NFL vs AFL: Revenue, Salaries, Viewership and Attendance
The game that’s played by the Australian Football League (AFL) has got running, kicking and tackling, and the object is to move the ball down the field to score, but that’s as far as the similarities go when it comes to comparing it to the version of football played by the National Football League (NFL) in the U.S.A.
Most Americans have little to no idea what Australian Rules Football is (I was one of them until I did the research for this article – I had mistakenly thought it was rugby!), but that could change as the sport begins to spread more and more in worldwide popularity.
We at WSN hope to help circulate the growing appreciation of this unique and thrilling version of football by briefly breaking it down here and then comparing it to the American version, including its revenue, salaries, viewership, and attendance.
Let’s start by understanding how Australian Rules Football compares to American Football when it comes to the basics.
AFL vs NFL – a Comparison
Australian Rules Football, also known as Aussie Rules and Footy, is Australia’s biggest sport and has some serious fans that make up the fourth-highest average attendance of any domestic sports league in the world.
That said, American football, or the NFL, is the number one attended domestic sports league in the world.
Footy is certainly similar to American Football in a few ways, but it’s different in so many other ways that it’s important to break this down.
Here’s How the Two Sports Are Similar
Both American football and Aussie Rules:
- Run, pass and kick a ball down the field in order to score points.
- Have odd-shaped balls – the American football is a ‘prolate spheroid’ because that’s also the shape of an inflated pig’s bladder, which is what the first footballs were made from, while the Aussie Rules football is more egg-shaped, allowing it to be bounced and caught by a player on the run.
- Tackle the player with the ball.
- Score points in an end zone.
- Have various ways to score.
- Have playoffs that culminate in a championship matchup.
- Have a Hall of Fame, though the highest honor given to an Aussie Rules footballer is called ‘The Legend’ status, and currently there are fourteen of them.
But Here’s How the Two Sports Differ
Players and Their Gear
- NFL players average in size anywhere from 5-foot-11 and 193-pounds (cornerbacks) to 6-foot-5 and 315-pounds (offensive line), while the average AFL player is the size of basketball players with the hands and foot speed of an NFL wide receiver and the stamina of a soccer player.
- In American football, the players wear helmets and pads, but in Aussie Rules the players wear sleeveless shirts and shorts.
- The NFL has 32 teams with 53 players on each while the AFL has 18 teams made up of 22 players each.
- There are eleven NFL players on the field at any given time during a game, whereas there are 18 on an AFL field – six Defenders (or backmen), six forwards for scoring, and six Midfielders (usually two wingmen, one center and three followers called a ruckman, ruck-rover, and rover) in the midfield.
Moving the Ball
- In American Football, players can either run with the ball or throw the ball, but they can’t kick the ball to teammates, only to give the ball to the other team or for scoring.
- In Aussie Rules, players can move the ball three ways:
- Run with the ball, but the player has to bounce it to themselves every 16 yards.
- Hand Ball – Players can use their fist to move the ball forward.
- Kicking – Aussie rules players use kicking the way a football quarterback uses passing, which is to get the ball accurately to their teammates.
- An American football game is divided into four quarters of fifteen minutes each, but there is an overtime period if the game is tied at the end of regulation.
- An Aussie Rules match has four quarters of twenty minutes each and ties stand, but (like in soccer) time is added for delays and other stoppages of play, up to ten minutes.
The shape of the Field
- American Football is played on a rectangular field while Australian Football is played on an oval field. The shape of Australian football fields was influenced by cricket fields (which were used for the earliest football matches back in the late 1800s) and the shape of the field has carried over to modern Australian Football matches.
- There is no regulation set size of the field but professional matches are usually done on fields that are 160 meters long and 130 meters wide give or take a few dozen meters.
- In the NFL, players can score in one of five different ways:
- Cross the goal line with the football to score a touchdown, worth six points.
- After a touchdown, the kicker can kick the ball through the uprights from 33 yards out, worth 1 point.
- After a touchdown, the team can try to cross the goal line from 2-yards out, worth two points.
