Obviously the honorary secretary of the NSWAFL from 1936-60 and then fulltime secretary between 1966-69, Ken Ferguson, was. (A young Ken Ferguson is pictured)
In a meticulous effort, Ferguson, a clerk with NSW Railways, maintained a chart of the gate takings from the attendances at all grounds in Sydney between 1930-50.
Right up until the early 1980s, the league took the gate takings at all games. They paid gate keepers and also for the hire of the grounds and kept club affiliation fees to a minimum.
Ferguson kept a record of gate takings in each year; The competition matches, finals, the particular ground at which the income was received as well the takings at interstate matches that were held in Sydney. His details were all recorded in Australia’s former currency of pounds, however, in our main graph (left) we have converted the figures to dollars. The problem is we don’t, at this stage, have sufficient information to provide the changes in gate charges and their respective increases over the years. Also, there was an additional charge for those who wanted seating in grandstands at the grounds. This was only available in that period at Trumper Park and Erskineville Oval. The difference between the actual gate charges and the additional payment for grandstand seating was was never separated.
Another statistic we have not shown is say, the average male wage of the day, to the admission charge, which would give you some idea of the depth of the fee.
Previously, we have shown a graph of the total gate takings over the years and in fact up to 1960. We have replicated this graph for our story. The income is shown in pounds.
Our primary graph showing the yearly takings at the respective grounds may be a little difficult to understand, particularly when reading from 1948-50 because more grounds came online when three additional clubs, Western Suburbs, Balmain and University, joined the competition. Additionally the programme does not allow us to feature more colours and/or line designs to differentiate the many number of grounds displayed.
You will see in green, the enormous jump in gate takings when Sunday football at Trumper Park was introduced during the war.
Sunday football was not primarily introduced in an attempt to raise more revenue for the league. Sport played on Sundays was not only frowned upon but virtually illegal and the league almost found themselves in court over the issue.
They were however, the first sport (in particular, of all football codes) to play on Sundays. This came about because of the lack of grounds at which they could charge a gate and gate money was by far the largest income stream for the league.
Fortuitously, and as we have mentioned, this occurred during WWII, and because there were so many servicemen in Sydney, many of whom were star players from other states, patrons (and in particular, other servicemen) thronged to Trumper Park to watch them play.
In retrospect it was an element of their time that officials in Sydney not only failed to recognize but more importantly, failed to capitalise upon this boost in popularity in the sport. This increased income from the gate, as you can see, grew into the thousands, but where did the money go? Another opportunity lost for Sydney football.