There was some skepticism on my part when the AFL announced it was going to borrow the highly successful NRL/Superleague Magic Round concept and bring all its teams to one city for one big 4 day extravaganza, but by the end of the weekend I was well and truly convinced it was a great event.
In 20 years of living and operating accommodation business in the Adelaide CBD, Ive not quite seen this atmosphere in the city over a 4 day period – and Ive seen the Grand Prix, the Supercars, WOMAD. the Fringe and countless other events.
The AFL says it is determined to make Gather Round an annual fixture and was open to Adelaide hosting the event again if the state follows through on spectacular attendance estimates. About 50,000 fans were expected to visit SA for the round, including 15,000 by car and the government estimated 115,000 passengers will pass through Adelaide Airport over the weekend in the busiest four days since the pandemic, with airlines adding 35 extra flights to Adelaide for the Gather Round. With Carlton fans having bought the most tickets of non-SA fans ahead of Collingwood, Geelong and Richmond.
A ticket to either of the weekend’s double-headers at Adelaide Oval granted a patron entry to both matches. Club membership entitlements were also not valid during Gather Round, with all club members needing to redeem or purchase a ticket to access any Round 5 matches.
Biggest travelling fan bases
Carlton, Collingwood, Geelong, Richmond (in alphabetical order)
- Approx 170,000+ tickets sold
- SA – 112,000 (67%)
- VIC – 35,000 (20%)
- REST OF COUNTRY – 13%
- 152 PEOPLE FROM INTERNATIONAL
All but one of the Gather Round matches in South Australia were officially sold out ahead of Adelaide and Carlton kicking off the historic festival of footy on Thursday night.
There were 47,435 at Adelaide Oval on Thursday night to watch the Crows dismantle Carlton in a stunning start to the inaugural Gather Round
A bumper crowd of 42,134 turned out to enjoy an engrossing contest between Richmond and Sydney on Friday night. That figure was far greater than the number SA Premier Peter Malinauskas had hoped would provide further evidence Gather Round should remain in his state.
An AFL spokesperson told foxfooty.com.au the league was anticipating the Bombers-Demons game would not feature as many fans in the crowd as the Power-Bulldogs clash as the indication was Port Adelaide members had purchased a significant portion of the double-tickets available.
All in all # were 204,335 over 9 matches at an average of 22,704 (or over 7 fixtures @ 29,191).
Gather Round #AFLcrowds were 204,335 over 9 matches at an average of 22,704 (or over 7 fixtures @ 29,191)
This would be the lowest round 5 total since R5, 1993 with the lowest round average since 1993 (or 1995 on fixture basis). The lowest aggregate crowd in the 9 game era. pic.twitter.com/Zoc29n1kUV
— sportsindustry (@footyindustryAU) April 16, 2023
Preliminary #AFLtvratings show an aggregate audience of 5.239m for the round. This would be the 2nd highest round for the year behind the season opening round and the highest rating Foxtel overnight audience for the AFL in 2023.
The highest rating game overall was Friday nights Swans/Tigers which reach 1.12m viewers, while Thursday nights Blues/Crows fixture also topped the million viewer mark. Sunday nights Saints/Pies game was the best rating game on Foxtel with 292,000 watching on linear television.
The Adelaide Economic Development Agency provided the early figure of $85.8m in economic impact of the round but said on this was a conservative figure based on early ticket sales information of 200,000 tickets sold and 50,000 interstate visitor figures.
More than 115,000 passengers will pass through Adelaide Airport this weekend to experience the four-day AFL bonanza in South Australia which will see all 18 clubs play in nine sold-out games. The Friday specifically is the biggest of the event’s four days for the Adelaide Airport, with an anticipated 34,000 passengers flying into the city. An extra 35 flights into Adelaide have been added by Virgin Australia to accommodate the influx.
Hotels are enjoying the boon too, with the latest forward booking data showing there are more hotel rooms booked over the Friday and Saturday (91 per cent and 92 per cent respectively) of Gather Round than any other weekend before.
This surpasses the 90 per cent hotel occupation rate recorded during the March 2023 long weekend when Adelaide was revelling in the atmosphere of the Fringe Festival, sold-out world music festival WOMADelaide and Ed Sheeran’s blockbuster appearance at the Adelaide Oval.
According to National Australia Bank, the AFL’s inaugural Gather Round has been a smashing success for the city of Adelaide with $223 million spent across accommodation, restaurants, bars and pubs, and retail, according to NAB transaction data (Spend estimates taken from NAB merchant terminal data from 13 April 2023 to 16 April 2023 and compared to the same weekend in 2022 in Adelaide.). The event saw a 21% trading boost when compared to the same weekend the year prior, whilst bars in Adelaide Oval precinct alone saw a massive increase in money through the tills – up 175% on last year. Overall, spend on accommodation around metro Adelaide was up 50%, retail saw an increase of 30% and bars and pubs were up 13% when compared to the same weekend in 2022.
The AFL and South Australian government have not disclosed the amount handed to the league under the state’s major events budget. But given each club was handed $500,000 and each playing list $200,000 to add another round to the season — adding up to $12.6 million in base costs alone — it likely cost South Australia well over $15 million for the event.
According to the AFL, the inaugural ‘Gather Round’ has been an overwhelming success, with all nine games sold out, more than 220,000 fans attending matches across the Adelaide Oval, Norwood Oval and Mount Barker in the Adelaide Hills and tens of thousands of fans attending the footy festival on the banks of Torrens. More than 60,000 fans purchased tickets from interstate.
Malinauskas also made a public pitch to keep Gather Round in SA beyond the inaugural edition in 2023, saying the state’s history as a sports-mad, football-loving population made it the ideal choice. By Sunday the AFL had confirmed that Gather Round would be held in SA for the next three years.
Across 2024, 2025 and 2026, Gather Round … A festival of footy will be hosted exclusively in South Australia, with Adelaide Oval to be the central venue, with the intent from both the AFL and the SA Government to take regional matches in 2024 to the Barossa / McClaren Vale region.
As part of the three-year term, both the AFL and SA Government have also committed to establishing a community football legacy fund, that will benefit local footy clubs in the state beyond the weekend of matches.
- AFL expects more fans at Adelaide Oval for second game of Gather Round double-header
- SA Premier labels Gather Round an ‘extraordinary success’ but calls for better ticketing
- All nine Gather Round games sold out
- Eight Gather Round games sold out, SA Premier’s cheeky dig
- Gather Round ticket sales, who’s travelling to Adelaide, targets SA must hit
- AFL Gather Round sells out as Premier eyes 2024 sequel
- Influx of AFL fans for Gather Round lands Adelaide Airport busiest four days since COVID
- Gather Round to stay in South Australia for next three seasons
- Supporters Gather Round the City of Churches for a $223 million weekend