Excessive fan involvement in the footy not ‘fantastic’

It seems counterintuitive to alienate the vast majority of AFL fans who hate forced NBA-style “fan engagement”, but this over-the-top game day trend continues, writes Ronny Lerner.

THE LIGHT AND SOUND show that comes with every AFL game these days is not going anywhere, any time soon.

So fans better get used to it.

Despite strong online support for last month’s article in Independent Australia about the scourge of “fan engagement” ruining the footy fan’s match day experience – and a recent Twitter poll that drew more than 600 voters overwhelmingly indicated that fans don’t like it – it will be a case of business in the near future. be as usual.

So that means the overzealous ground announcers who yell nonstop at you between quarters (and comically tell you when to cheer) are here to stay – the disorienting flashing lights after targets are here to stay and loud music after targets is here to stay as well.

AFL crowds have fallen to their lowest level in 26 years (excluding COVID-affected years), but the league is confident they’ve identified the main cause of the dip and it’s not eardrum-bursting quarter-by-quarter repeats about the PA system.

The AFL has received overwhelmingly negative feedback regarding digital ticketing – the reintroduction of traditional physical tickets and membership cards is seen as the silver bullet at the league’s headquarters that will see the number of attendees rise again in 2023.

Surprisingly, despite the strong negative sentiment regarding “fan engagement”, the league has not received strong feedback on it.

They would rightly point out that while most adults might not enjoy it, kids 15 and under might love it. Not everyone can always be satisfied. That is a valid point.

There may even be a sense within league headquarters that whatever they do, they will be criticized anyway. However, if you were to look at a pie chart of AFL fans, the piece representing people aged 18 and over would definitely dwarf the underage segment.

Forced fan engagement at the footy falls flat

It seems like it’s counterintuitive to alienate the vast majority of footy fans to please the minority.

So the responsibility falls back on the many fans who are fed up with the constant assault on their senses for two and a half hours while trying to watch a football game.

If you’re one of those many fans who’ve had enough of this Americanization of AFL game day, best let the AFL know. And since clubs determine what “activations” take place during their home games, let them know too.

In this post-COVID world, clubs are trying to recoup costs and they are doing so by partnering with sponsors and creating pre-match and inter-quarter activities. That’s fair enough, but a balance has to be struck and right now it’s way off the mark.

The digital ticketing situation shows that the AFL can be flexible if fans are loud enough about a particular issue.

If you reserve your fear and frustration about “fan engagement” only for social media rather than through official AFL and club feedback channels, then nothing will change and you will be left confused as to whether you’re at a basketball game or a football game.

Ronny Lerner has been a sports and music journalist/editor since 2006. Follow Ronny on Twitter @RonnyLerner

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