By Gifford Lee
The true value of live sport to venues has been spelled out in clear dollar terms as new research shows pubs will receive the lion's share of a forecasted $2.6 billion of fan spending this footy season.
According to IBISWorld, Australia's largest provider of industry-based research, pubs and bars are in line to witness a 2.1 percent increase in consumer spending this football season, and will reap $1.565 billion as fans line up to support their team.
IBISWorld's General Manager Karen Dobie flagged AFL as the biggest winter sports earner ahead of the NRL and rugby union.
"Growth (in the pubs and bars sector) will be spurred on by the large share of AFL games broadcast on Foxtel and the Aussie culture of hitting the local to watch the game," Ms Dobie said.
The Fox Footy channel was reintroduced last season on the Foxtel subscription television network, delivering every match of the AFL regular season live. Fox Footy is available to Australian pubs through a subscription with Fox Sport Venues.
Fernando Spensieri, venue manager at Perth's Albion Hotel, which boasts a big AFL following, said live sport added "real value" to the business.
"Our patrons are seeing the matches live. They come in for the games and then they stay longer. They watch the game, they eat, they make the atmosphere," Spensieri said.
"Live sport is an asset. A lot of our patrons don't have it at home and this brings them out of the house."
The IBISWorld research also showed that the number of spectators attending footy matches had begun to plateau over the past five years, "largely due to the increasing volume and quality of television coverage".
Platform 28, a sports bar directly opposite Etihad Stadium in Melbourne, is a venue witnessing this trend.
General manager Gale Watchorne said fans were coming to the bar to be part of the "big match atmosphere" but not actually buying a ticket to the stadium.
"They come down to Docklands to soak up the big match atmosphere but choose to enjoy the game in a pub rather than in the actual ground."
Fox Sports CEO Patrick Delany said the research underlined to pubs the benefits of delivering live sport to their patrons.
"Never before have fans had so much live sport to choose from and Fox Sports Venues will continue to work with the venues to maximise all the great sporting events coming their way," Delany said.
The research also showed that consumer spending on sports betting would rise by 3.2 percent this football season to $325 million.