“Consider the AFL’s influence on Australian culture. Gambling adverts need to go,” said another.
AFLFA President Cheryl Critchley said gambling advertising was a growing problem, a point raised by former Western Bulldogs Premiership captain Easton Wood when he expressed his concern, in October last year, that it was becoming ingrained “for a generation that thinks that’s the way to enjoy a game”.
“Many told us they didn’t like them and worried they were normalizing play for kids,” Critchley said. “Researchers demonstrate this and AFLFA supports the work of various state government initiatives and campaigns focused on combating the normalization of play and sport.
“My kids grew up with gambling adverts and years ago when he was younger my son used to make his football advice based on easily accessible catch-all odds. It’s not good.”
The AFL said it had decided to limit gambling advertising on the sites. Geelong’s home ground, GMHBA Stadium, had no advertising, while other venues downplayed Sportsbet promotions. Ratings are not allowed to be displayed.
The AFL also said all Victoria-based clubs were involved in anti-gambling associations, including the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation. The league said it had no control over the advertising shown on television and radio.
Dr Steve Georgakis, a sports gambling specialist at the University of Sydney, said gambling had encroached on “every facet” of the AFL and it had helped sustain the sport’s financial growth. But he said there were concerns about the appeal of a new generation to the gaming world.
“It’s probably the only sport that has been able to branch out and include diametrically opposed groups,” Dr Georgakis said. “You have people who play and watch, then you have people who hate the game but also support the game.
“Sponsors and advertisers want a return, and obviously there is a return. The more you promote a sport like the AFL, the more people are going to invest in it. Most sports betting also targets a group – it there are young men, but that’s the next generation… That’s how they work. People who are 13, 14, 15 years old are vulnerable.
After two years of chaos, clubs have been praised for their handling of the pandemic, including communication with supporters and members.
“AFL clubs have generally worked hard to connect with their members throughout the pandemic and accommodate those struggling to pay their fees. We would like that to continue,” Critchley said.
The survey revealed that one in four fans are concerned about match scheduling. Although opinions are divided, the general preference is for no Thursday night or Sunday dusk games, which can be difficult for families in the regions and those with school-going children.
“As a football fanatic family, we go to any game at any time, but we can understand the difficulty of accessing late games that people with young families and early morning work commitments would have. “said Demons fan Janine Healey.
Thursday night games, however, have provided good broadcast ratings for Seven and Fox Footy, and give clubs the opportunity to enjoy stand-alone coverage, which facilitates their sponsorship deals.
Despite the easing of restrictions, the pandemic continues to rage, with 26% of fans indicating they are likely to watch home games rather than attend games after COVID subsides. Critchley noted that many people have upgraded their TVs during the pandemic.
One in seven fans (14%) said the cost of going to football, including tickets, food and drink and season tickets, was their biggest concern.
Noise and flash advertising are also a concern, with many respondents finding it frustrating not being able to hear family or friends due to noise.
What should also be important, Critchley said, was rewarding members with better ticketing access in September, as many had missed the final due to border restrictions over the past two years. She said the AFL had done an “amazing job” in ensuring seasons were completed, but said members needed to be rewarded.
In the last grand final held at the MCG in 2019, the Tigers and Greater Western Sydney each received 17,000 tickets to distribute to members.