Having worked with the RFL in the UK, I’m aware of how big a part of Aussie sport NRL is. From various “world cups”, I also recognise the popularity of Rugby Union and Cricket. parental security . But beyond that, what else holds the national interest? Aussie-Rules football? Men in tight shirts without sleeves?
Jo’s article referenced research from Sports Business Insider suggesting that AFL is the most popular sport in terms of total revenue and attendance, followed by Cricket and Tennis in revenue, and NRL and Soccer in attendance. Here’s the original listing:
I’m sure AFL is popular, but wouldn’t large stadiums or high ticket prices skew a league table based on financial measures alone, or one based on attendee head count?
With some basic research into stadium sizes, ticket prices, and attendance figures, it’s possible to average this data and derive some alternative league tables. Rugby Union and Tennis have been omitted due to a lack of suitable data.
Let’s start with average attendance figures. AFL is indeed the most highly attended sport by a considerable margin; 175% more than the second placed sport.
But attendance is just head count. There’s no context about how popular something is. Having 20,000 attending fans is better when your capacity is 30,000 than 40,000. So let’s add the average stadium capacity for each sport.
By showing average attendance as a percentage of average capacity, we see a much better measure of popularity. Not only does AFL attract a high number of attendees, but there’s hardly a spare seat with 86% of stadium capacity typically filled.
AFL is still considerably ahead of the second placed sport; it’s practically in a different league. The difference between position 2 and 4 is only 1.3 percentage points.
The assumption here is revenue based solely on ticket price. The original table of revenue included sponsorship, transfer fees, TV rights, etc. Ticket revenue though, is more directly linked to fan popularity.
Now we see an entirely different picture. The high ticket price fans pay pushes Cricket to the top of the list. adsense protection AFL may be popular, but its populist low ticket price offsets the high attendance when looking at ticket revenue, pushing it into third place.
Again we see a run-away first place sport, and three other also-ran sports. When measuring the relative proportion each sport contributes to the total ticket revenue, the bottom three are separated by only 3.9 percentage points.
So what this shows, like Jo’s original research, is that Aussie sport is dominated by a single sport with all others a distant second. Regardless of the measure used to define “popularity”, this rule holds firm. Our 800 pound gorilla almost certainly wears a sleeve-less shirt and carries a bat.