Roy Morgan Research
September 19, 2023

Sydney Swans are the most widely supported AFL club ahead of Collingwood, Brisbane and West Coast

Topic: Press Release
Finding No: 9329
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The Sydney Swans have again topped the annual Roy Morgan AFL supporter ladder as the only club with over 1 million supporters. The Swans now have 1,344,000 supporters, an increase of 209,000 supporters (+18.4%) on a year ago according to the 2023 annual Roy Morgan AFL club supporters survey – the largest increase of any AFL club over the last 12 months.

The most widely supported club in the Victorian heartland finished top of the ladder this year after the home and away season and is set for a blockbuster home Preliminary Final this weekend at the MCG. Collingwood now has 875,000 supporters, an impressive increase of 169,000 (+23.9%) on a year ago – the largest increase of any Victorian-based club.

The Pies are just ahead of the club hosting the other Preliminary Final, the Brisbane Lions, which now has 826,000 supporters, an increase of 105,000 (+14.6%) on a year ago – the third largest increase of any club in the AFL behind only the two clubs ahead on the supporter ladder.

In fourth place are 2023’s wooden spooners, the West Coast Eagles, with 697,000 supporters. Despite finishing last this year the Eagles have managed to maintain their support from a year ago with a marginal increase of 3,000 (+0.4%) on a year ago.

A majority of 13 of the AFL’s 18 clubs experienced an increase in support over the last year with the largest increases for the top three clubs mentioned above. The fourth biggest increase was for 2022 finalist Fremantle which increased its support by a large 76,000 (+21.8%) to 425,000 while 2022 AFL Premier Geelong increased their support by 59,000 (+10.2%) to 638,000 – the fifth largest increase of any club.

AFL Club Supporter Ladder 2023

Source: Roy Morgan Single Source, July 2021 – June 2022, n=65,321 and July 2022 - June 2023 n=66,234. Base: Australians 14+.

Three other finalists experienced an increase in support over the last year including Melbourne, up 40,000 (+12.7%) to 354,000, Richmond, up 27,000 (+5.1%) to 554,000 and the Western Bulldogs, up 15,000 (4.6%) to 341,000. Of these three clubs, only Melbourne backed up with a strong season in 2023 finishing fourth on the ladder before crashing out of finals in ‘straight sets’ for the second year running.

The four other clubs to increase their support included North Melbourne, up 52,000 (+26.1%) to 251,000 – the largest percentage increase of any AFL club over the last year, Hawthorn, up 30,000 (+6.7%) to 475,000, Port Adelaide, up 9,000 (+3.1%) to 301,000 and Carlton, up 6,000 (+1.1%) to 532,000.

AFL Supporter Conversion to Membership Rates

% of supporters who are membersRoy Morgan Supporter
Official 2023
AFL Club Memberships*
1Port Adelaide Power21.3%301,00064,041
2North Melbourne Kangaroos20.4%251,00051,084
3Melbourne Demons20.0%354,00070,785
4Gold Coast Suns19.8%118,00023,359
5Richmond Tigers18.3%554,000101,349
6Carlton Blues17.9%532,00095,277
7St. Kilda Saints17.1%353,00060,239
8Hawthorn Hawks17.0%475,00080,698
9Western Bulldogs16.5%341,00056,302
10GWS Giants16.4%202,00033,036
11West Coast Eagles14.8%697,000103,275
12Fremantle Dockers14.6%425,00062,064
13Geelong Cats12.9%638,00082,155
14Essendon Bombers12.6%687,00086,274
15Collingwood Magpies12.2%875,000106,470
16Adelaide Crows10.5%651,00068,536
17Brisbane Lions6.6%826,00054,676
18Sydney Swans4.9%1,344,00065,332
*Full AFL Membership Figures available at:

Port Adelaide, North Melbourne, Melbourne and Gold Coast are best at converting supporters

Although it is no surprise to see the traditionally well-supported clubs such as the Sydney Swans, Brisbane Lions and Collingwood at the top of the overall AFL club supporter ladder, a key metric for AFL clubs is their ability to convert their latent supporters into financial members that directly benefit the clubs.

Despite the pandemic related disruptions of the last few years an impressive one-in-21 Australians is now a member of an AFL club, an increase of 6.2 per cent on a year ago. The table below ranks clubs based on how effective they are at converting their supporters into financial members based on dividing the (official AFL club memberships divided by Roy Morgan supporter numbers) x 100.

On this important metric it is consistent top four finisher Port Adelaide who have proven to be the most loyal to their club despite winning only two out of six finals over the last four seasons. The Power convert a league-high 21.3% of their supporters into members and have improved from third on this ranking in 2021.

Despite North Melbourne finishing in the bottom two for the last four years straight – the first club to perform so poorly since the national competition expanded to Western Australia and Queensland in 1987 – the Kangaroos have the highest rate of conversion of supporters to members of any Victorian club at 20.4%.

In third place are 2021 Premiers Melbourne. The league’s oldest club have improved their conversion rate in recent years and now convert one-in-five supporters to members, the third highest conversion rate of any club. The Demons have been consistent high performers in recent years – the only club to finish in the top four in each of the last three years.

Right behind the league’s oldest club is the league’s newest club with the Gold Coast Suns – the only AFL club to have never played in the finals – converting 19.8% of their supporters into members – around three times the rate of their more famous and well-known rivals in Brisbane.

Recent three-time Premiers Richmond (2017, 2019 & 2020), one of only three clubs with over 100,000 paid-up members,comes in fifth with an excellent conversion rate of 18.3% of its supporters into members.

