NRL Grand Final attracts more corporate interest than AFL – drawing more Melbourne and Brisbane spectators to Sydney

While the AFL Grand Final continues to draw larger crowds to the stadium, the corporate world tells a different story. New flight, ground transport, and hotel booking data has revealed that this year’s NRL Telstra Premiership Grand Final is capturing the attention of more corporate fans than the AFL, and by a significant margin.

Corporate Traveller data has revealed that this weekend’s NRL Grand Final (scheduled for 1 October) is already attracting eight per cent more corporate fans to the stands than the AFL Toyota Grand Final (held on 30 September). Based on last year’s data, this figure is expected to grow to approximately 14 per cent.

The data may come as a surprise given that last year, 100,024 spectators attended the AFL game compared to the 82,415 NRL Grand Final spectators.

Understanding that business travellers often plan work meetings around leisure events, Corporate Traveller compared all domestic bookings in the roughly two-week period before and after the Grand Finals in both 2023 and 2022.[1]

Last year, 14 per cent more business travellers planned their trips to Sydney for the NRL Grand Final on 2 October than the AFL Grand Final on 24 September. This provides substantial evidence to suggest that the NRL is significantly more popular among SME business executives.

The booking data for this year already shows an eight per cent increase in business travel to Sydney. Surprisingly, only 48 per cent of all bookings to the two cities are for Melbourne and for the AFL.

Which city boasts the largest AFL and NRL business fan base?

Corporate Traveller forecasts that not only will Sydney and Melbourne bring the biggest volume of fans to both games, but the NRL Grand Final will also attract a higher proportion of Melbourne corporates than the Melbourne game will attract Sydney corporates.

Corporate Traveller’s forecast is based on last year’s data, which showed that Sydney teams Parramatta Eels and Penrith Panthers attracted a substantial interstate business crowd to the NRL Grand Final, with 40 per cent from Melbourne and 21 per cent from Brisbane. With this year’s NRL Grand Final featuring the Penrith Panthers and Brisbane Broncos, Corporate Traveller anticipates similar volumes of Melbourne bookings and an even larger volume of bookings from Brisbane.

In contrast, the largest proportion of bookings for last year’s AFL Grand Final between the Geelong Cats and Sydney Swans came from Sydney, at just 35 per cent. With Collingwood Magpies and Brisbane Lions facing off this year, Corporate Traveller forecasts the proportion of Sydney corporate fans to be even lower but expects Brisbane business bookings to be higher than last year’s 18 per cent.

Tom Walley, Corporate Traveller’s Australian-based Global Managing Director, says: “Our data unveils an intriguing twist in the sporting landscape: while the AFL Grand Final is likely to draw a larger overall crowd this weekend, the NRL Grand Final emerges as the preferred choice for business travellers. With greater local support from Melbourne fans for their beloved AFL, this could explain the larger booking numbers around the NRL Grand Final as business fans align their work commitments to seize the opportunity to watch the Sydney-based NRL final live.

Tom has ruled out last year’s Labour Day long weekend as the driver of Melbourne travel to the NRL game, saying, "It was only NSW, ACT and South Australia that had the long weekend on 2 October, yet we saw a significant proportion of Melbourne corporates flock to the Sydney game.

“With remote-working arrangements resulting in an increase in ‘bleisure’ travel, business travellers are becoming savvier, aligning their work commitments with leisure events of interest. We expect to see business travel around sporting finals, concerts, and other large leisure events increase year on year.”

Booking data to Melbourne 19–30 Sept 2022, for AFL Grand Final on 24 Sept.

City of origin

% of business bookings

Sydney2 35
Melbourne 19
Brisbane 18
Adelaide 10
Perth 7
Gold Coast 3
Canberra 3
Hobart 2
Newcastle 2
Auckland 1


Booking data to Sydney 26 Sept–7 Oct 2022, for NRL Grand Final on 2 Oct.

City of origin

% of business bookings

Melbourne3 40
Brisbane 21
Sydney 16
Perth 6
Adelaide 6
Gold Coast 4
Canberra 3
Sunshine Coast 1
Ballina 1
Hobart 1

1 Corporate Traveller collected flight, ground transport and hotel booking data (1) to Melbourne on 19 to 30 September 2022 to capture business travel to the AFL Grand Final on 24 September 2022, (2) to Sydney on 26 September to 7 October 2022 to capture business travel to the NRL Grand Final on 2 October 2022, (3) to Melbourne on 25 September to 30 September 2023 to capture business travel to the AFL Grand Final on 30 September 2023, and (4) to Sydney on 25 September to 1 October 2023 to capture business travel to the NRL Grand Final on 1 October 2023.

2 Note that Syd-Syd bookings comprise hotel and ground transport bookings only.

3 Note that Melb-Melb bookings comprise hotel and ground transport bookings only.

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