Richmond has a new six-digit challenger, with the West Coast Eagles usurping the reigning premiers on the 2020 membership ladder as they set new non-Victorian club records.
The AFL on Wednesday morning released the total AFL club membership numbers for the 2020 season, which saw the Tigers dethroned from the membership ladder despite cracking the 100,000 mark for the third straight season.
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Instead, it was the Eagles that passed 100,000 members, finishing with a total of 100,776.
It was the first time West Coast had topped the AFL membership tally, meaning it was also the first time a non-Victorian club had finished first.
The Eagles were one of five clubs to also break their all-time membership records amid the COVID-19 pandemic, joining Carlton, Gold Coast Suns, GWS Giants and St Kilda.
AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan paid tribute to the fans that had remained loyal to their respective clubs.
“Footy is about connection and a sense of belonging and this remarkable number demonstrates AFL members are the most passionate and loyal members across all sports,” McLachlan said.
“The commitment members made to their clubs is a key reason why all 18 clubs were able to survive a challenging and unprecedented year.
“We have been blown away by the loyalty and commitment footy fans around the country have demonstrated this season.”
Essendon and Melbourne’s membership bases both shrunk by more than 20 per cent, with the Bombers down nearly 18,000 from their 2019 tally.
The Swans also took a hit by losing over 13,500 members in 2020, while Port Adelaide was also slightly down despite sitting on top of the AFL ladder all season.
But Swans chief executive Tom Harley said 98 per cent of Swans members had chosen to keep some or all of their membership contribution with the club since the season disruption.
“Our football club will be forever grateful to the members who have been able to stand with us this season, in what has been an incredibly difficult year for the entire community,” Harley said.
“To the members who have been able to support the club through 2020 – everyone at our club thanks you. You’ve shown your passion and commitment through the most challenging of times and we will continue to find ways to give back to you.
“We also know many of our members would have loved to support the club this year but were prevented from doing so through their own personal circumstances. To those in our Swans family who are doing it tough, we are thinking of you, and look forward to welcoming you back as members in the future.”
“Everyone at our club is incredibly excited about what the future holds. We’re building something special – the next chapter of the Bloods – and we know our members will be there with us through every step of the journey.”
Collingwood, Hawthorn, Geelong, Western Bulldogs and North Melbourne all took slight hits, but the Blues and Lions both recorded upswings.
In total, the AFL reported 992,854 total memberships this year — 669,745 adults, 90,042 concessional members and 233,067 juniors — down from the all-time record of 1,057,572 set last.
It was just the second time in the past 30 years AFL club membership numbers had decreased year-on-year, with the exceptions being in 2000 (Sydney Olympic Games) and 2020 (COVID-19).
However considering the coronavirus-affected year, which has seen many lose their jobs and footy crowds be scrapped then reduced, the AFL said it was satisfied the number had only dropped by 64,718 (6.1%).
“In a challenging year for everyone, the clubs worked extremely hard to stay connected to their members and in turn the members supported the game in a way we would never have expected,” AFL commercial manager Kylie Rogers said.
“On behalf of the AFL and all the clubs, thank you.”
2020 CLUB MEMBERSHIP LADDER
1. West Coast Eagles — 100,776 (2019 tally: 90,445 | +10.3%)
2. Richmond — 100,420 (2019 tally: 103,358 | -0.3%)
3. Collingwood — 76,862 (2019 tally: 85,226 | -10.9%)
4. Hawthorn — 76,343 (2019 tally: 81,211 | -6.4%)
5. Carlton — 67,035 (2019 tally: 64,269 | +4.1%)
6. Essendon — 66,686 (2019 tally: 84,237 | -26.3%)
7. Geelong — 60,066 (2019 tally: 65,063 | -6.7%)
8. Adelaide — 54,891 (2019 tally: 64,437 | -17.4%)
9. Fremantle — 51,577 (2019 tally: 51,431 | +0.3% )
10. St Kilda — 48,588 (2019 tally: 43,038 | +11.4%)
11. Sydney Swans — 48,322 (2019 tally: 61,912 | -28.1%)
12. Port Adelaide — 46,820 (2019 tally: 51,951 | -11%)
13. Melbourne — 40,571 (2019 tally: 52,421 | -29.2%)
14. Western Bulldogs — 38,876 (2019 tally: 44,373 | -14.1%)
15. North Melbourne — 38,667 (2019 tally: 42,419 | -9.7%)
16. GWS Giants — 30,841 (2019 tally: 30,109 | +2.4%)
17. Brisbane Lions — 29,277 (2019 tally: 28,023 | +4.2%)
18. Gold Coast Suns — 16,236 (2019 tally: 13,649 | +15.9%)
TOTAL — 992,854 (2019 tally: 1,057,572)