- The offense can bring their placekicker onto the field at any point to attempt to kick the ball through the uprights, worth three points.
- Tackle an opposing player in his own endzone and it’s called a safety, worth two points.
- In the AFL, teams score in three different ways:
- Kick the ball through the two large upright posts for a goal worth six points.
- Hit the big post with the ball for one point.
- Send the ball between a big post and the outer lower post next to it for a point – called a Behind
- The NFL lists its scores like this: Chicago 28, Green Bay 20, which means the Bears beat the Packers by eight points.
- The AFL lists its scores like this: Melbourne 7.5 (47) def Collingwood 3.9 (27), which means Melbourne scored 7 goals and 5 behinds for a total of 47 points and defeated Collingwood, who scored 3 goals and 9 behinds for a total of 27 points.
Tackling and Interference
- In American football, the players can hit and tackle each other from the neck down, but in Aussie Rules the players still tackle hard, but not too high or low – it must be between the shoulder and the knees.
- In the NFL, players can’t interfere with each other when the ball has been thrown, but in the AFL, players can jump to get a high ball – the move is called a Mark, and (incredibly) they can climb on their opponent’s back to make the catch – and after a Mark, you can keep going or stop and take an unimpeded kick.
Seasons and Championships
- The NFL teams play 16 games in a regular-season while the AFL teams play 22 regular-season games.
- The NFL season culminates with 12 teams competing in a single-elimination tournament while the AFL season ends with 8 teams battling in what’s known as ‘The Finals.’
- The NFL decides that year’s champion by pitting the two best teams in a championship game called the Super Bowl, while the AFL’s best two teams face off in a championship game called ‘The Grand Final.’
And the list of differences goes on and on, especially when it comes to comparing the business aspects of the NFL and the AFL.
The NFL and AFL, Side by Side
Which league makes more revenue?
Which sport do more fans prefer in 2020?
Which league is better preparing themselves for worldwide domination?
In this article, we’re going to answer those questions and a whole lot more as we examine and compare the NFL and the AFL – their revenue, salaries, viewership and attendance – and try to figure out which sports league is better positioning itself to be number one in America and in the world.
Let’s start by comparing each league’s revenue.
Which League Makes More Money, NFL or AFL?
The NFL does, easily.
For example, during the 2018 season, the NFL made about $16 billion in total national revenue, of which, based on the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), they gave 52 percent to the owners and 48 percent to the players.
However, during that same season, the AFL’s profit was $668 million, which reflected a $17.4 million increase due to the recently signed broadcast rights deal and a successful 2018 finals series.
All AFL clubs receive an equal distribution of TV money, and there are other posts of revenue that are also given to clubs to compensate for inequalities.
Which Makes More Money – the Super Bowl or the Grand Final?
This one isn’t even close.
For example, the revenue from Super Bowl LII easily surpassed $500 million. Ad spending alone for in-game spots exceeded $400 million, as it did the previous season.
The estimated revenue for the city of Melbourne brought in by the AFL’s 2014 grand final was around $42 million, and that number will just keep increasing as the popularity of the sport grows and the international television coverage increases.
Which Teams Are Worth More, Nfl or AFL?
When it comes to team worth, the NFL has a huge advantage over the AFL, with the American teams worth billions of dollars and the footy clubs worth more in the millions.
According to Forbes Magazine, the average NFL team is worth $2.5 billion, and all but five of the NFL teams are worth at least $2 billion.
The Dallas Cowboys are the NFL’s most valuable team and the world’s most valuable franchise. They’re worth $4.8 billion, and that’s up 14%, whereas the Buffalo Bills are last on the list with a value of $1.6 billion.
Tough to find recent revenue information on the AFL clubs, but within the last decade their top club, the Collingwood Magpies, had a brand value of $39.1 million, with the West Coast Eagles next in line, valued at $32.6 million.
What Is the Average NFL Salary Compared to the Average AFL Salary?
NFL first-year players make an average of $365,000 per year, and they make their big money through bonuses, including a roster bonus, a signing bonus, contact incentives, and a few other formats.
