13 December 2022

Are the GWS Giants worth $28.5 million over 10 years?

| Tim Gavel
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GWS at Manuka Oval

We know the price, but what’s the value of GWS playing in Canberra? Photo: File.

It has to be said, the AFL is in a class of its own when it comes to negotiating deals with governments across Australia.

As the biggest code in the country, they have enormous bargaining power with demand for the live product at an all-time high.

You only need to look at the negotiations going on at the moment between the AFL and the Tasmanian Government over the stadium requirements if Tassie is to secure an AFL licence.

Closer to home, the AFL and GWS have secured a significant increase in their agreement to play premiership games at Manuka Oval.

The new 10-year deal, which runs until 2032, is worth $28.5 million to GWS. That’s an increase of $5.5 million.

In return, GWS will play at least three AFL men’s premiership games in Canberra and two AFLW matches each year.

Snow falls during the GWS/Hawks game at Manuka Oval

Who could forget: GWS and the Hawks at Manuka Oval as the snow falls during Round 21, 2019. Photo: Supplied.

In terms of government payment per game, it’s a generous deal to say the least.

In 2023 GWS will play the Bulldogs, Brisbane and the Gold Coast in Canberra.

The Bulldogs game in Round 8 is the obvious standout. It will be broadcast free-to-air and will attract considerable coverage.

The matches against Brisbane and the Gold Coast would have struggled to attract a crowd at the GWS home ground in Sydney.

And what’s the argument from GWS in securing the $28.5 million deal? Money will be generated for Canberra businesses because of the games played at Manuka. Fans will travel to the ACT for the games. This will generate tourism and will also help to develop the code regionally.

It is far easier to estimate the value to the City from AFL games because of the proximity to Manuka and Kingston, while it is harder to estimate the value to the business community of NRL and Brumbies games at Bruce.

GWS has done well in developing the code over the past 10 years, resulting in participation growth, particularly with women taking up the sport.

Nonetheless, the deal is sure to raise the blood pressure of Brumbies and Raiders management when comparing the financial reward to GWS per game, compared to compensation to the Raiders and Brumbies.

The Raiders are in the midst of a five-year deal worth $13 million, while the Brumbies are nearing the end of a two-year deal worth $3.5 million.

For context, it needs to be mentioned that both the Raiders and the Brumbies have benefited financially through ACT Government support for the establishment of their training and administration headquarters.

Another issue sure to be raised in future negotiations between the Brumbies, Raiders and the ACT Government is the fact that both teams are based in the city, not Sydney.

The Raiders and the Brumbies, and their families, live in Canberra and spend the majority of their income in the city.

Another factor worth noting is the number of free-to-air games featuring the Raiders next season, which should be considered in relation to each home game’s value.

The Raiders will play eight free-to-air games, which will be televised on Channel 9 in 2023. This includes four games played at Canberra Stadium. Both the Raiders and the Brumbies attract supporters from outside the ACT to games at Canberra Stadium.

The national appeal of AFL, when compared to the NRL and Super Rugby, shouldn’t be forgotten when considering support for the code.

GWS Giants

GWS Giants v Port Adelaide at Manuka Oval in April 2017. Photo: File.

Yet both rugby league and rugby union have been busy developing the codes in Canberra. They have lifted their game, demonstrating considerable growth in the number of women participating.

The emergence of soccer and a potential A-League men’s team will be another factor to consider in the funding mix, as is the potential of a Canberra NBL side.

The ACT government will need deep pockets.

When it comes to considering whether the GWS deal is a good one for Canberra or not, one thing is certain, it’s a great deal for GWS.

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The GWS Giants have established a strong connection between Canberra and the AFL, providing an important but limited pathway for the Canberra Region’s best young players. AFL Canberra now needs to use its AFL footprint to get an Under 18 team into the boys and girls Under 18 NAB Leagues in Melbourne so that our most promising juniors have exposure to more AFL club talent spotters. At present they are almost invisible to the AFL’s recruitment system; if not spotted by the Giants they are forced to leave Canberra to be noticed. The best young players from strong AFL city of nearly 500,000 people should be high on the game’s recruitment agenda, like Geelong, a city of less than 280,000, which is at the epicentre of AFL recruitment. Canberra’s wealth of football talent deserves to be noticed.

fridgemagnet10:26 am 16 Dec 22

What a farce. Development of sports participation (not spectatorship) should be the primary focus of ACT Government. It should not be subsidising of massively heeled national sports conglomerates who dangle a few games their way. Abject lunacy.

