How the AFL allocates grand final tickets and why so many die-hard fans miss out

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Former Western Bulldogs vice president Susan Alberti says the AFL should find ways to increase the number of competing club supporters who attend the grand final, as fans of Collingwood and Brisbane scramble to find tickets to Saturday’s decider.

Up to 17,000 club members for each of the Pies and Lions were successful in the weekend’s ballot, filling up 34,000 of the possible 100,024 tickets allocated to this year’s grand final.

According to the official figures, every single one of the 100,024 tickets available for last year’s AFL grand final was used.Credit: Getty Images

Another 14,000 MCC members have also pre-purchased tickets, with 7500 walk-up seats and 1000 standing-room spots to be made available on the day.

With AFL members also getting access to roughly 15,500 tickets, and about 3500 Medallion Club tickets on offer, more than three quarters of the MCG will be allocated to membership groups. Priority access goes to AFL gold members who barrack for the Pies or Lions, followed by neutral AFL gold members, and thirdly, AFL silver members who barrack for the two grand final sides.

But is that enough?

“There should be more seats available,” Alberti said.

“I’ve been in that position myself when I was a member and a member of the cheer squad all those years ago, and I know how much heart and soul goes into it, and then corporates turn up on the day of the grand final and pay huge sums of money and members miss out.

“I’ve felt for a long time they’ve been unfairly treated. These people are the salt of the earth. They’re there week in week out, they’re just amazing people.”

Of the remaining 25,000 tickets, about 7500 form corporate sales functions, packages which start at about $1500 and go well beyond $5800 per package.

Another 1000 tickets are given to corporate partners, while each of the 18 AFL clubs gets a split of about 5000 tickets which can be used for club fundraisers and corporate prices.

North Melbourne, for example, uses its allocation as part of its Grand Final Breakfast package, which starts each year at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre.

Three thousand complimentary tickets go to the competing clubs to allow family and friends to attend the game, while the AFL’s 800 players get access to about 1000 tickets between them.

The AFL also has 7000 tickets put aside for its other contractual obligations, such as AFL life members and hall of fame members, 200 club members, commissioners and ex-commissioners, presidents, media and broadcast partners, umpires and the umpires association and other business partners.

But Alberti believes the allocations should be tweaked to guarantee more tickets for fans.

“C’mon, even the poor old Bulldogs have 56,000 members now,” Alberti said.

“That’s a small number in comparison to Collingwood and Carlton. It’s not fair.

“People have just got to settle down and think about it. Take this seriously. If we don’t have supporters and cheer squads, we don’t have a game.

“These people are loyal people, and we have to respect that loyalty. It’s always about the bottom line, but to me, it’s about loyalty and looking after our wonderful members at all clubs.”

Many Collingwood and Brisbane members paid a premium earlier in the season to secure themselves a guaranteed grand final ticket from their club’s 17,000 allocation if their team made the decider.

The quality of their tickets was determined by ballots at the weekend. The ballots also decided which other club members got to buy tickets without paying the premium.

Heath Shaw played in eight preliminary finals – five at Collingwood and three at the GWS Giants – as well as four grand finals.

The 325-game star said there was a notable difference between crowds at a preliminary final versus a grand final.

“I think most players who have experienced a prelim and a grand final would say there are more supporters at preliminary finals, more members than corporate sponsors who are invited to the grand final and take up a fair chunk of tickets,” Shaw said.

“The atmosphere at a prelim is probably better than a grand final.

“I’ve been on both sides, where there’s absolutely zero support compared to absolute dominant support, and that’s the difference there.

“I’ve played against Richmond at the MCG for the Giants, and they said there were about four or five thousand Giants people, and then I’ve played at the Giants Stadium against the Bulldogs, and it was 50-50.

“And then I’ve played for Collingwood and Collingwood supporters are never drowned out.

“A preliminary final is next level.”

AFL Fans Association president Ron Isko said he was hoping to get a higher allocation of tickets to competing club members in future years.

“Fans are the largest stakeholders in the game and every year many devoted club members miss out on seeing their team play in the grand final after following them all year, home, away and interstate in the rain, hail and shine – it’s time to fix this.

“While we appreciate that changes are not possible in 2023 as tickets are already allocated, it should be considered as a high priority for the 2024 grand final and beyond.”

The AFL confirmed on Sunday that a live site would be established at Collingwood’s training base – the AIA Centre – for fans unable to get tickets to the grand final. The AFLW match between Collingwood and Essendon scheduled for that venue at 11.05am Saturday has been moved to neighbouring Punt Road Oval and will be shown live on screens at the live site before the men’s grand final is telecast.

The AFL confirmed the ticket breakdown reported in this story, but chose not to comment.

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