AFL

AFL v NRL crowd attendances in 2020

Cameron Voss  |  Wednesday 23rd December 2020
An NRL match at the SCG during the 2020 season

2020 was no normal season with Coronavirus shutting stadium doors, then allowing crowds back in limited numbers in different states. Still, we look and compare attendance figures for the AFL and NRL.

Austadiums lists crowd attendances figures for every major sporting event in Australia and while many figures weren’t published in the media given the many small figures, figures for every AFL and NRL game have now been collected by Austadiums and published on the site. Note that event with a restricted capacity is flagged as such on the site.

The NRL got their season away with crowds attending round one as normal, before Covid-19 forced games to be played behind closed doors. The AFL season, which kicks-off a week later, was played in empty stadiums from the get-go.

The extended break meant the AFL season was reduced from 207 matches to 162, while the NRL season was reduced from 197 to 169 games.

The AFL played the majority of its games in Queensland, including the Grand Final, and managed to exceed one million spectators for the season, with a total of 1,030,191 fans attending matches. That was 266,535 more than the NRL, which had 763,656 spectators through the gates.

  AFL NRL
Total attendance 1,030,191 763,656
Average attendance 7,746 5,378
Highest attendance 32,865 37,303
Total games 162 169
Games closed to public 29 27
Games with restricted capacity 133 134
Games with no restriction 0 8
Number of stadiums 12 18

The average attendance for matches where fans were permitted to attend was 7,746 for the AFL and 5,376 for the NRL.

Initially, games were played in front of a couple of hundred or so club members only, with the NRL moving all NSW games to a select few stadiums in Sydney. The first fixture with a crowd in attendances was on June 11, for the round 5 clash between the Sea Eagles and Broncos at Central Coast Stadium.

Adelaide Oval hosted the first AFL game with fans back in the stands, on June 13, although it was a different atmosphere to what’s usually expected for a showdown, with just 2240 in attendances for the Power v Crows clash.

The last AFL game played in Melbourne was on July 5, before all matches were relocated interstate. The Grand Final was played outside of Melbourne for the first time and 29,707 fans witnessed Richmond go back-to-back under lights at the Gabba (which had a 30k limit). The highest AFL crowd for the season was at Optus Stadium, with 32,865 fans attending the elimination final between West Coast Eagles and Collingwood.

The largest crowd across both competitions went to the NRL, with 37,303 fans attending the Grand Final at Stadium Australia (which had a 40k limit), where the Melbourne Storm defeated the Penrith Panthers, while 37,112 were at Suncorp Stadium for the preliminary final between the Storm and Raiders.

In terms of stadiums, the NRL utilised 18 venues in all, six more than the AFL, which played games at 12 different venues throughout the season. Of these, Perth’s Optus Stadium had the highest aggregate attendance figure of 352,261 from its 17 AFL matches. The highest number of AFL matches were played at Metricon Stadium (44) with 116,904 fans attending. 135,408 attended 15 NRL games at Stadium Australia, while Bankwest Stadium hosted the 28 fixtures. Stadiums that hosted matches but weren’t able to have any fans inside were the MCG, Marvel Stadium, GMHBA Stadium and AAMI Park.

Top 5 AFL Stadiums

STADIUM MATCHES ATTENDANCE
Optus Stadium 17 352,261
Gabba 35 268,256
Adelaide Oval 22 239,189
Metricon Stadium 44 116,904
Sydney Showground 9 17,951

 
Top 5 NRL Stadiums

STADIUM MATCHES ATTENDANCE
Stadium Australia 15 135,408
Suncorp Stadium 15 120,782
Bankwest Stadium 28 112,479
QCB Stadium 10 67,116
SCG 8 48,188

Stay tuned to Austadiums for more analysis on attendance numbers across all sports played in Australia across 2020 and our 'year that was' feature. Receive the latest stadium, sports and attendance news direct to your inbox by subscribing to our Newsletter.

Find out more about sports attendances on Austadiums here.

Where will games be played in 2021? See the full AFL Fixture and NRL Fixture now on Austadiums.

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