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.
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.
Both American football and Aussie Rules:
And the list of differences goes on and on, especially when it comes to comparing the business aspects of the NFL and the AFL.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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After graduating from the University of New Hampshire with a BA in Journalism, Richard Janvrin has been covering iGaming and sports betting since December 2018. Richard has covered betting at Bleacher Report, Gambling.com, The Game Day, Forbes, and more.More info on Richard Janvrin
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