The Australian Football League has established a "blueprint to win back Victorian fans," admitting that the Melbourne Cricket Ground and Etihad Stadium "no longer set the benchmark as match-day venues" and that the game's heartland has suffered due to a "highly experimental" '14 fixture and a "messy ticketing system," according to Caroline Wilson of THE AGE. Less than two months into his tenure, AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan has "conceded the AFL has made it too difficult for fans to get to games, has not worked in true partnership with the MCG and Etihad Stadium and the recently relaunched stadiums in Adelaide and the Gold Coast were leading the way in providing for football supporters." McLachlan has "called on all 10 Victorian clubs and Melbourne's two AFL venues to help develop a united push to lift Melbourne attendances." Victorian crowds have "fallen by almost 4,000 a game on last season" to a game average of 37,250, while attendances have "risen marginally across Australia." Proposals for '15 and beyond include:
- An "annual 24-hour hotline offering fans the chance to buy tickets at bargain prices" to every home and away game.
- The establishment of a "central ticketing body based on operations" such as Webjet.
- A push for Melbourne clubs to "widen their focus beyond simply attracting big membership numbers, instead transforming those members into match-day fans."
- The promotion and advertising of games at the MCG and Etihad in a manner "similar to interstate fixtures."
However, "several Melbourne clubs" remained skeptical about the roles they could play in "lifting attendances, claiming they were constrained by the MCG's control over the ground and its scoreboard." Two clubs said that they had "already stretched their resources in the promotion and marketing of home games" (THE AGE, 7/30).
LEAGUE SLAMS SLUR: In Sydney, the AFL has "condemned a homophobic slur by one of Port Adelaide's corporate sponsors, but the league's offer of counselling with a prominent activist has been deemed unnecessary by the club." Rather than "sever ties with Greg Evangelou, the owner of White Marquee Event Hire," Port Adelaide CEO Keith Thomas "denounced his offensive online post but is satisfied Evangelou is genuinely contrite" (SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, 7/31). Also in Sydney, Alana Schetzer reported AFL side Essendon will create a new membership "specially for gay and lesbian fans, a move that could help pave the way for an AFL-sanctioned Pride Round." The "Purple Bombers" is an initiative of "long-time fan and club sponsor Jason Tuazon-McCheyne." The membership will be available for the '15 season (SMH, 7/31).