The average salary of a typical NFL player is $1.9 million per year while the average salary for an NFL quarterback is about $4 million per year.
(For a complete list of the NFL’s top ten highest players, check out our in-depth article on all ten of those athletic millionaires.)
In 2017, the AFL and the AFL Players Association decided on a new CBA deal, and that increased players’ salaries by 20%.
That meant that the average salary of an AFL player went from $309,000 to $371,000, with the salary cap rising from $10.37 million to $12.45 million.
Which League Is Viewed More, the NFL or the AFL?
This one, again, is an easy win for the NFL.
During the 2019 season, the NFL increased its television viewership to 16.5 million per game, which equates to 180 million in total viewers for the entire season.
The AFL, on the other hand, was said to “hold a steady ship” as 111.4 million people tuned into their games during the 2019 season.
That number was considered on par with the previous season’s totals.
Which Is Viewed More – the Super Bowl or the Grand Final?
The season before that had 103.4 million people worldwide watch the Philadelphia Eagles beat the New England Patriots, 41-33, in Super Bowl LII.
The 2019 Grand Final between the Richmond Tigers and the Greater Western Sydney Giants attracted 2.2 million viewers as the Tigers won, the score Richmond 17.12 (114) def Greater Western Sydney 3.7 (25).
That figure was down from the previous year in 2018 when the grand final match drew 2.62 million, which was down from the previous year’s 2.68 total.
Who Had More Fans Attending Games Last Season, the NFL or AFL?
During the 2019 season, the NFL regular-season games were attended by a total of 16.67 million spectators, which has been about average for the last several years.
With 256 total NFL games played, that comes out to about 65,100 fans per game.
The AFL attracted a total of 7.5 million spectators, with 207 matches played in total, that comes out to about 36,200 fans per match.
Who Has a Higher Average Ticket Price, the NFL or AFL?
Once again, American football wins, though that’s not a good thing for the fans who like to watch the games live and in person.
During the 2019 season, the average “get in” ticket price of an NFL game was $112 across all thirty-two teams in the league.
To go see an AFL match, the general admission price is up to $27 for adults and $6 for children.
The World’s Preference: The NFL or the AFL?
Numbers don’t lie, and they indicate that the NFL brings in more money and overall fans than the AFL does, plus it makes more money for its franchise owners and players.
That said – the NFL has been around for a century now and the AFL has only been in existence since 1990, so it makes perfect sense that American football is more lucrative and popular at this point.
But now, thanks to cable television, Americans can begin to enjoy footy from the comfort of their own couches (though the games typically come with a subscription fee for the channel that covers them) so expect the AFL’s audience to continue its growth in the U.S. and elsewhere outside of Australia.
No sport in the world right now brings in more total revenue or viewership than American football, though European “futbol” (i.e. soccer) is beginning to come close due to its worldwide audience.
(For more on how those two sports compare, check out our prior coverage check our article on NFL vs MLS – Revenue, Salaries, Viewership, Attendance, and Ratings).
Aussie Rules is a unique version of the game of football that includes enough raw brutality to engage an American audience already quite interested in (and somewhat numbed to) sports-fueled violence, so it’s just a matter of time before the AFL begins to pick up in the U.S.A.
Once American audiences begin to understand the curious rules of the AFL and they get to see enough brilliant ‘Marks’ (seriously, do an internet search on ‘AFL best marks’ – it’ll blow your mind) the sport should begin to grow in popularity.
But until an American footy club becomes part of the AFL, don’t expect U.S. citizens to show too much interest in (or loyalty to) the sport of Aussie Rules, since international sports are a lot more fun (and personal) to Americans when fans have some red, white and blue skin in the game.
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Mike Lukas is a retired standup comedian turned freelance writer now living in Dallas, Texas, originally from Cleveland, Ohio. His love for the game of football and all things Cleveland Browns turned Mike into a pro blogger years ago. Now Mike enjoys writing about all thirty-two NFL teams, hoping to help football gamblers gain a slight edge in their pursuit of the perfect wager.