an official attendance of 207,154. Other leagues, such as the Victorian VFL Northern Territory Football League and most Suburban and Country Leagues also charge admission around the $5 to $10 mark, drawing reasonable crowds, although there is a lack of official crowd numbers.
The national AFL is the main league which is shown on television in Australia.
The 2005 AFL Grand Final was watched by a record television audience of more than 3.3 million people across Australia's five most populous cities—the five mainland state capitals—including 1.2 million in Melbourne and 991,000 in Sydney. In 2006, the national audience was 3.145 million, including 1.182 million in Melbourne and 759,000 in Sydney.
According to OzTAM, in recent years, the AFL Grand Final has reached the top five programs across the five biggest cities in 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2006. In 2007, it was No. 1 in metropolitan markets. Australian rules football has achieved a No. 1 rating in the sports category in both 2004 and 2005.
Some of the more popular regional leagues in Australia have the "match of the week" televised locally and free-to-air on ABC Television's respective state networks. The SANFL is the most popular of these regional competitions measuring a total of 1,415,000 television viewers in 2007.
Some of these regional leagues also attracted a national audience through free-to-air broadcasting on television networks such as ABC2. OzTAM began measuring these audiences in 2006. Despite a large number of complaints, ABC2 withdrew all of these broadcasts in early 2008. However, in 2010 the ABC began replaying these matches nationwide, online via the new ABC iView catch-up TV service. In 2012, the ABC commenced screening replays of the previous weekends VFL, SANFL, WAFL matches in the early hours of the morning during the week from 3.00 am – 5.30 am (local time in each state) nationwide on the ABC1 channel
Australian rules also has a nominal but growing international audience. Since 2005, some AFL matches have been shown in the pacific rim region for the first time through the Australia Network. The AFL Grand Final is broadcast to many countries and attracts many million viewers worldwide. This audience has grown to approximately 30 million viewers from 72 countries.
According to Roy Morgan Research, more Americans watch Australian Rules Football than Australians. A poll taken between April 2002 and March 2004 showed that 7,496,000 North Americans compared to 7,004,000 Australians watch Australian Rules Football at least occasionally on television.
The AFL website was the No. 1 most popular Hitwise Australian sports website in 2004, increasing in market share by 9.86% over that year. In 2006, other consistently high traffic websites in the Australian Top 20 included AFL Dream Team, (Trading Post) AFL Footy Tipping, BigFooty.com and Bomberland. In 2006, the search term 'afl' represented the highest number of search terms (2.48%) that delivered users to Hitwise sports category listed websites. Statistics show that Victorians consist of 43% of all visits to the AFL football category.
Player and spectator conduct
On-field assault has historically been socially tolerated in Australia, but, in recent years, this has changed with some players being charged by police for their on-field actions, including a recent jailing in Victoria and the much publicised case involving VFL player Leigh Matthews which ended the public perception that on-field football assaults are somehow legal. Overall violence has decreased over time.
Traditionally, umpires have worn white and were sometimes referred to as "white maggots" amongst supporters.
Incidents of vilification:
- Nicky Winmar reacted to overt racism from the crowd at Victoria Park, Melbourne, turning to face the offending segments of the crowd, lifted his Guernsey and defiantly pointed to his skin (at the end of a game between St Kilda Football Club and Collingwood Football Club). This act was captured in a series of famous photographs and led to far-reaching reform in the AFL in respect of racism in the game.
- Essendon Football Club champion Michael Long complained to the Australian Football League over an alleged racial vilification incident involving Collingwood Football Club's Damian Monkhorst which was the result of an extensive investigation throughout 1995.
- Sydney Swans player Robert AhMat was involved in an alleged racial vilification row with Essendon Football Club player Michael Prior.
- The Herald Sun launches a special investigation into racism in junior Aussie Rules, revealing several controversial incidents.
- Former Australian rules player Mal Brown apologises for referring to aboriginal Australian Football League players as "cannibals" and that he could not select Nicky Winmar or Michael Mitchell because "there were no lights" [at the poorly lit Whitten Oval] during a promotion for the E. J. Whitten Legends Game. The comments prompted AFL CEO Andrew Demetriou to express his disgust.
