AFL not stressed by poor Sydney crowds - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

AFL not stressed by poor Sydney crowds

By Adam Cooper and Greg Buckle 22/06/2009 06:59:44 PM Comments (0)

The AFL insists the fall in Sydney's crowds at ANZ Stadium is not a concern and won't deter the league from its push into the city's west.

The Swans' administration was worried by the reduced crowd which attended Saturday night's clash between Sydney and Collingwood, which drew 41,042 fans at the Olympic stadium.

That crowd was significantly down from the past two years - 64,222 watched the stand-alone clash in 2007 and 59,266 attended in 2008 - and well down on the 72,393 recorded in 2003, when the sides first played at Homebush.

The crowd drop at Sydney's biggest home game followed recent admissions by the club and the AFL that attendances and viewership were down in the harbour city in 2009.

Swans chairman Richard Colless recently stated interest in the code in his city had "plateaued" and cast doubt over whether the AFL's push into Sydney's west can be successful.

But AFL chief operating officer Gillon McLachlan refuted suggestions the weekend's crowd size was poor.

He said the league remained focused on establishing an 18th team in western Sydney by 2012 (the Gold Coast will host the 17th side, due to enter the competition in 2011).

"Of course when you ask if we'd like 60,000 over 40,000 we'd take the 60,000," McLachlan said on Monday.

"But (almost) 42,000 is an excellent crowd and I'm a bit bemused by some of the talk that it's a poor crowd.

"The crowd has dropped in the last two years, but people understand that the Swans are rebuilding and they're five (wins) and seven (losses), so 42,000 is still a very good crowd."

In three games at ANZ Stadium this year, the Swans have drawn an average attendance of 36,745, down from the 43,340 mean recorded in four home and away games there in 2008.

But the 2008 average is reduced significantly when the crowd of 19,127 which attended the elimination final between the Swans and North Melbourne is taken into account.

Sydney's next home game is against North, at the SCG in round 14, but a Swans loss to Adelaide at AAMI Stadium on Saturday could have an impact as Paul Roos' side would be battling to reach the finals.

McLachlan said the AFL was still encouraged by Sydney's off-field strength and the city as a destination to host another club.

"People talk about the demise of the Swans, but they turnover $35 million and they've got a membership of 25,000, so they're a strong and powerful club," he said.

"... from a strategic point of view, we are confident that we have to be in Sydney."

Meanwhile, Roos said Sydney could not afford a downward slide following six successive finals campaigns.

"We are not going to have three years of rebuilding," he said on Monday.

Roos said West Coast missed the finals in 2008 and could do so in 2009-10 without incurring the same pressures Sydney faced.

"They've got 45,000 members and they pack out Subiaco every weekend," he said.

"That's not going to happen in Sydney so that all affects your bottom line.

"It affects your ability to bring in a second team.

"There's enormous ramifications.

"For (Eagles coach) John Worsfold and West Coast, there's no ramifications of going down the bottom of the ladder other than that competitiveness that all coaches have."

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