The AFL has retained its standing as the fourth-best attended sporting competition in the world, despite the addition in recent years of two expansion teams in states which historically favour the rugby codes.
The average attendance for AFL home and away matches in 2014 was 32,436 – a figure bolstered by the huge crowds drawn to the refurbished Adelaide Oval to watch the Power and the Crows.
The two Adelaide sides and three of Melbourne’s most popular clubs – Collingwood, Essendon and Richmond – all attracted an average of more than 43,000 fans to their home games in 2014.
Ten of the 18 AFL clubs pulled bigger home crowds than NRL pacesetters Brisbane, whose average attendance at Suncorp Stadium was 33,354 last year.
In a global sense, the National Football League in the US remained far and away the pacesetter for crowds, with an average of 68,776 supporters on hand for every match of the home and away season, according to figures published by ICYMI Sports.
Soccer claimed the next two spots on the table.
The Bundesliga was second with 43,500 and the English Premier League was third with 36,695.
The NFL and the Bundesliga operate predominantly on the one-team, one-town model.
In contrast, six of the 20 EPL teams in the 2013-14 were based in London, while half of the AFL’s 18 clubs are in Melbourne, with Geelong also just an hour away down the Princes Highway.
Expansion clubs Gold Coast and Greater Western Sydney drew the smallest home crowds in the AFL last year.
The world’s best attended sporting competitions
1. National Football League (USA)
Average crowd of 68,776 in 2014-15
68,401 in 2013-14
2. Bundesliga (Germany)
43,500 in 2103-14
41,914 in 2012-13
3. English Premier League
36,695 in 2013-14
35,931 in 2012-13
4. Australian Football League
32,436 in 2014
32,163 in 2013
5. Major League Baseball (USA)
30,436 in 2014
30,514 in 2013