A Brief History of Match reciept distribution in the AFL

Clubs received gate reciepts in the 1930s, as it was reported in a paper in 1997 (History of Player Recruitment, Transfer and Payment Rules in the V/AFL, Booth, 1997, pg 17) that due primarily to poor performance Norths gate receipts were poor and they couldnt afford to pay players much or bid against the richer clubs for interstate players. The paper says that only Collingwood, Carlton and Richmond were financially strong during this period.

In 1946, The Argus (April 13th – “Pooling VFL receipts“) reported that the league intended to split gate revenue in the following manner:

  • All 12 league clubs would place 75% of gate receipts into a common pool which would be split at the end of the season equally by all clubs.
  • Clubs would receive 60 pounds per week for ground expenses.

The VFL had a committee that decided upon the split as far back as the 60s where reciepts were the majority of a clubs income. By the 80s that had changed, there was still a VFL committee but the receipts were split amongst all clubs, at least until 1985. During this period Geelong, St Kilda, Fitzroy, Footscray, Collingwood and Sydney were all basically bankrupt despite the equalisation measures.

A paper in 1985 (Sporting Traditions, RK Stewart, 1985, pg 4) states that the VFL collected all gate receipts and used them as follows:

  • $0.25 from all Adult admissions during Home and Away matches taken for the VFL ground improvement fund
  • 15% for VFL administration
  • 40% for the competing clubs, split 50/50
  • 25% for the ground managers (ie. local councils in many cases)
  • 20% remaining split equally by all clubs at the end of the season. (the paper refers to this as an equalisation fund AND IT WAS 1985!

The real answer to your question though might be when did the AFL end the 50/50 revenue sharing arrangement.

According to Ross Booth in 2005 – anyone seriously asking this question should read his paper on Economic Effects of changes to Gate sharing arrangements. In 1998, the AFL decided that revenue sharing had not worked as an equalisation measure.  In fact it was likely that home clubs rarely benefited from gate reciepts once match expenses were paid out of them, especially in smaller stadiums – although they may have made money from memberships and reserved seating (which has never been split). The AFL made the call in 2000, believing that it would encourage smaller clubs to play in larger stadiums.

At the same time, the AFL wanted to double the equalisation levy – this was rejected by the clubs although it was agreed they should adjust it for inflation (from $1.10 up to $1.50 per adult ticket), and an apparent “blockbuster levy” of $25,000 be maintained.

The Book International Sports Economic Comparison (Fort, Fizel pg 335) tells us in its notes that 50/50 gate sharing was abandoned in 2000 in favour of the home team keeping all match receipts after match expenses. There are rare exceptions to that rule and only with the consent of competing clubs (ie. Melbourne v Collingwood)

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