Vine margins as SA premier targets Barossa AFL game

AFL boss Andrew Dillon has stopped short of guaranteeing Gather Round will remain in South Australia beyond the existing deal, as state premier Peter Malinauskas pushes for a future game in the Barossa wine region.

The league's feature round, which includes all 18 clubs in nine games across four days, will be based in Adelaide and surrounds until at least 2026 under an agreement reached with the state government last year.

Western Australia looms as the most likely to make a move to snatch hosting rights from SA, with NSW and Queensland appearing set to continue sharing Opening Round after a successful first edition this year.

"We'll assess how this (Gather Round) goes, but all the indicators are hugely successful and we're going to build on it over the next couple of years," the league's chief executive Dillon told reporters on Wednesday.

"What we're seeing now is our fans want something that's bigger than the footy games.

"We're going to continue to see innovations like Gather Round and Opening Round as we continue to evolve our fixture."

AFL boss Andrew Dillon, SA premier Peter Malinauskas and James Aish.
AFL boss Andrew Dillon (l) and SA premier Peter Malinauskas at Norwood Oval for 2023's Gather Round.

Inner-suburban Norwood and Mount Barker in the Adelaide Hills will again host two matches each this week, after fierce lobbying from local venues last year.

Malinauskas is eager to showcase the Barossa by hosting future matches in the renowned wine region.

"The AFL and the (state) government, we've been working closely on that proposition," Malinauskas said.

"We hope that's what happens. That's what we've been working towards since day dot, so we'll wait and see how that unfolds."

SA reportedly paid about $15 million to host the first instalment of Gather Round last year, reaping $85 million in hospitality and other economic benefits.

Malinauskas is expecting a bigger and better second edition on the back of a flood of interstate visitors.

He said 38 per cent of about 200,000 tickets to the nine games had been sold to fans from outside SA - up from 32 per cent last year.

"We've seen genuine growth on the number of people outside of South Australia wanting to be part of this event," the premier said.

"Everything is heading on the right trajectory.

"If we can grow the events that happen around Gather Round to make it a true festival then we can be confident about what happens into the future.

"Second-year blues is what happens when people take their foot off the pedal - we've done the exact opposite here.

"We know that we have to earn the trust of fans to participate in it - and we'll do that across the weekend."

The AFL has introduced a ticket transfer scheme for Saturday's double-header at Adelaide Oval, giving fans the opportunity to on-sell their tickets if they leave before the second game starts.

The re-sold tickets will cost $10 and proceeds will go to the league's Gather Round charity partner, the Women's and Children's Hospital.

"We hope that anyone who is leaving just takes that extra step and hands the ticket back in," Dillon said.

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