Gather Round, in the country next time?
The AFL’s inaugural gather round in Adelaide has been labelled as a momentous success by AFL CEO Gillon MacLachlan and South Australian Premier Peter Malinauskas. The pair addressed the Adelaide Oval crowd prior to the last game of the weekend to announce South Australia will continue to host an annual Gather Round until at least 2026.
Jack Ziebell of North Melbourne gathers in front of Connor McKenna of Brisbane during the AFL Round 5 match between the Brisbane Lions and the North Melbourne Kangaroos at the Mount Barker Regional Sports Hub in Adelaide, Saturday, April 15, 2023. AAP Image/Michael Errey
“South Australia really turned it on. Gather Round and all the activity across the state, the nine matches, the footy festival and the community football engagement has been some of the best days and events the AFL has ever delivered” McLachlan said.
The AFL and the state government have confirmed their commitment to take matches to the wine regions of the Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale in the future. MacLachlan admitted the festival of football was thrown together in just a few months and the hope is by locking in the event with more notice it will open the door to play games in regional areas.
220,000 people attended games over the weekend and 60,00 travelled from interstate. With most travellers coming from Victoria there may be a possibility to play a game at a point between Adelaide and Melbourne such as Mount Gambier or Bordertown. A Thursday night game to kick off the round in either of those locations between two Victorian sides would produce a perfect opportunity for Victorian travellers to go to the footy, spend the night in the town and continue to Adelaide the following morning.
While the weekend was widely endorsed, there has been discussion about whether or not the State Government tax payer funded money could have been better used. The temporary boom to Adelaide’s tourism, food and hospitality, hotel and entertainment industries were certainly significant but those gains will not be felt by regional residents who were unable to attend the nine-game slate in Adelaide.