By RUSSELL JONES
There was a time when the SANFL was held up as one of the pinnacle exhibitions of Australian Rules football.
However, with the introduction of a national competition in 1990, the focus has shifted to a larger stage.
The city of Adelaide is now divided in two halves; whereas in the past, workplaces and families were divided in up to nine tribes all gunning for bragging rights.
But the old ways are gone now, with the SANFL often viewed as a dying competition that has slowly been deteriorating for years.
But the reality is actually quite the opposite, with the league experiencing a steady increase in popularity over the last few years.
According to the 2011 SANFL Financial Report, attendances for the 2011 regular season increased by 5.3 per cent from the previous year, with this number increasing every year since 2007.
While the 2011 average attendance of 3,236 is a far cry from the 38,213 fans who watched Port Adelaide play North Adelaide in 1988, it is still the second highest attended Australian Rules football competition behind the AFL.
Lifelong Port Adelaide fan Margaret Jones and her husband Allan have been attending the Magpies home games since the 1960’s and don’t plan on stopping anytime soon.
“It’s always a good day down at Alberton, and we love supporting the club,” Margaret said.
“The atmosphere against a fierce rival like Norwood or Sturt is still fantastic.”
The financial situation of the competition remains fairly complicated due to their ties to the two Adelaide based AFL clubs and the finances associated with them.
However, with all the factors combined the total revenue for South Australian National Football League Incorporated in 2011 was up roughly $1.5 million from the previous year.
The introduction of the Foxtel Cup, a knockout competition involving clubs across all of the various state leagues in the country, has also helped bring the buzz back into the SANFL.
Football fan Tom Sossic said he really enjoyed the new format.
“Bringing a European Champions League feel to the state competitions really brought my attention back to the local league teams and I’m looking forward to it again this year,” he said.
While it may not quite boast the media attention, attendance or revenue of the AFL, the SANFL still continues to thrive thanks to the local support of diehard South Australian football fans.
Image by Flickr – HeatherW