AFL axes Anzac Day tradition of free tickets for disabled war veterans
April 2, 2014 - 4:33PM
Australia's disabled war veterans will no longer receive free entry to the most popular AFL games, including the Anzac Day blockbuster between Collingwood and Essendon.
The decision by the AFL has been condemned as "an insult to ex-servicemen and women and a national disgrace", by the Federation of Totally and Permanently Incapacitated (TPI) former service personnel, who claim the AFL and Melbourne Cricket Club would not have a match on April 25 to capitalise on if not for Australia's servicemen and women.
Under the AFL's new ticket system, the tradition of Anzac Day marchers continuing to the MCG for a free day's football will disappear as free tickets will be scrapped for disabled ex-servicemen and women for the four most popular games of the annual fixture, and may extend to other matches "based on popularity".
An email obtained by Fairfax between the MCC - who were not involved in the decision - and the AFL lays out the tough new ticketing conditions, an apparent extension to the 2014 AFL ticketing structure which has been heavily criticised, including by club bosses, for stinging the public unnecessarily.
However, the TPI Federation was unaware of the changes on Wednesday until contacted by Fairfax Media.
National secretary Bill Kane condemned the AFL's decision, saying it was a "national disgrace".
"It is disrespectful, and very troubling," he said. "We get small things to enjoy and this is one of them. To take it away is a disgrace."
Mr Kane said that being incapacitated, TPI ex-servicemen and women were unable to work at all nor earn for the future, and were granted entitlements - such as free travel on public transport, free movie tickets and free entry to football matches - as small concessions.
The Anzac Day clash was especially important to many members, Mr Kane said.
"A lot of the guys travel from interstate for Anzac Day," he said. "The Shrine is very important, and a lot of the units they belonged to originated in Melbourne. It was a bit of a tradition. I reckon this is corporate greed at its finest.
A spokesman for the MCC said TPI members were not necessarily always given free entry but were allocated a certain number of seats by the AFL in general admission bays for which they were not charged.
But this arrangement would no longer apply for the "big matches" as the event traditionally sold out and general admission tickets were not available.
"The AFL have structured the ticket prices differently this year and for the first time there are categorised matches based on the popularity of the expected event," the email reads.
"This will mean that TPI members will only have access to certain matches based on what category they fall under.
The email goes on to list matches that are not available to TPI members for free.
These are: Round 5, Monday April 21 (Geelong v Hawthorn); Round 6, Friday April 25 (Collingwood v Essendon); Round 7, Friday May 2 (Carlton v Collingwood); and Round 11, Saturday May 31 (Essendon v Richmond).
It adds: "There may still be matches that your members cannot attend based on the popularity of the game and it is not limited to the 4 games identified above."
Collingwood president Eddie McGuire warned at the weekend that the new ticket system â€” which sorts games at the MCG and Etihad Stadium into five categories with tickets priced according to popularity â€” discriminated against those who earned less.
Club bosses at Richmond, Western Bulldogs and Hawthorn have similarly criticised the system in the wake of figures showing AFL crowds are down across the first two rounds, with the overall Round 2 figure at almost 35,000 fewer than the comparative round last year.
The AFL has been contacted for comment.