Essendon supporters sign up for more
Essendon’s nightmare 2013 season has inspired more Bomber supporters to sign up, with the club predicting it will set a membership record of more than 60,000 in 2014.
Despite the fact the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority’s investigation into the Bombers remains open, and that the club was fined $2million, removed from last year’s finals, lost a president, chief executive, draft picks and had its coach suspended for 12 months, Essendon has signed 5500 new members already this year and has attracted back more than 1000 who had let their memberships lapse in recent seasons.
Buoyed by its latest tally of 47,005 members – research shows the typical signed-up Bomber is a middle-aged, middle-class, educated, Melbourne-residing male with family – Essendon is setting the bold ambition of recruiting 15,000 new members this year and sits sixth on the AFL club membership ladder.
The club has roughly 20,000 members less than top-ranked Collingwood, but sits ahead of 2013 grand final side Fremantle and is only marginally behind Adelaide (47,503).
Essendon’s old foe Carlton is the next-best Melbourne-based club (ninth overall), with 40,066.
In its effort not to lose signed-up supporters following the never-ending crisis that ruined last year, the Bombers launched various campaigns aimed at reassuring supporters it would be a more transparent organisation in 2014.
Essendon launched a social media campaign, ”EFC listens”, in October and more than 500 messages that were sent by supporters were given personal responses. On Christmas eve, chairman and Toll Holdings boss Paul Little telephoned 17 concerned supporters who had made contact with the club through the initiative.
The biggest growth in Essendon’s membership this year has come from digital and junior memberships – which start at $25 – and the club believes its open training sessions throughout the summer have proved highly successful.
Essendon’s marketing boss Justin Rodski, who drove a controversial ”us-against-them” media approach last season – an approach that supporters have apparently told the club they liked, even if it was not well received by the AFL and rival teams – was promoted in an administration restructure in January and has been responsible for club membership since inheriting the brief from former chief commercial officer Richard Burnet.
Rodski said on Wednesday that the Bombers expect to hit 50,000 members well before their round one match against North Melbourne on March 21, and believe they can surpass 60,000 for the first time by the end of the season to rank fourth- or fifth-highest on the membership ladder.
About 75 per cent of Essendon members have already renewed from last year, and the club is anticipating the eventual renewal figure will be 95 per cent.
The AFL requires clubs to submit their membership tallies for audit by the end of July, but clubs continue selling memberships until finals in September.
According to AFL records, the Bombers’ official membership for last year was 56,173, up from its 2012 tally of 47,708.
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