Gather Round study sets goals

The 2025 dates for the next AFL ‘Gather Round’ series in South Australia have been announced, after this year’s round brought in economic benefits of more than $90 million to the State.

For the next three years, the Gather Round’s long-term overall community impact is also being studied in a new PhD research project led by Flinders University and SANFL.

With funding from the SANFL, project will delve into the social and cultural benefits of this major sporting event in Adelaide and the regions.

Extensive industry, community and other data will be gathered by the Flinders-SANFL PhD candidate Glen Fernandes, from the Sport, Health, Activity, Performance and Exercise (SHAPE) research initiative at Flinders University.

“Sport is inclusive and has a unique ability to unite communities across various demographic and social backgrounds,” says Mr Fernandes, a graduate in psychological sciences and first-class honours in sport health and physical activity from Flinders University.

“We understand the enriching effect on our communities so I am excited to examine the socio-cultural effects of the Gather Round by using the ‘social return on investment’ as a means of assessing its impact and long-term legacy,” says Mr Fernandes, from the Flinders University College of Education, Psychology and Social Work.

SANFL Executive General Manager Football Matt Duldig says this year’s Gather Round at the Adelaide Oval, Norwood Football Club and Mount Barker ovals on 4-7 April saw tickets snapped up quickly – building on the popularity of the new Australian Football League round in South Australia.

“This major event supports the SANFL’s commitment to community engagement, and aligns seamlessly with the SANFL’s vision to connect communities through the love of footy,” says Mr Duldig.

“This already is reflected in other SANFL community initiatives during the Gather Round, such as the Community Footy Roadshow visiting more than 30 regional towns, free clinics at SANFL clubs, a SANFL Juniors season launch and coaching development workshops which have involved and helped thousands of South Australians.”

Results of the Flinders-SANFL study will help inform game development initiatives, widen Aussie Rules participation programs and help in strategic planning, including future bids for infrastructure investment to accommodate the anticipated growth in regional centres.

The new PhD scholarship includes an annual stipend and a 60-day internship with the SANFL – where Mr Fernandes is already getting key insights into the business of sport at Adelaide Oval SANFL head office.

“I have a passion for sports in all forms at every level,” adds Mr Fernandes.

“Although I’ve stepped back from playing football after two knee surgeries, my competitive spirit has seen me compete at a national level in table tennis, held in Canberra last year.”

The research and training project will be supervised by Flinders University Associate Professor Sam Elliott and  Professor Murray Drummond from the SHAPE initiative, health economist Dr Laura Edney from the Flinders Institute for Mental Health and Wellbeing, as well as Jessica Wainwright who is SANFL Projects, Funding and Government Relations Manager.

“Glen’s background in psychological science, qualitative research skills and experience at the Australian Bureau of Statistics puts him in good stead to hit the ground running,” says Associate Professor Elliott.

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