There are another three clubs which convert supporters into members at a rate of over one-in-six including a resurgent Carlton (17.9%), the least successful club in VFL/AFL history St. Kilda (17.1%) and the most successful club of the AFL era Hawthorn (17.0%).

Over 9.6 million Australians now support an AFL club, up over 680,000 on a year ago

Although the COVID-19 pandemic caused significant disruption to the AFL competition during the last three years of 2020-22 (with the final mandatory isolation restrictions being lifted in October 2022 – just after the end of last season), the pandemic certainly hasn’t diminished wider support for the league and its clubs, which has soared over the last four years.

There are now more people than ever before, 9,625,000, expressing support for an AFL club, an increase of 681,000 (+7.6%) on a year ago, and up a massive 2,276,000 (+31.0%) on four years ago in 2019 – before the pandemic arrived.

In addition, there are 8,451,000 Australians who watched at least one AFL match on TV, up 706,000 (+9.1%) on a year ago and up by over 1 million (+13.9%) from 2019.

Julian McCrann, Industry Communications Director, Roy Morgan, says the growth in the AFL industry over the last year has been spectacular with supporter bases, club memberships and crowd attendances all hitting new record highs this season:

Block Quote

“Although the last three completed AFL seasons of 2020-2022 were heavily disrupted by COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, they did not hamper the growth of the game. Compared to 2019 all the key metrics have increased rapidly and significantly.

“Now a record of over 9.6 million Australians told Roy Morgan they supported at least one of the 18 AFL clubs – an increase of 706,000 (+9.1%) on a year ago and up by over 1 million compared to the same time in 2019 before any of us had ever heard of COVID-19.

“For an incredible 18th straight year it is the Sydney Swans on top with 1.34 million supporters, an increase of 209,000 (+18.4%) on a year ago after the club contested its sixth Grand Final this century last year. Despite failing to win the Premiership in 2022 (or this year in 2023), the Swans have far and away the most supporters of any club – over 450,000 in front of any other club.

“In a clear battle for second place are the two clubs best placed to contest this year’s Premiership – Victorian powerhouse Collingwood with 875,000 supporters, up 169,000 (+23.9%) on a year ago, and closest challengers the Brisbane Lions with 826,000 supporters, up 105,000 (+14.6%). The Pies and Lions are both set to host Preliminary Finals this weekend with the two winners of these matches set to play off in this year’s Grand Final a week later.

“There are four clubs within striking distance of fourth spot on the supporter ladder with 2018 Premiers West Coast Eagles (697,000 supporters) currently holding that position ahead of Essendon (687,000), Adelaide Crows (651,000) and reigning Premiers Geelong (638,000).

“This spread of clubs means all five States with an AFL club (Victoria, NSW, Queensland, WA and SA) are represented within the top six most widely supported clubs and a minimum of at least 650,000 supporters is required to be in contention to enter this top bracket.

“The strong correlation between on-field success and growing supporter numbers is a constant theme with the annual AFL Club supporter rankings. All eight clubs which played finals in 2022 increased their supporter bases over the last year by at least 15,000. Even more importantly, the top six clubs from 2022 all increased their supporter bases by at least 10% in 2023 – a minimum of an additional 40,000 supporters.

“An interesting analysis is to look in depth at the conversion rate of supporters to members amongst the AFL clubs. Several clubs with the highest supporter conversion rates have been less than successful in recent years with only one club in the top seven managing to win multiple Premierships this century – Richmond in fifth place and winning in 2017, 2019 & 2020.

“These results indicate that clubs that have had less success in recent years and found it harder to attract newer supporters must fight doubly hard to ensure existing supporters remain as members even during periods which lack Premiership success. The top two clubs on supporter conversion to membership rates are Port Adelaide and North Melbourne – neither club has played in a Grand Final for more than 15 years.

“Looking forward if the growth of recent years can continue the AFL is set to crack over 10 million club supporters as soon as next year while an extra 100,000 or so members will see more than 1-in-20 Australians being members of an AFL club.

“In the immediate future, the AFL is set to welcome it’s 8 millionth customer through the gates at this weekend’s Preliminary Finals – the first time any sporting league in Australia will have ever had total season attendance of more than 8 million people.”

For comments or more information about Roy Morgan’s AFL Supporter profiles and other Sporting profiles data, please contact:

Roy Morgan Enquiries
Office: +61 (3) 9224 5309

Related research findings

Compiled with data from Roy Morgan’s Single Source survey (the largest of its kind in the world, with 60,000 respondents p.a), these ready-made profiles provide a broad understanding of the target audience, in terms of demographics, attitudes, activities and media usage in Australia.

About Roy Morgan

Roy Morgan is the largest independent Australian research company, with offices in each state of Australia, as well as in the United States and the United Kingdom. A full-service research organisation specialising in omnibus and syndicated data, Roy Morgan has over 80 years’ experience in collecting objective, independent information on consumers.

Margin of Error

The margin of error to be allowed for in any estimate depends mainly on the number of interviews on which it is based. Margin of error gives indications of the likely range within which estimates would be 95% likely to fall, expressed as the number of percentage points above or below the actual estimate. Allowance for design effects (such as stratification and weighting) should be made as appropriate.

Sample Size Percentage Estimate
40% – 60% 25% or 75% 10% or 90% 5% or 95%
1,000 ±3.0 ±2.7 ±1.9 ±1.3
5,000 ±1.4 ±1.2 ±0.8 ±0.6
7,500 ±1.1 ±1.0 ±0.7 ±0.5
10,000 ±1.0 ±0.9 ±0.6 ±0.4
20,000 ±0.7 ±0.6 ±0.4 ±0.3
50,000 ±0.4 ±0.4 ±0.3 ±0.2

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