AFL Northern Territory (AFLNT) has today released the results from the 2018/19 TIO NTFL Fan survey, which it ran in conjunction with The NT News in March.
AFLNT had sought information on how football fans rated NTFL venues and facilities, patron safety, games and fixtures, as well as competition and coaching standards.
Information about how fans choose to consume NTFL-related information was also collected.
Most pleasingly, 197 responses were received, and AFLNT engaged True North Strategic Communication to analyse the data and compile the this survey report.
AFLNT CEO Stuart Totham said the fan survey and subsequent report consolidated the organisation’s current priorities and thinking.
“We thank those fans who took the time to give us feedback, it’s part of our endeavour to try and be more collaborative with clubs, stakeholders and the community so we do appreciate the effort and can assure them that we are paying attention to what they have to say.
“While the responses have collectively consolidated our thinking on a lot of key areas and will help us prioritise our work moving forward into next season and beyond,” he said.
Of the respondents, 86 identified themselves as 2018/19 NTFL members; a further 43 said they weren’t members in the past season but were open to becoming members in the future, while 67 people answered that they prefer to pay for their attendance on entry.
The report emphasised the love Territorians have for the NTFL, with many acknowledging the rich history the game is steeped in and the family heritage that connects community and football today.
Overall, the level of satisfaction of TIO Stadium is high with the overwhelming feedback being that the venue offered a great environment, with most people indicating they felt safe.
The majority of respondents felt that the standard of the game is generally good, but there were some areas for improvement that were identified via the responses:
- More oval lighting
- Better change rooms
- Better seating at suburban ovals
- Improved spectator behaviour
- Better game scheduling
- More affordable games
- Higher standard umpiring
On each of the above areas, the following points were specifically made. The comments provided in relation to each area have been provided by AFLNT CEO, Stuart Totham.
More oval lighting
- Respondents were overwhelmingly in favour of introducing lights across suburban ovals to allow more night games.
- Lights would reduce the need for games to be played in the heat of the day.
“We continue to work closely with the Darwin City Council to push for the projects at Gardens Oval and Nightcliff’s PSC BM Oval to begin. At the moment the Council’s process for the lighting project is not moving as quickly as we’d like, and yet it’s clear that our fans are crying out for more evening and night games.
"Once the work is complete we will most definitely be utilising the ovals at a more friendly time of the day.
“In an ideal situation, given the climate we all live in, all Darwin and Rural ovals would have lighting, so that’s something we’ll be encouraging government and council to keep looking at for the betterment of all sports and the wider community.”
Better change rooms and seating
- There is concern with the condition or size of change rooms across all suburban ovals. They need to be upgraded or increased.
- There is a lack of adequate seating, including covered seating at all ovals except TIO Stadium.
“At the end of last year, we completed an independent facilities audit on the 130 grounds in the NT that we use to facilitate our programs and competitions.
“Known as the AFLNT Statewide Facility Framework, the work we undertook provides targeted, strategic direction for facility investment across the NT.
“It showed us that across the NT, over 85% of football venues do not provide female friendly change rooms, 63% do not meet lighting standards, 81% offer no pavilion or social spaces for players or community members, 79% lack necessary spectator seating or shelters, while 35% of playing fields are in poor condition.
“More specifically for the NTFL, the Framework indicates there’s a little over $102 million needed to be spent in the Darwin and Rural areas to meet our required standards.
“We have three Premier League clubs, two of them founding NTFL clubs, without a home oval or training base but we cannot achieve this or get the upgrades on our own.
“Except for Asbuild Oval, which we lease, all of the NTFL venues are owned by Local Government or the Northern Territory Government. A key outcome of the Framework is to ensure ongoing collaboration between all stakeholders, from local sporting associations to Local Government, the Northern Territory Government and AFLNT, so facility need and investment priorities are collectively planned for and understood.”
Improved spectator behaviour
- Concern regarding the behaviour of some spectators including player and umpire abuse.
- The Code of Conduct needs to be enforced better.
“It’s great to see our fans acknowledging that there is no place for abuse at the footy. When spectators and clubs take ownership of these matters, then it makes it a more enjoyable environment for all of us.
“One of our focuses in the lead up to the start of the 2019/20 season will be to better educate clubs, players and the general public about acceptable behaviour. We will consider whether breaches of the Code of Conduct should be shared publicly, like we would a tribunal sanction so that people know there are consequences for bad actions and behaviour.
Better game scheduling
- More investment is needed in developing fixtures prior to season start, especially juniors.
- Women’s Premier League before Men’s Premier League.
- Consistent scheduling for junior games so families can plan weekends.
“The NTFL football operations team work tirelessly to try and meet the demands of the different clubs and divisions. It’s clear that several contributing factors, some within our control like timing, and others outside of our remit like team forfeits, and oval access meant that we were not as organised as we’d like, especially with the junior divisions.
“With lights on more ovals we need to balance the fixtures with club and volunteer availability, school holidays and junior division regrading.
“The feedback on playing more Women’s Premier League before the men’s games is something we trialled a couple of years ago and copped a bit of public flack over, but since then the standard of the women’s competition has improved. The women’s games also promote a family-friendly atmosphere, so there is certainly some credit to this notion that we are keen to explore further.”
More affordable games
- The cost of attending games is perceived by some as high which makes it unaffordable for some families to attend.
“We hear what fans are saying, and our commercial operations team will be undertaking a gate management model review before the commencement of the next season, to see how we are tracking and if any savings can be made and passed on to the public.
“We recognise the tough economic times that we exist in, and as such, admission prices have remained on hold for the past three seasons.
“Each season we release an NTFL membership, which is well-suited to those who come to the footy most weekends or multiple times in a weekend as it presents the best value to access games at all the venues.
“AFLNT does not charge a registration fee for players, so we charge at the gate to recoup some of the money the organisation spends putting on games. The gate money goes towards insurance, umpires, lights, line marking, casual staff and so on.
Higher standard umpiring
- The standard of umpiring needs to improve, there is a lack of consistency.
- Respondents felt that there needs to be an investment in umpire training and mentoring.
“In the middle of last year, we began our review into football umpiring across the NT, and have since compiled a very comprehensive five-year strategy which addresses the same challenges that have been highlighted by our fans.
“We have just recently released the umpiring strategy to the NTFL club presidents and the NTFL Umpiring Association committee and will share it with the broader public in the next month.
“There are four main strategic pillars that our focus will turn to in order to drive success in umpiring; develop a high-quality pool of coaches and support staff, increase community awareness, provide a clear pathway for umpire development and strengthen resources, management structure and policies that support umpires.
Those wanting to review all the survey’s questions and compiled feedback, including more specific items such as the TIO Stadium food and bar options, preferred Men’s Premier League game times, safety, and preferences for consuming NTFL content are encouraged to download the full survey report.