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The Azira Team

4 mins read

A tale of two sporting events: How the AFL Grand Finals compared in 2022 vs. 2021

For many around Australia, the AFL Grand Final is the sporting event of the year. It’s so popular that the day before the match is a holiday in the state of Victoria. The 2022 match between Geelong and the Sydney Swans, held on September 24, was no exception. In fact, the event attracted an official tally of 100,024 attendees, making it the largest crowd in 50 years and reaching max capacity for Melbourne Cricket Ground, where the event was held.

By comparison, the 2021 AFL Grand Final attracted roughly 61,000 attendees. That game was held at the Perth Optus Stadium, featuring a face off between the Western Bulldogs and Melbourne Demons. The game had to be relocated from the Melbourne Cricket Ground to Perth due to a Covid outbreak, which may have affected attendance.

Azira compared human movement data for the 2022 vs. 2021 events to see how they compared. Our reports show the home and work locations of visitors, pathing to get to the event, more:

Here are the highlights:

Fans travelled further in 2022

The median distance travelled to the game increased by 60% in 2022 versus the prior year (22.0km vs 13.8km). There was also a significant increase in fans travelling in from outside of the province to the event (5% in 2021 vs 14% in 2022). Part of the reason for this is likely that Covid is less of a factor than it was a year ago. Melbourne, the away team in 2021, was experiencing a Covid shutdown during the game. 

Game location is also a likely factor. Perth is farther from other major Australian cities than Melbourne. Melbourne, the away team in 2021, is roughly 3,400km from Perth. Sydney, the away team in 2022, is a much closer 880km from Melbourne. Accordingly, the 2021 game saw just .6% of attendees coming from the away team state (Victoria), while the 2022 game saw 4.9% of attendees coming from the away team state (NSW).

 

Fans stayed longer in 2022

Not only did more visitors come to the 2022 game – they also stayed longer once they were there. In fact, Azira’s data shows a dwell time 2x higher in 2022 (167 minutes vs 84 minutes in 2021). There are a few factors that could have influenced fans to stay longer:

  • Daytime vs. evening event – The 2022 Final started at 2:30pm, compared to a 5:15pm start in 2021. The earlier start time may have encouraged some fans to stay longer.
  • Winning home team vs. losing home team – Geelong ended up clenching a decisive win in the 2022 Final, 30 minutes away from their home stadium. The 2021 home team, the Western Bulldogs, were not so lucky. 
  • The Covid factor – A year ago, Covid was still strongly influencing people’s behaviours, especially around travel and events. For those who did attend the 2021 event, they may have decided to limit exposure at some point.


A few other differences between the events

In addition to the trends around distance travelled and duration of stay, there were a few other notable differences between the two events:

  • The median weekly income of attendees in 2021 was about 10% higher than 2022 attendees ($1,897 AUD / week vs. $1,710 AUD / week).
  • While 2021 saw effectively no international attendees, 2022 saw 1% of the crowd coming from other countries, including attendees from the U.S., Singapore, India and Indonesia.
  • Pathing, or where people were seen 30 minutes before or after their visit, looks different for the 2 events. In 2021, the paths are very concentrated on bridges and highways, as well as near the entrance, indicating people were mostly beelining directly to and from the stadium. In 2022, the paths are much more dispersed around the streets of Melbourne, including in the East End and Swan Street which are popular areas with lots of bars and restaurants.
Pathing in 2021: Paths concentrated on bridges, highways, and near the entrance of the stadium
Pathing in 2022: Paths more dispersed around Melbourne, including the East End and Swan Street which are popular areas for bars and restaurants

What this means for sporting events

The attendance patterns around the 2022 AFL Grand Final indicate that fans are eager to get back to major sporting events. They’re willing to travel farther, stay longer and potentially even include bars and restaurants in their day out. And it seems like this enthusiasm isn’t just limited to sporting events – we found similar patterns around another major event in Australia, Vivid Sydney. As consumer behaviour continues to evolve around events, travel, shopping and dining, it is more important than ever to turn to data to help navigate.

Methodology

Azira studied the stadium visitors for the 2021 and 2022 AFL Finals, looking at Perth Optus Stadium visitors on September 25th, 2021, and Melbourne Cricket Ground visitors on September 24th, 2022. Reports used include Common Evening Location, Demographics, Pathing, and Dwell Time reports.

Methodology

Azira studied the stadium visitors for the 2021 and 2022 AFL Finals, looking at Perth Optus Stadium visitors on September 25th, 2021, and Melbourne Cricket Ground visitors on September 24th, 2022. Reports used include Common Evening Location, Demographics, Pathing, and Dwell Time reports.

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