South Australian premier Peter Malinauskas has delivered a swipe to New South Wales and the AFL’s looming decision on where to host its first ‘Magic Round’.
Following on from the NRL’s successful weekends where all games are played in the same city, the AFL is likely to expand the 2023 fixture to 24 rounds, with a pre-season fixture being replaced by a lucrative 23rd home and away game.
Sydney is viewed as the most likely host for the round, with both the SCG and Giants Stadium able to be used, and potentially Accor Stadium as well.
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But South Australia has also pitched for the hosting rights and Malinauskas fears the grounds will be near-empty for some matches if the Magic Round is hosted in the Harbour City.
“I’ve been pretty blunt about this with Gil and others (that) ‘if you guys host this in New South Wales, these guys can’t get half a stadium full for a run-of-the-mill NRL match, let alone an AFL match’,” Malinauskas told FIVEaa radio.
“If this goes to Sydney, people are going to turn on their television sets and they’re going to see 600 people at the western Sydney ground watching Freo versus Brisbane, whereas here in Adelaide we’ll put on one hell of a show and we know people will show up to watch.
“We think South Australia presents the opportunity to de-risk a new method of delivering the game to make sure it’s a great success, which works well for the AFL but most importantly works well for the state more broadly.
“Part of my frustration is … and I don’t want to undermine the AFL’s effort in trying to expand the game in non-AFL states, but we can’t forget our base either.
“That’s a worthwhile exercise, but not at the expense of South Australian footy fans.”
NRL home and away games in 2022 drew an average attendance of 16,250 but that was skewed by Brisbane who drew nearly 30,000 fans to each of their home games. The Sydney-based sides all averaged between 20,015 (Parramatta) and 12,044 (Cronulla) attendees at home games.
In contrast AFL home and away games in 2022 drew an average attendance of 30,871 fans. Every AFL side except North Melbourne, Gold Coast and GWS drew more fans to its home games on average than every non-Broncos NRL team.
If SA did host the round it would need to play some games at grounds other than Adelaide Oval and suggested they could play in regions such as the Barossa Valley.
Port Adelaide chairman David Koch and former Collingwood president Eddie McGuire have both backed an Adelaide bid as well.
“It is important to ensure the first Magic Round is successful and we believe all South Australian football fans would show their support,” Koch said.
“South Australia is a traditional football heartland market with broad support and appeal, and has a world class stadium at Adelaide Oval.
“Adelaide is easily accessible for Victorian and interstate fans to come and enjoy a weekend away and support their team.
“It just makes sense to launch the AFL Magic Round concept in South Australia to ensure its success and establish its future.”