Despite these traditions, things are set to be very different this year. October 24 will see the AFL break away from the traditions of an MCG afternoon Grand Final to an evening spectacle hosted in Queensland at The Gabba. While the challenges of 2020 have enabled such experimentation, the debate rages on about the wisdom of the move. While debate is healthy, let’s use data and insights to see how things currently sit.
Do AFL fans support the AFL’s decision to host a night-time Grand Final in 2020?
The vast majority of AFL fans fully support the AFL’s decision for hosting a night-time Grand Final in 2020 (82%).
While there were no meaningful differences in support between genders there was significantly higher levels of support shown amongst those aged 18-49 (87%) compared to the 50+ cohort (76%). The highest support was shown amongst younger fans, those aged 25-34 (92%).
The other key consideration was to compare the levels of support between ‘traditional’ and ‘non-traditional’ AFL states. The data highlighted significantly lower levels of support amongst traditional states; Western Australia (74%) and Victoria (76%) compared to ‘non-traditional states’; Queensland (90%) and New South Wales (87%).
AFL fans support a 2020 night Grand Final but what is their preferred timeslot for future Grand Final events?
The most popular timeslot for future AFL Grand Finals amongst fans was for the traditional afternoon timeslot (42%). Surprisingly this was closely followed by a twilight Grand Final which was the preferred option for 36% of fans. Despite harnessing strong support this year, the idea of a night-time Grand Final in future years warranted considerably less support (21%).
What are the key reasons AFL fans are less likely to or do not support a night-time Grand Final?
For AFL fans who stated a preference for the traditional afternoon timeslot, we followed up with one last question asking why they are less likely to/do not support a night-time Grand Final. There was extensive feedback, but one key word took precedence; ‘Tradition’. For these fans, tradition in this sense meant a discomfort or dislike of change; a belief that if something is not broken why try and fix it; or placing extremely high importance on traditional scenarios being critical for sport.
In psychology there is a phenomenon used to explain the reasoning behind this – ‘The Mere exposure effect’. It demonstrates how people tend to develop a preference for things merely because they are familiar with them. Is this principle to blame or do AFL fans truly dislike the concept of a night-time Grand Final? Some of the key barriers facing the AFL are shown below.
So, what’s the story?
While 82% of fans are fully supportive of the AFL’s decision to host a night-time Grand Final in 2020 the idea and preference of future Grand Finals being played at night resonate with only 21%. As such, the AFL faces several key barriers including the love of tradition which encompasses the game, ensuring a timeslot which all fans can watch and enjoy, enabling fans to take-in and enjoy the post-game celebrations as well as finding a way to support families and children who after all are the future of the game.