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Tuesday, January 26 2021 @ 01:57 pm ACDT

World Footy Census 2004 - Summary

General NewsThe World Footy Census 2004 has, hopefully, answered the common question, of just how many players there are playing Aussie Rules in various countries around the world. It can also stand as an historic record of where the game has progressed to, and can be used as a measuring stick in the years and decades to come. It took 5 months to gather all the results from across 34 Australian Rules playing nations. Here we present all the results summarised and the countries ranked by total player numbers.

Remember that these results are based on players having to have played at least four games in 2004, be it traditional 18 per side football, or 9-a-side metro league, or something similar. This includes juniors, so a lot of great work with juniors in Auskick-style clinics is not necessarily counted here. This survey is not meant to rate the efforts or potential of countries - each has their own unique circumstances and challenges. And note when you look at the ordered list of 30 countries, that there are around 200 other countries for which the total number of players is approximately zero, so all those listed here are further advanced in developing the game!

As has been explained in previous articles, we do not claim these results to be 100% accurate. But we do believe that in almost all cases, player numbers will be within around 10% (perhaps more variable in countries with only one or two teams). This should be more than adequate for comparing countries, or judging growth rates in the years ahead.

Counting teams has in many ways been more difficult than counting players. Especially in countries like the US, where the line between a large club and a league can be particularly blurred. Depending on opinion, we could have ended up crediting that country with anywhere from 20 to 50 teams. Still, the most important statistic, in our opinion, is the number of players actively involved in playing the game.

From the data, it is clear that NZ and PNG are the two stand-out countries, both with sufficient numbers that they are poised to become fully-fledged Australian Rules football nations. This is provided that the current trends are continued and consolidated. Interestingly, both these countries now have enough players to rival Tasmania and the Northern Territory, two traditional Aussie Rules regions of Australia that have relatively small populations. Both have provided many champions to Australian football, most recently in the national AFL. Both NZ and PNG must be close to producing a home grown AFL draftee of their own. AFL South Africa have projections of similar numbers in the next 10 years, and hopefully by then junior growth will have accelerated in a number of the other countries that have laid foundations.

It is sobering to note, however, that the number of players in Australia still far outstrips the entire total number from the rest of the world. In fact, only around 7% of the players in the world are playing outside of Australia. Another way of looking at it is that for every player outside of Australia, there are around 12 players in Australia.

So perhaps the next major numbers milestone will be when the "rest of the world" total starts to become comparable to the Aussie numbers. When might that be? Any attempt at estimating would require a baseline of data to extrapolate from - this census could provide one half of the data. Perhaps another census in a few years will give us an opportunity to make a realistic prediction. For now, an educated guess suggests that growth will have to accelerate even faster if the numbers are to keep up with Australia, where the expanding markets of New South Wales and Queensland are still providing rapid increases in player numbers. Nevertheless, a strong foundation is being laid in many countries, and one day perhaps we will see that provide a launching pad for an Aussie Rules explosion.

So finally, thank you once again to all those that have helped compile these statistics, and we hope you have found them interesting and useful reading. A link to a Census 2004 page has been added to our Resources section, for easy future reference. It will be very interesting to see how things have changed in a few years time.

Alphabetical listing

CountrySenior Teams Senior Players Junior Players Total Players
New Zealand225361069011226
Papua New Guinea64192080009920
Solomon Islands230150180
South Africa6160540700
United States3885540895

Ranked by Total Players (excluding Australia)

RankCountrySenior Teams Senior Players Junior Players Total Players
1New Zealand225361069011226
2Papua New Guinea64192080009920
3United States3885540895
4South Africa6160540700
11Solomon Islands230150180

Note: The figures for NZ and PNG are primarily dependent on data supplied by those countries. AFL criteria for measuring player numbers is more strict than those we used, and they more conservatively estimate numbers for NZ at around 1000 and PNG about 3000.

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World Footy Census 2004 - Summary | 7 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
World Footy Census 2004 - Summary
Authored by: Matt Winter on Monday, May 02 2005 @ 01:57 am ACST

It would be interesting to find out how those numbers compare to total population of that country

World Footy Census 2004 - Summary
Authored by: Brett Northey on Thursday, May 05 2005 @ 09:26 am ACST

I thought about that - obviously simple enough to do. Here are some examples, very approximately:

Country Players per 1000 people
Australia 16
NZ 3
Tonga 1
USA 0.003

Interesting to see how NZ and PNG are doing very well in the totals given their populations, and even Tonga after just a couple of years. The penetration is comparatively tiny in the US, but conversely it has huge potential because of its massive population.

Brett Northey - Co-founder of WFN, Chief Editor and Editor for North America

World Footy Census 2004 - Summary
Authored by: Sean Finlayson on Friday, August 12 2005 @ 03:57 am ACST
Interesting info! Being a pretty visual person myself, I decided to take some of these stats and see how they look on the world map, so using a handy little flash app called "DIY Map" managed to get this map of the footy world up and running. As you can see, not quite global domination yet, but shows the potential of Australian Football to be a truly world game. This is a great site by the way ... Maybe worth including an interactive map in the census section of worldfootynews.com ! Looking forward to next year's footy census so I can update the map, hopefully by then there will be more countries joining the fray.
World Footy Census 2004 - Summary
Authored by: Brett Northey on Sunday, August 14 2005 @ 08:09 am ACST

Good stuff Sean - we'll look at putting a link to that somewhere when we get a chance.

Brett Northey - Co-founder of WFN, Chief Editor and Editor for North America and Africa

World Footy Census 2004 - Summary
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, July 19 2006 @ 11:10 am ACST

In number of players per head of population, Nauru is actually way AHEAD of even Australia, with about three or four times as many players per head of population. Nauru has also declared Australian football to be its official national sport - something we have not yet managed to persuade the Australian government to do. (Bizarrely it seems more concerned with promoting English codes at the expense of the Australian game.)

World Footy Census 2004 - Summary
Authored by: flyinghigh on Thursday, January 22 2009 @ 09:08 pm ACDT

hi brett...this is a older story now and just inquring if your team will be doing another census soon...mad about int footy and would love to see the stats as they stand now

World Footy Census 2004 - Summary
Authored by: Brett Northey on Thursday, January 22 2009 @ 09:25 pm ACDT

I'm a junkie for those kinds of stats too.

I fully intended to do it again at the end of 2007. Then 2008. It didn't happen.

It's simply a matter of not having the time. Happily international footy keeps growing, but that means the demands on our time to keep up is also growing. We try to bring in more volunteers but managing that process is itself time consuming and then you lose some more people (unfortunately people also have lives!) and the process starts again.

The AFL did do some surveying and have done a more formal process late in 2008, so we may ask them about those results. I was keen if/when I did the census again to use the same criteria so the results could be directly compared, whereas the AFL's criteria I think were different.

2008 was very busy with the IC08 and I've been very pre-occupied upgrading the underlying site software, so it just hasn't been practical to do it recently.

The short answer is: maybe at the end of 2009, but no promises.

Brett Northey - Co-founder and Chief Editor of WFN