The billion dollar world of AFL Club land

Its that time of the year when all the results are in, all clubs have lodged Annual Reports and we can finally get a handle on what they’ve been up to for the last year or so off the field.

AFL club revenues in 2017 narrowly missed the billion dollar mark, totalling $998.13m, with clubs averaging $55.45m per club. Revenues rose $141m (+17%) in 2017 with AFL distributions up $46m (+20%).

At the upper end of the scale you have Hawthorn and Collingwood, each passing $70 million in revenue, boosted by pokie venues. Essendon, Richmond and West Coast round out the top 5 – each making more than 60 million, with West Coast not having any pokie revenue at all.

At the bottom end of the revenue scale, the AFLs two newest clubs struggle along aided by heavy distributions from the league. Gold Coast and North Melbourne both making less than $40 million per year.

As a side note, in 2015, Mclachlan told the National Press Club a Tasmanian side would need revenues of 45 million to be sustainable. Three current AFL clubs fell under the $45 million mark in 2017 – GWS, Gold Coast and North Melbourne.

Four AFL clubs reported comprehensive losses totalling $5.87 million – Collingwood and Geelong taking multi million dollar hits in depreciation and amortisation – while fourteen clubs reported profits totalling $26.62 million. Although several of these clubs required assistance from the AFLs “Future Fund” to get over the line.

In an age where television revenue is considered the be all and end all by many, its worth noting that AFL clubs turned more than $240 million in revenue last season on memberships, reserved seating and gate receipts – this isnt far short of the AFL distributions handed out to the clubs from that deal. This doesnt factor in signage and pourage rights, or onsite merchandise sales. This figure was up 5% (about $13 million) on 2017.

Collingwood, Adelaide and West Coast lead the charge in memberships, each taking in more than $20 million, while there should be real concerns at the bottom with Greater Western Sydney taking in $1.8 million – and that figure includes its merchandise sales.

AFL clubs also turned over more than $212 million in Sponsorship revenues last season at an average of $11 million per club, up $8.3 million (4.1%) on the previous year.

Collingwood and Sydney sit at the top of the sponsorship table with more than $18 million each. Even GWS tops $11 million in sponsorship, however its fellow newcomer, Gold Coast, sits at the bottom with less than $6 million in sponsorship revenue.

The AFLs shiny new $418 million annual TV deal started last year, and from it the league appears to have distributed $277 million to the clubs in 2017, up $46 million on the previous year. With GWS and Gold Coast at the top with more than $24 million, Brisbane and St Kilda also come in for more than $20 million in AFL distributions. Its worth noting that the base AFL distribution in 2017 was $10.6 million, and some clubs are entitled to money from central AFL revenues pertaining to signage, pourage, promotion and game buyout rights.

Eleven AFL clubs took $134 million in revenue from their pokie venues. Nine clubs reported $22.19 million in venue profits, while Hawthorn and Geelong didnt divulge venue costs. Hawthorn generally making several million in profit, while Geelong are actively reducing the number of pokies they have at hand.

Clubs spent more than $450 million on their Football departments in 2017, with the average club spending in excess of $25 million, up 10% on 2016. Collingwood lead the way with $28 million, including expenditure on womens football and their VFL/VFLW sides. GWS and Sydney make up the top 3 with more than 26 million.

AFL Clubs had more than half a billion dollars in assets with West Coast ($77 million) and Hawthorn ($66 million) leading the way, and both clubs looking to build their own multi million dollar facilities in the short term. At the other end of the scale, the Queensland clubs both languish at the bottom of the equity table in the red – the Lions over $13 million in negative equity.

West Coast is probably the largest football club in the country – certainly so in the AFL in financial terms. Other clubs have more members and bigger attendances, but its hard to go past the raw cash that West Coast brings in each year – the club has tens of millions in the bank and in investments.

In the long term, of the established clubs, the Lions and Saints have some issues to address. The Saints have a promising move back to its traditional home at Moorabin to look forward to, and an improved deal at Docklands that will make it an extra million or two a year. The Lions are angling for a training facility at Springfield and hoping for some funding there from the state and AFL to make that happen, but like most things in Queensland, the only real answer to the Lions problems is getting back to the winners list more frequently.

The AFL annual report for 2017 is due out any day now and promises to make fascinating reading with the league including its Docklands assets and revenues for the first time.

Full list of club annual reports and club comparison rankings can be found here.



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