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AFL Finals Club Dilema: COVID Virtual Tech Plans For Members

F
ive Victorian-based AFL clubs have qualified for this year’s Toyota AFL finals series, which is set to get underway Friday.

Due to the COVID-19 impact in Victoria, the AFL has been forced to move out of its home-base in Victoria and seek refuge in Queensland.

This has ultimately meant no Victorian fans are able to attend games or receive the full benefits of purchasing their club membership.

Due to the lack of club staff working in the designated hubs due to strict biosecurity measures, clubs have reportedly been expressing their difficulty in trying to organise virtual events and plans for their Victorian members.

One club told Ministry of Sport they have been impacted and slowed in their plans by having limited staff in the designated hubs.

“I can follow that up, nothing is confirmed just yet, you know obviously we are using this week to try and connect to our fans,” the club told Ministry of Sport when asked how they plan to provide their Victorian members with exclusive virtual activations in the absence of them being able to attend live events.

“Certainly we will have some stuff coming this week, another thing though that is also impacting us is that we only have two digital communications staff up here, [in the hub] so they’re working hard on it all,” they said.

In this ‘new world’ as it is often referred to as, thanks to COVID-19, the AFL, and its clubs, along with every other sporting organisation and business around Australia, have been left scrambling to make the best out of their circumstance.

COVID-19 restrictions have forced sporting clubs to relocate for extended periods of time on limited numbers, and the AFL recently cut 20% of its staff as part of a restructure in response to the financial implications of COVID-19.

At this stage, clubs are still reportedly working out ideas for their members in Victoria, however with under one week until the first game and not a lot of confirmation, it seems as though Victorian members will perhaps miss out on exclusive activations and be left in the dark.

Each club can’t confirm what their future plans are, which will ultimately leave some of these die-hard members left wondering about what their membership is actually worth.

Between the five clubs, there is over 315,000 members, with no doubt the majority of them coming from Victoria.

Ministry of Sport can confirm that there is no indication at this stage that all five clubs, Richmond, Geelong, St Kilda, Western Bulldogs, and Collingwood, will officially be providing any virtual packages for their Victorian members during the final series.

When asked about their plans to engage Victorian members during the AFL finals series, a spokesperson for Geelong told Ministry of Sport plans are ongoing and they are yet to finalise any offerings, one week out from the start of the finals.

“That is our plan,” the Geelong spokesperson told Ministry of Sport.

“We are still waiting on some final information, but yes that is our plan to do that, definitely.

“A few ideas have been floating around like virtual training sessions.

“We are trying to involve our Victorian members with things that would normally be a part of the Grand Final week.

“More information will go up on our website under finals hub, however yes there will be special virtual events for Geelong members, in which they will receive updates,” they said.

An unnamed Victorian club also told Ministry of Sport they are not aware of any plans to hold exclusive, virtual events for their Victorian members who are unable to attend games due to COVID-19.

“Very good question, I am not aware of anything and it is a very good suggestion,” the club told Ministry of Sport.

“I will find out the details and then you can keep an eye out on our website, and you can give us a call back, however I will hopefully find something out.

“At this stage though I am not aware of anything,” they said.

With the AFL being forced to restructure its entire season on short notice, after initially suspending its season in March and then re-continuing in June, the question must be asked, have the clubs had enough opportunity to create brand new engagement activations for their members?

Perhaps this week is a chance for the AFL, its clubs, and all of the brands involved, to take a breath and ensure they are properly prepared to give the fans the true value they crave for the AFL finals series, in whatever form that takes.