Come Saturday, September 30, footy fans from across Australia will flock to the MCG in Victoria, or pile into their local sports bars and pubs to watch the ultimate decider in the AFL calendar – the 2017 AFL grand final.
Since 1897 when the VFL first started experimenting with different ways to determine which team would be the footy premiers at the end of each season, grand final time has been a highly anticipated, widely celebrated event. Before footy finals made the move to the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG), formerly known as the Melbourne Cricket Club (MCC) in 1902, footy finals were a relatively small-scale event.
However, in its first year at the MCG, the VFL grand final attracted more than 35,000 spectators, who eagerly watched as Collingwood took on Essendon. By 1908, a new record attendance was set when 50,261 people flocked to what’s now known as the home of the AFL to watch their favourite teams play off. In fact, the crowds were so big that day they actually broke through the fence and filed onto the ground, where thousands of people sat along the boundary line to watch the match unfold.
This number continued to rise, which led the MCG to cut down the 11 50-year old elm trees inside the grounds, so they could turn the stadium into a concrete bowl, complete with extra stands and standing room.
In the final year of the finals before World War I, 59,479 spectators showed up to watch St Kilda battle it out in their first ever final. In the decade that followed, the VFL continued to experiment with the best ways to run finals season, and despite a drop off in attendance numbers during the war, support continued to grow.
In 1931 to 1939 the golden age of the grand final was ushered in with a new playoff system (the final four) and new attendance records being set every year. Incredibly, in 1938 a whopping 96,834 people showed up to watch the grand final, which at the time was equal to one tenth of Melbourne’s population.
Thankfully, thanks to the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games and the continued popularity of footy season in Victoria, the MCG continued to go through more upgrades, making it possible to house the crowd of 121,696 people that watched as Carlton beat Collingwood in the 1970 grand final.
A New Era of Football
In 1990, the VFL went through one of its biggest transformations to date, when the more than a hundred-year-old league went national, becoming the Australian Football League (AFL) and non-Victorian teams were also able to battle it out at the MCG to take home the biggest sporting prize of the year.
Today, the AFL grand final draws in the largest attendance rates and metropolitan television audience out of every Australian-based sport. The grand final also comes with extra perks, such as the grand final parade in Melbourne on the day before the match, and now, even a Victorian public holiday.
As such, footy fans come out in their tens of thousands, waving their flags and donning their team colours, all while enjoying the festivities that come with the end of the footy season.
Whether you’re decorating your event space with flags, banners or bunting, or just want a flag to proudly wave at the grand final parade on Friday, September 29, talk to Tudor House about our customisable footy flags, banners and bunting.