An open letter from AFL Chairman Richard Goyder AO and CEO Andrew Dillon

As the AFL season gets underway this week, we wanted to take the opportunity on behalf of the AFL Commission to thank you for taking part in Australia’s national game and making it the number one sport in the country.
Your involvement is crucial. Local football has and will always be the lifeblood of our game.
We are proud that our game of Australian rules football not only provides a sporting opportunity for girls, boys, women and men across the country but also helps to connect local communities and bring people together.
We are also grateful for your involvement and the involvement of so many individuals and families across football who contribute to an inclusive environment that has resulted in a record number of 526,000 registered participants taking part in our game.
Last month we announced that the AFL will invest $1 billion over the next decade to help build our game at the community level with a view to doubling that number to more than one million registered participants by 2033 and achieve our goal of getting footy in every home in Australia.
Some of the ways we are doing this and what we’re achieving along the way:

  • Investing in more facilities for people across the community. Since the introduction of NAB AFLW in 2017 we have collaborated with local football clubs, local, state and federal Governments to take the number of clubs with gender-friendly facilities from 25 per cent to more than 50 per cent with an aim to make it 100 per cent by 2030.  
  • That co-investment model has helped to add 428 ovals around the country over the past seven years. 
  • In 2023 alone we added 80 new ovals, converted 280 gender-neutral changerooms and ensured 100 venues had match-level lighting.  We acknowledge there is still work to do and we are working at a local level to identify all the facilities that need support.  We still need almost two ovals a week, every week for the next decade to ensure we can meet that one million target. 
  • We also want to ensure that we have a 50/50 split of male and females playing, coaching, umpiring and administering and part of the future investment is in programs to help to achieve that. 
  • We also recognise that no-one plays local footy or participates in NAB AFL Auskick without the work of our tens of thousands of volunteers and thank all our clubs and all the many volunteers for the work they do for Australian football. Your commitment is incredible. 

In Queensland, football is thriving and the results are showing:

  • A 31 per cent rise in the number of registered participants since 2019 to 68,000 with an aim to increase that to 165,000 by 2033.
  • 78 facility projects in Queensland that have been supported through the Grand Final Facilities Fund established in conjunction with the Queensland State Government, producing more than $109 million in combined venue improvements across Queensland local football clubs.
  • Australian rules in Queensland has experienced a 54 per cent rise in female participants across community football competitions since 2019, including a 10 per cent rise in the last year.
We are excited by the speed of the growth of the game in Queensland and will continue to work to ensure that we do everything we can to help clubs. 
Our view is that the strength of the grassroots game makes the game stronger at the elite AFL and AFLW level and – in turn – helps to fund community football and drive more people to experience the game. 
In 2023, we had a combined audience of 101 million people either attending games or watching the broadcasts – something no other code can match – but it is just as important that millions more attended games of community football. We have invested $2 million in creating an expansion hub to work with our AFL clubs in Queensland and NSW to not only drive membership and attendances at AFL and AFLW games but also connect more children with their local clubs.
Having a strong local football base is why the AFL Commission made the decision to enshrine 10 per cent of industry revenue to support the game at grassroots level, resulting in being able to commit at least $1 billion in investment by 2033.

We are also committed to making our game more inclusive and welcoming. As part of this we have established a National Panel to support and assist with matters relating to vilification and developed anti-vilification learning resources and modules, freely available online at AFL Learn to all local clubs Australia-wide.
This year we also made the decision to start the season early in Queensland with the Brisbane Lions taking on Carlton this Friday March 8 at the Gabba and the Gold Coast Suns playing Richmond at Heritage Bank Stadium on Saturday March 9 (tickets are going fast but for ticketing information click here).
That is not only about driving greater membership and attendances for our Queensland-based AFL/W clubs but also inspiring thousands more to take up our game at community level at your club or Auskick centre and in your local schools. 
Again, thank you for your love of Australia’s game and for helping to make football the game that shakes hands with the soul of Australia. 

Our Supporters