AFL

Match-day experience given thumbs up by AFL but not all fans happy

The AFL has given a general tick of approval to the improved match-day experience of home teams last season - but not all fans were satisfied.

Travis Auld, the AFL's general manager of clubs and AFL operations, completed his review at the end of last season of the entertainment clubs put on, and was impressed with what was unveiled in a year when clubs were encouraged to provide more for supporters.

"Travis had a look at the clubs'  work at the end of last year and the view of both the AFL and the clubs was that we were really happy with how the year unfolded around things done on match day," AFL spokesman Patrick Keane said.

"The work that clubs put around their match-day presentation was really strong while things like food-drink price changes and kick to kick, when we could do it, were really well received.

"For the 2016 year, clubs are aware of the things they can pursue and it's up to them what they want to do, so we've left it to them to announce what they will be doing in the lead-up to the season, and for each club to approach match day as they see fit."

After a disappointing 2014, in part because of experimental time slots for broadcasters, the AFL and clubs acted last year to provide more entertainment on match day.

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Victorian home clubs benefited from access to one kilometre of LED signage at the MCG and Etihad Stadium plus the big screens at key periods on match day. 

Among the developments, Carlton's hovercraft was a feature at its home games, the Bombers had a pre-match laser show, the Magpies used fireworks and pyrotechnic displays at night games, the Crows introduced a kids' zone at the south-eastern end of Adelaide Oval while the Brisbane Lions even trialled an inflatable Lion for players to run through.

However, not all supporters were happy. AFL Fans Association president Gerry Eeman said there had been a mixed response to the match-day experience. 

"The new LED lights didn't prove to be a major winner, with some fans commenting that they found the lights distracting during the game. Excessive loud music was felt by some as an artificial way to create atmosphere," he said.

"Most fans also feel that gambling has become far too omnipresent at games and impacts their match-day experience. Parents taking their kids particularly take objection to this."

Eeman, though, was supportive of several of the initiatives. He said "cheaper food at the MCG, and a lesser extent Etihad Stadium, was a big hit, particularly with families".

"We would love to see lower food prices extended at Etihad on days other than Sundays and also to all stadiums around Australia," he said.

"The re-introduction of kick-to-kick after some games at the MCG and Etihad Stadium was hugely popular and brought back good memories for many parents who had the same opportunity as kids. We'd like to see kick-to-kick implemented consistently across all stadiums this year.

"Match times were also improved last year, with no Sunday and Monday-night games, and 2016 will be similar. But Sunday twilight games remain unpopular with families."

The Crows and Port Adelaide continued to benefit from the new Adelaide Oval, with the Power's traditional pre-bounce anthem of INXS' Never Tear us Apart arguably the highlight.

Production costs remain an issue for some clubs. Clubs estimate that the top-end budgets were between $60,000 and $100,000 for the season, with the LED lighting up to $12,000.

Clubs believe the match-day experience will largely remain the same this year, with some keen to maintain themes.

"The whole concept of the match-day experience has really been brought in to try and redress the growing sentiment among many fans that the AFL overly corporatised the game and took them for granted," Eeman said.

"However, while some match-day experience initiatives have been well received, the AFL should focus on getting the fundamentals right. Fans come to the games for the footy, not for the fireworks, gimmicks or loud music.

"So give them affordable access to games, decent-priced food and ensure that the best seats actually have people sitting in them."

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