Study: Sydney Swans Most Supported AFL Team (As Melbourne Tops For NRL Supporters)

Study: Sydney Swans Most Supported AFL Team (As Melbourne Tops For NRL Supporters)
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In one of Australian sport’s greater ironies, new research has found that the Sydney Swans are the most supported AFL team in the country while a similar study named the Melbourne Storm as the NRL’s most popular team.

The Swans have again topped the annual Roy Morgan AFL supporter ladder as the only club with over 1 million supporters. The Swans now have 1,120,000 supporters, an increase of 91,000 supporters (+8.8 per cent) on a year ago according to the 2022 annual Roy Morgan AFL club supporters survey.

The most widely supported club in the Victorian heartland played in a thriller over the weekend with Collingwood’s 735,000 supporters enough for second spot overall. The Pies are just ahead of the club that beat them in the 2018 Grand Final, the West Coast Eagles, in third spot with 707,000 supporters. Despite their high rankings both of these clubs lost support over the last year.

A majority of 10 of the AFL’s 18 clubs experienced an increase in support over the last year with the largest increases for the two Grand Finalists in 2021. Premier Melbourne increased their support by 42,000 (+15.5 per cent) to 313,000 and runner-up the Western Bulldogs had the largest increase in support, up 78,000 (+30 per cent), to 338,000. The Bulldogs last won a Premiership six years ago in 2016.

Two other finalists experienced an increase in support over the last year including Preliminary Finalists Geelong, up 49,000 (+9.1 per cent) to 589,000 and fellow finalists Essendon, up 31,000 (+4.7 per cent) to 694,000.

Other clubs to increase their support included St. Kilda, up 36,000 (+10.9 per cent) to 366,000, Adelaide Crows, up 25,000 (+3.8 per cent) to 678,000, Fremantle, up 21,000 (+6.3 per cent) to 355,000, North Melbourne, up 2,000 (+one per cent) to 204,000 and the Gold Coast Suns, up 10,000 (+9.1 per cent) to 120,000.

Over 8.9 million Australians now support an AFL club, up over 270,000 on a year ago

Although the COVID-19 pandemic has played havoc with the AFL competition during the last two years of 2020-21, there are now more people than ever before, 8,903,000, expressing support for an AFL club, an increase of 271,000 (+3.1 per cent) on a year ago. In addition, there are 7,743,000 Australians who watched an AFL match on TV, up 176,000 (+2.3 per cent) on a year ago.

Julian McCrann, industry communications director, Roy Morgan, said the AFL has emerged from the challenges of the last two years with record high support and for the 17th straight year it is the Sydney Swans on top with more supporters than any other club: “Despite the huge disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic the AFL industry is in ‘good health’ with a record of over 8.9 million Australians reporting they support one of the 18 AFL clubs – and increase of 271,000 (+3.1 per cent) on a year ago.

“The increase in overall support for the code follows two years of heavily disrupted seasons with the AFL Grand Final being played outside Victoria for the first time in history – in Brisbane in 2020 and again last year in Perth.

“On both occasions it was two Victorian clubs that contested the Grand Final with Richmond winning their third Premiership in four years in 2020 and last year it was the Melbourne FC that broke a 57-year drought by winning their first ‘Grand Old Flag’ since 1964.

“Unsurprisingly it is the Sydney Swans on top with 1.12 million supporters, an increase of 91,000 (+8.8 per cent) on a year ago and cementing top spot for those who say they support an AFL club for a record 17th straight year – every year since winning the drought-breaking 2005 Premiership.

“There are five clubs closely contesting second spot on the supporter ladder including two Victorian clubs and one club each from Western Australia, South Australia and Queensland. It is Collingwood (735,000 supporters) that emerges in second just ahead of West Coast Eagles (707,000), Essendon (694,000), Brisbane Lions (685,000) and Adelaide Crows (678,000).

“This spread of clubs means all five States with an AFL club (Victoria, NSW, Queensland, WA and SA) are represented within the top six most widely supported clubs and a minimum of at least 650,000 supporters is required to be in contention to enter this top bracket.

“Although they are further down the supporter ladder it is unsurprisingly the 2021 Grand Finalists who have had the biggest increases in support over the last year. The Western Bulldogs increased their support by a massive 30 per cent from a year ago, up 78,000 (+30 per cent) to 338,000 and despite losing the Grand Final they managed to overtake Melbourne FC with 313,000 supporters – an increase of 42,000 (+15.5 per cent).

“The strong correlation between on-field success and growing supporter numbers is a constant theme with the annual AFL Club supporter rankings. Over the long-term clubs such as Collingwood, Essendon and since the mid-1990s the Sydney Swans have enjoyed sustained periods of on-field success – and the results have led to significant growth in supporters.

“Earlier this year one of the highest profile recruits this century, Lance Franklin, became only the sixth player in VFL/AFL history to kick 1,000 goals. The Sydney Swans had recruited Franklin on an unprecedented nine year deal in 2013 and although the club has not won a Premiership during this period they have played finals in six out of eight years and drawn people through the gates with perhaps the most exciting player of the modern era.”

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