Capital Retro5:38 pm 15 Dec 22

Who gets the gate receipts, ACT government or GWS?

And there are massive variations in crowd numbers. Are there any links where ratepayers can get real information? I have been contacted regularly by friends and relatives in Albury and Melbourne asking me if I would like free tickets to watch AFL at Manuka. Who funds this?

Just like all sports. My mate has never paid all year to watch the Raiders.

Capital Retro11:26 am 16 Dec 22

The Raiders are a locally based team, at least.

Capital Retro3:52 pm 16 Dec 22

So, no one knows where the money goes or is it that no one wants to say?

ChrisinTurner4:33 pm 15 Dec 22

Only AFL gets the bums on seats.

This is big money. Women AFL footballers are just as good to watch as their male counterparts. There are two female matches to be held in the ACT under this deal. I have no doubts that the women’s AFL matches will be just as popular as the male matches. However, women players receive significantly less in pay. I do hope female players are not missing out from this deal while those benefiting scrimp!

You do realise that we’ve already had AFLW games here the last few years right?

Average crowd of less than 2000.

Capital Retro5:48 pm 15 Dec 22

Crowds for women’s cricket are even lower.

Jack D.
I think you already know this, however, despite the girls giving it a fair crack, their crowds are very low, the scores sometimes don’t even get into double digits.

and the girls don’t have the same strength and size meaning that even when playing on smaller grounds they take an extra 3 or 4 kicks to get from one end to the other.

The daughter of friend played for the Matildas and he said there standard wasn’t equivalent to that of an 18 year old boy’s.

As for pay, well, I’m sorry, it has to be earn. You can’t expect parity when there aren’t bums on seats. It took the men over 100 years to get where they are.

That response says it all kenbehrens!

Jack D said “This is big money. Women AFL footballers are just as good to watch as their male counterparts.”

Ummmm – no they’re not.

I don’t see any return on this “investment” for ordinary Canberra ratepayers. Especially those who don’t go to football of any code. Sure, some businesses will get some extra income but how does that flow through to the average ratepayer? Taxes and GST go to the Federal Government and may eventually trickle down to the Territory. If our Government has that much extra cash just lying around then surely they can find a use for it in our hospitals and schools. Let those that want to watch these games pay for it directly – after all, it’s entertainment, not an essential service.

If a sport can attract 10,000 on a snowy, windy freezing day at manuka oval to watch AFL, it’s worthy of taxpapers investment. I remember that day and couldn’t believe the crowd. The issue with the Raiders is that they’ve been here for 40 years and Canberra’s population has doubled to 400,000, but there crowds have stagnated at 13,000 – same as 1980. Sorry, but thats not a wise investment by the taxpayer for a new stadium.

Haha, this is laughable.

The AFL averaged less than 10000 this year at a central stadium with a limited amount of games that should maximise attendances.

The Raiders averaged 3000 more over 12 games at Bruce, a stadium that is clearly holding back growth in attendance numbers due to its unsuitability and location.

The value for money is non existent for that expenditure on AFL.

But I suppose Andrew Barr loves AFL so any amount of money is justifiable.

Hi Chewy14,
The Raiders have been here for a long time and are a Canberra/Qbn local team and with that brings a level of local support.

The Giants aren’t local and apart from the sponsorship deal, really wouldn’t have a big following. I’d think more locals would follow the Swans. Most AFL supporters have other allegiances.

I think it’s fair to say that unless people are being turned away from Bruce due to the venue being at capacity, I’m not sure that a new stadium would have the whole city wearing green. There are too many competing codes here. AFL, Soccer, the Brumbies etc.

The problem with Bruce for the Raiders/Brumbies is that because of its woeful location and layout, people just prefer to stay at home and watch the games on TV.

A stadium near a central entertainment district would increase crowds because people could plan both prior and after activities which is exactly what we see in the other states.

Hi Chewy14,
I haven’t been to Bruce for many years. (I don’t follow either type of the Rugby teams).
Back in the day, Action used to run free charters from seemingly everywhere, so maybe in those days, location wasn’t so much of any issue.
I do take your point about going elsewhere after the game. There’s nothing much at Bruce is there?

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