With the prospect of a women’s football league in 2017, and a series of women’s exhibition matches scheduled for the current AFL season, it seems an opportune time to investigate not only how Australian women’s involvement in the AFL is tracking, but whether many women actually play Aussie Rules football themselves.
The results suggest there is room for improvement…
The latest findings from Roy Morgan reveal that the proportion of Australian women aged 14+ who support an AFL team slipped slightly from 35.6% to 33.8% between 2012 and 2015, as did the proportion who watch matches on TV (down fractionally from 34.0% to 33.4%).
On a brighter note, there were modest increases in paid-up club membership among Aussie women (from 3.1% to 3.6%) during the same period, as well as in attendance of AFL matches (admittedly, an almost negligible growth from 9.8% to 10.0%).
But while the overall proportion of women who support an AFL team has declined, nine of the league’s 18 teams have actually seen their number of female supporters rise over the past few years.
Fremantle Dockers experienced the largest growth by far, gaining an additional 70,000 female supporters since 2012, which puts it in sixth position overall for number of female fans.
As the country’s most widely supported club, it is no surprise that Sydney Swans have the most female supporters (451,000) — and rising, with an additional 31,000 women joining their fan base since 2012.
Female support also grew for last year’s Grand Final winners the Hawks (up by 34,000 women since 2012), as well as for Port Adelaide Power (up by 28,000) and the Western Bulldogs (up by 14,000).
In contrast, it plummeted for the Brisbane Lions (down by 96,000 women), St Kilda Saints (who lost some 41,000 female followers) and West Coast Eagles (down by 39,000).
Three teams boast the distinction of having more female supporters than male: Collingwood, Geelong and Western Bulldogs.
Source: Roy Morgan Single Source (Australia), January–December 2015 (n=3,076)
Women’s participation not kicking many goals
Of course, supporting an AFL team is one thing, and playing Australian Rules is another entirely. Fewer women play Australian Rules than niche sports such as field hockey, archery, gymnastics, martial arts or ice/figure skating.
Michele Levine, CEO, Roy Morgan Research, said:
“Although the proportion of Aussie women who support an AFL team has slipped, this is consistent with the national trend rather than being gender-specific…”
Also noteworthy is that The Footy Show now has a woman panelist – Rebecca Maddern, after 13½ years at Seven.
Maddern’s appointment at Nine will always be referenced in history, in the chapters of Women and AFL.