Fremantle Dockers membership revenue drops in 2019 as fan frustration grows

Garlick blamed the club’s $1.6 million loss on mainly four factors, including a decrease in net membership revenue, a restructure of club personnel, more investment in its AFLW operation and increased royalty payments to the WAFC.

“While the loss of more than $1.6 million is significant, it was part of a conscious club reset, so we are confident it is a one-off and look forward to continuing to build on our strong financial foundation,” Garlick said in a statement released on the club’s website on Tuesday evening.

“We have a strong and loyal supporter base and, for the sixth consecutive year, remain on track to exceed 50,000 members in 2020.”

But the 10 per cent drop in membership revenue, the club’s biggest stream of income, in just 12 months will concern Fremantle’s new-look executive.

The Dockers recorded 51,254 members in 2017 and 55,639 members in 2018 – its first year at Optus Stadium – an 8.56 per cent jump. It is expected to report more than 50,000 members for 2019.

But it is not the number of members the club attracts that is vital for 2020 and beyond, but what they are willing to pay and whether the massive revenue drop is more than a “reset”.

The type of memberships offered by the club since it moved to Optus Stadium have been greatly discounted as its poor run of form on field continued.

Some existing adult members who were paying upwards of $800 for season memberships at the new stadium and then wanted to cancel at the end of 2018 were enticed to stay on board via cheaper ‘flexi memberships’ for as little as $80 a season.

This was represented in auditor Ernst & Young’s audit, which showed the club’s retained earnings at the beginning of its financial year (November 1, 2018) were $13,419,506 but dropped to $11,777,033 by October 31, 2019, a loss it attributed to the ‘Fremantle Football Club membership’.

Revenue from club membership in 2019 was down $2.15 million to $18.5m, offset by an increase in match revenue of $592,852 to $6.33 million, which showed more fans had purchased tickets on match day rather than through membership last season.

Home game attendance at Fremantle’s fixtures at Subiaco Oval in 2017 averaged 32,375 and jumped to 41,764 when it moved to the new 60,000-seat Optus Stadium in 2018.

But average home attendance figures for 2019 are expected to fall after another disappointing season that left coach Lyon sacked and former CEO Steve Rosich also departing.

New Dockers coach Justin Longmuir, with president Dale Alcock and football boss Peter Bell, will feel pressure to get results in his first year.Credit:Getty Images

West Coast conversely averaged 53,250 fans to home fixtures in 2018 after averaging 36,751 in its last season at Subiaco Oval in 2017, a league record jump of 44 per cent.

The bleak 10 per cent drop in membership revenue for Fremantle came as it increased income from other streams last season such as signage ($366,765) and functions and events ($522,264).

Garlick hoped new rookie coach Justin Longmuir and his crop of 2020 players could help turn around the financial fortunes of Fremantle.


“The 60,000-seat capacity of Optus Stadium provides us with a tremendous opportunity to grow as we look for sustained success on the field,” Garlick said.

“Our fans have been incredibly loyal throughout the past four seasons when we have missed finals and we are optimistic that, with improved performance on the field, we will also see significant improvement in our future financial results.”

Parker said any business that lost 10 per cent of its biggest revenue stream would be worried.

“The club can say this $1.6m loss is a one-off and part of a reset, but the point is they need to get those members back and they can’t really afford a further fall in membership,” he said.

“2020 memberships are tracking to 50,000 but that [net membership revenue drop] quantifies the extent to which Fremantle members are abandoning the football club.

“Revenue down $2.2 million… that is the true cost of Freo members giving up on the club.”

Fremantle has been contacted for comment.

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