AFL cops big financial hit during COVID-19

Oliver Caffrey |

Richard Goyder says the AFL is a resilient sporting body despite taking a severe financial hit.
Richard Goyder says the AFL is a resilient sporting body despite taking a severe financial hit.

The AFL is feeling the financial strain of keeping the competition running during the COVID-19 pandemic, losing $43 million last year.

For the second straight year, the AFL had to cope with hurdles relating to the pandemic, including again holding the finals series outside of Victoria.

The AFL spent almost $30 million on COVID-19 related costs in 2021, taking it to a combined $76 million during the past two seasons.

These expenses included testing for COVID-19, travel and accommodation requirements and the creation of hubs across the country.

The league’s overall revenue increased by more than $63 million last year, but the operating loss increased from $22.7 million in 2020.

All 18 clubs have been informed ahead the situation ahead of next month’s annual meeting for the league.

All 23 rounds were played last season, compared to the 17-round competition in 2020 with shortened matches.

“If I could summarise our 2021 year in one word, that word would be resilience,” AFL chair Richard Goyder said.

“As we navigated through the on-going effects of the pandemic, it continued to test the resolve and, at times our patience, as we collectively worked through the week to week.

“The game’s collective unity and determination enabled us to withstand what some would say was an even bigger test than the year prior.”

AFL chief financial officer Travis Auld called the decisions made in 2020 crucial to the competition surviving the pandemic.

“As the 2021 year played out, our operating expenditure continued to increase due to the costs of accommodating our clubs throughout the season, some who were on the road for months on end,” Auld said.

“Our balance sheet remains strong, and despite the significant cash cost required to deliver the AFL and AFLW seasons.

“We have survived the most challenging two years in the game’s history and while we know the next 12 months will continue to surprise and test us, our priority remains to keep our game as affordable and accessible as possible for all.”

Meanwhile, the average wage for an AFL-listed player rose to $372,224 last year.

In 2020, the figure stood at $259,651, but players accepted a pay cut due to COVID-19 shutting down the competition for three months and crowds largely being absent from games.

Six AFL players earned more than a $1 million last year, with three raking in more than $1.2 million.

AFL Media has reported the top earners were Sydney Swans superstar Lance Franklin, Richmond’s three-time Norm Smith medallist Dustin Martin and West Coast premiership hero Jeremy McGovern.