Ticket simplicity, 1980. Photo: Digital artwork: Frank Maiorana
AFL commercial operations manager Darren Birch maintains the league is not greedy despite an avalanche of criticism from fans about its new variable ticketing system.
The latest wave of fan discontent came on Easter Monday when about 1200 walk-up Geelong and Hawthorn general admission members were allowed to swipe into the AFL Members Reserve without charge after Birch on the day had stripped the game of its A-reserve status.
Others who had pre-purchased a ticket had been forced to pay a surcharge to reserve a seat.
Birch conceded the move had backfired.
"We made the decision to open the AFL reserve which we don't do very often at all just to provide some overflow for members to be able to scan into that area to make sure that anybody that turned up to the game wasn't going to be turned away," Birch told SEN radio.
"In hindsight we probably should have put a fee on that to make it fair for those people who had pre-purchased, but the intention was good. It certainly copped some negative criticism ... but what we didn't want to have is people outside the game with membership who couldn't get in."
He acknowledged that the AFL had not sufficiently explained the new ticketing model to fans, but said the organisation was not gouging fans.
"Previously there's only been two price points. What we've actually done is increase it to seven price points and those price points change depending on the game. It is a significant change after a long period of time where we've had one sort of ticketing system," he said.
"The difficulty for us is that it's a new system and it's going to take time to bed down.
"... What most people think is that the AFL takes all this money. We don't, this money is the clubs' money, when you go and pay for the ticket at the gate or you pay for your membership that revenue goes to the clubs not the AFL.
"I hear a lot of feedback about the AFL being greedy and all those sort of things and we need to take all that on board, but ticketed revenue from the gate goes to the clubs."
Birch has previously stated an interest in introducing an American-style dynamic ticketing system, but on Wednesday morning said: "given the feedback we've had over the last month, it's something that we'll take under advisement".
Birch said the AFL was also aware of the burden of high cost of food and drinks at football grounds.
"We are concerned about the price of footy," he said. "I guess the biggest issue for us and for sport internationally is the at-game experience versus the at-home experience.
"W need to work really hard on that. Cost is one element of that.
"People see the game being run by the AFL. We are the peak body and we have to do everything we can to make sure that we minimise cost and to make sure that fans get value for money and they enjoy their experience.
"But there are a lot of costs that our outside of our control: food, beverage, ticket fees and charges outside the price, parking, all of those things are going up in price."
Birch said the AFL would be able to reduce cost at Etihad Stadium when its ownership is transfered to it in 2025.
"That will change the game for us and we will then have to put our hand on our heart and actually say we will make the experience different for the family," he said.
"We will have total control."