- Joel Wilkinson racially vilified in multiple incidents, including by Brisbane Lions player Justin Sherman and by a Collingwood supporter in June 2012.
- Majak Daw racially vilified by Port Melbourne spectators.
- Majak Daw, Daniel Wells and Lindsay Thomas allegedly racially vilified by spectators in a matches against Hawthorn and against the Western Bulldogs.
- Adam Goodes points to a little girl who was a Collingwood spectator in a match against Collingwood after an apparent "ape". The little girl later apologised to him.
- Video reveals Collingwood supporter racially vilifying both Adam Goodes and Lewis Jetta.
- Eddie McGuire apologises for "King Kong" gaffe in reference to Goodes.
For many years, the game of Australian rules football captured the imagination of Australian film, music, television and literature.
The Club, a critically acclaimed 1977 play by David Williamson, deals with the internal politics of a Melbourne football club steeped in tradition. The play was adapted as a film, directed by Bruce Beresford and starring Jack Thompson and Graham Kennedy, in 1980.
Many songs inspired by the game have become popular, none more so than the 1979 hit "Up There Cazaly", by Mike Brady. Brady followed the hit up with "One Day in September" in 1987. Both are frequently used in Grand Final celebrations.
- Richardson, N. (2011). "A National Game: The History of Australian Rules Football". The International Journal of the History of Sport.
- Klugman, M. (2012). "Gendered pleasures, power, limits, and suspicions: Exploring the subjectivities of female supporters of Australian rules football". Journal of Sport History: 415–429.
- Media Release, Sweeney Sport report for 2006–07
- "If you can kick it, Australia will watch it". The Sydney Morning Herald. 22 May 2003.
- Daffey, Paul (2 May 2004). "AFL gets in touch with its feminine side", The Age. Retrieved 19 December 2013.
- Sports Attendance, Australian Bureau of Statistics, January 2007.
- "AFL to start over Easter weekend". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 26 October 2007.
- Top 20 Programs – Ranking Report (E) 18–24 September, OzTam.
- Top 20 Programs – Ranking Report (E) 24 September – 30 September 2006
- SANFL Website
- ABC 'blackout' on Tiwi footy
- ABC responds to tidal wave of protest
- Grand final's free kick to economy a tough call
- Globalisation of Sport Report 2005 from roymorgan.com (Roy Morgan Single Source USA March 2003-Feb2004)
- Most Popular Australian websites for 2004 revealed from Hitwise
- Fast Mover – Kellogg's Nutri-Grain Dream Team
- Search Terms – Industry Search Term Report for Sports
- Victorians Still AFL's Biggest Fans Online
- Thompson, K.; Palmer, C.; Raven, M. (2011). "Drinkers, non‐drinkers and deferrers: Reconsidering the beer/footy couplet amongst Australian Rules football fans". The Australian Journal of Anthropology: 388–408.
- Palmer, C.; Thompson, K. (2007). "The Paradoxes of Football Spectatorship: On-Field and Online Expressions of Social Capital Among the" Grog Squad"". Sociology of Sport Journal.
- Footballer jailed for on-field assault
- Memories are made of this
- Violence in Sport: Some Theoretical and Practical Issues in the Australian Context from the Australian Institute of Criminology
- Footy moots 'white maggot' ban from news.com.au
- How footy jumper became a powerful symbol
- Century of sport racism Keith Suter From: The Daily Telegraph 9 January 2008
- How You Play The Game
- Racism and the Law in Australian Football
- Young players kick against race abuse
- "AFL figure sorry for 'cannibal' remark – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)". Abc.net.au. 17 June 2010. Retrieved 7 November 2012.
- "Relationship will stay strong: Mifsud". Afl.com.au. 17 June 2010. Retrieved 7 November 2012.
- Man banned from VFL after racial abuse; 6 June 2011
- Majak Daw allegedly subjected to racist abuse 13 May 2013
- "AFL: the ugly game of enlightened racism". The Age. Melbourne.
- "Video emerges of second Collingwood fan shouting racist abuse". The Sydney Morning Herald.
- "Gutted Adam Goodes still feeling bad after week of racial vilification, says brother". News Corp Australia Network. 31 May 2013.