Geelong Cats / An Open Letter to the AFL Membership Department

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An Open Letter to the AFL Membership Department

Written by Nicholas Carbines (@AFLplus) on 08 September 2017

AFL Memberships vs Club Memberships

For those unfamiliar with AFL Memberships, let me explain the difference between an AFL Membership and AFL Club Memberships. There are three categories of AFL Member; Gold ($600pa), Silver ($445pa) and Bronze ($250pa). In all, there are around 55,000 AFL Members; Gold 30K, Silver 24K and roughly around one thousand Bronze members - a category only introduced at the beginning of the 2016 season. If you are an AFL Member, a portion of your payment is directed straight to the AFL team you have chosen as your 'Club Support' team - making you a member of that AFL team as well. In my case, that's the Geelong Football Club.

AFL Memberships have many benefits, the main one being that Gold and Silver members can access up to 40 games per season at the MCG or Etihad Stadium. Bronze members can only access up to 10 games, however, they do have priority to the first two weeks of the AFL finals. Access to finals tickets is also a major drawcard of the AFL Membership.

The Membership That Keeps on Taking

Despite the many benefits of being an AFL Member, one major sore-point (as many AFL Members see it) has been left to fester and now sits as a gaping wound; All 55,000 members have access to purchase finals tickets all at the same time, (apart from the Grand Final). This leaves 'Club Support' members of competing teams desperately trying to secure a ticket against tens of thousands of 'Club Support' members of other teams who are not featured in that particular finals match. Sure, all AFL Members should have access to finals tickets, but I doubt any AFL Member would begrudge 'Club Support' members of competing teams a 2-hour window to purchase a decent seat and be assured of admission to the game.

My Open Letter to the AFL Membership Department

Dear AFL Membership,

I have one question which I would like answered. Why does the AFL not provide the option to allow Club Support members of competing teams priority access to ALL finals series matches as it does for the Grand Final?

Please treat my question with the respect it deserves. I've been an AFL Member for over 25 years. I pay $600 per year for my Gold AFL membership as well as $400 per year for a Geelong Social Club membership. That's $1000 per year to attend around 18 games per season. It ain't cheap.

The AFL has continually increased AFL membership numbers over the past 25 years and I have no issue with that. However, this increases the difficulty of securing good seats to a popular final in which your own 'Club Support' team is participating (such as Geelong v Richmond). The reason for that is the AFL allows EVERY class of AFL member to have equal access to purchase finals tickets - all at the same time - not giving priority to the 'Club Support' members of those clubs participating in that particular finals game. Does the AFL understand that it would be a much fairer and palatable system if they introduced their Grand Final ticket purchasing system throughout the entire finals series? That is, allow tickets to be purchased in the first few hours by Club Support members of competing teams and then open the remaining seats to all other AFL members. Does the AFL understand that by introducing this system, it would stagger ticket purchases, reducing strain on the ticketing website and therefore reduce the likelihood of it crashing - as it did this week? Keep in mind this was for Geelong v Richmond. Imagine if it had been Collingwood v Carlton.

Does the AFL understand that introducing this system would also reduce scalping? Does the AFL realise AFL members of non-competing clubs are selling their tickets for hundreds of dollars because they are not interested in attending the game? Does the AFL think Club Support members of competing clubs would be selling their tickets? Of course they wouldn't. Therefore the AFL's current system assists scalpers.

I am a Geelong Club Support member yet I find myself in a seat on Level 4 for this week's final (Geelong v Richmond). This is unfair, particularly because I know of Silver AFL members of non-competing clubs who have secured seats on Level 1. Some are even scalping their tickets at inflated prices as stated above.

So, AFL Membership Department, what's the deal? Why is the AFL so adamant in not changing its flawed system? Why won't anyone at AFL House get on the front foot before this becomes a bigger issue than it already is? Why does the AFL want Level 1 full of indifferent AFL members of non-competing clubs, sitting without the colours of the competing clubs in the most visual section of the MCG? Does the AFL crave backlash? Why is the AFL so poor at managing these types of issues? Can you imagine the uproar if this system remains unchanged before a Collingwood v Carlton 1st final comes around and their club support members miss out on tickets - so then they have to buy tickets from other AFL members who are scalping their tickets at grossly inflated prices - after already paying $600 for their AFL membership?

As an AFL Gold Member, I was surprised to notice that the AFL has created a third category of membership called AFL 'Bronze'. Why are AFL 'Bronze' members able to buy tickets on the same day as an AFL Gold member who is paying $350 more per season? It's ridiculous. What's the next category to get better seats than a Gold Member? AFL Tin? AFL Copper? AFL Aluminium? Give me a break.

It's called AFL Club Support - yet the AFL is making it more and more difficult for club supporters of competing clubs to get a seat at their club's most important games. To top it off, this week you sold the AFL Members finals tickets after the Geelong (and Richmond) club membership tickets had already been sold (the day before). So, if I had missed out on a ticket via my AFL 'Gold' Membership, I would now be unable to go to the game at all. Remember I pay $400 for my Social Club membership. Can you see where all this is unfair and mean-spirited? Can you see where the system is grossly flawed?

Australian Rules Football is a game for the people. In particular, it is a game that survives on the loyalty and commitment of club members. However, with this current and out-dated system, the AFL is not rewarding club members as it should.

So AFL, back to the question; Why does the AFL not provide the option to allow Club Support members of competing teams priority access to ALL finals series matches as it does for the Grand Final? We only want an hour or two to secure a decent seat. Is that too much to ask after outlaying $600?

I look forward to a response. Many AFL members who are equally annoyed at this issue will also be interested in having a read.

Thanks for your time,

Nicholas Carbines. Gee v Rich: Level 4, Q23, Row E.