THE AFL has released the final club membership tallies for the 2018 season, with the league finally cracking the magical seven-figure mark despite the decline of two Victorian clubs.
Following the July 31 deadline, the AFL announced the annual membership ladder, with the grand total of club members coming in at a record 1,008,494.
It’s the first time over 1 million club members have signed up in a season, with AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan declaring that one in 24 Australians are signed up to a club — “sign that the national reach of Australian football has never been greater”.
In a statement, McLachlan thanked fans for supporting clubs and the game.
“The commitment members make to their clubs is the key reason why our game continues to prosper,” McLachlan said.
“Our clubs give us a connection. Our games fill us with hope, despair and joy, and today it makes us proud.”
On the back of its fairytale 2017 premiership, Richmond finished on top of the membership after becoming the first club to ever surpass 100,000 members early last week.
The Tigers, who finished third on last year’s member ladder, leapfrogged both Collingwood and Hawthorn, which were first and second respectively in 2017.
While the Hawks increased their tally by nearly 5000 members this year to hold in second spot, the Magpies fell to fifth as they were one of just two clubs to lose members over the 12-month period.
The other club was the Western Bulldogs, who experienced the biggest percentage variation drop (-9.2%) of any club. After signing up over 47,000 members last year — coming off the club’s 2016 flag — the Bulldogs finished with 43,246 members, yet still maintained its 12tjh-placed rankings.
However the fact only two clubs recorded membership losses is a positive for the AFL after six clubs fell backwards last year.
Richmond also finished with the biggest percentage variation boost (+30.6%), followed by the West Coast Eagles (+23.4%) after their shock rise up the ladder this year.
But the AFL might be just as thrilled with the increases from the GWS Giants and Brisbane Lions.
The Giants finished 2018 with 25,243 members — a 20.5 per cent increase on their 2017 tally, which was the third biggest variation increase of all clubs.
The Lions were also up 16.4 per cent from last year (ranked 5th) to finish with 24,867 members.
Overall, eight clubs finished with 60,000 or more members, up from five last year, with Geelong (16.3%) and Adelaide (13.8%) recording significant increases and Sydney (3.6%) just ticking over the 60,000 mark.
The league said AFLW membership increased on its inaugural season, with 9406 members (up 30.7%) signing up.
AFL club membership increased for the 27th time in the past 28 years. The exception was in 2000, when the AFL season was pushed forward by a month to accommodate the Sydney Olympics.
MEMBERSHIP DIFFERENTIAL LADDER
1. Richmond (+28,057)
2. West Coast (+15,226)
3. Essendon (+11,551)
4. Geelong (+8964)
5. Adelaide (+7874)
6. Carlton (+5679)
7. Hawthorn (+4639)
8. Fremantle (+4385)
9. GWS Giants (+4299)
10. St Kilda (+4249)
11. Brisbane (+3505)
12. Port Adelaide (+2257)
13. Sydney (+2096)
14. Melbourne (+2042)
15. North Melbourne (+446)
16. Gold Coast (+443)
17. Collingwood (-372)
18. Western Bulldogs (-4407)