Dear Members and Supporters,

‘The Team For More South Australians’.

I thought the headline and the whole debate around which team has the largest member base was hilarious!

Nice to know that Australia’s most intense sporting rivalry is alive and well!

Of much more significance is the story behind Port Adelaide’s impressive membership growth over the past few years.

As we head into Member Recognition round and our last AFL game for the season, I think the story is worth reflecting on.

The decline of our membership to around 29,000 in 2012 is well documented.

What is slightly less understood is that at the height of its powers in 2004/5, the club’s record membership year at the time attracted just 35,000 members.

Fast forward to 2015 and the new membership bar for Port Adelaide has been set at an incredible 60,349, where it is ranked in the top 5 in the AFL.

By any standard, this is a remarkable turnaround. 108% growth to be exact in 4 years.

So what has been the driving force behind this sustained upward lift? I think a few factors are at play.

1. The footy is better. The team is maturing and Ken has had them playing an exciting, winning style of game in his 3 years at the helm.

2. Adelaide Oval has improved the level of comfort and the spectacle of our games.

3. City location can’t be underestimated. It is easier to get to and adds to the atmosphere.

These are the obvious changes to the landscape, but it goes even further than that in my opinion.

When Port Adelaide entered the AFL in 1997, the task of remaining in the SANFL competition as the Magpies and forging a new entity known as the Power, was immense.

It also created a divide in the club. SANFL regulations at the time dictated that the two operations be completely separate, so as not to afford the Magpies any unfair advantage over their SANFL competitors as a result of their proximity to the AFL program. This resulted in the entire Magpies operation being transferred to a local suburban oval at Ethelton. Imagine that for a moment. The immensely proud, hugely successful Magpies competing for SANFL premierships from Ethelton! Understandably this didn’t sit too well with the Magpies team and certainly was unacceptable to the very large number of passionate Magpie supporters who continued to loyally support their beloved team despite the inevitable decline in on field performance which occurred as the resources dried up throughout the 2000s.

By 2010 the financial crisis confronting Port Adelaide stretched across both the AFL and the SANFL operations, and prompted the famous One Club campaign spearheaded by favourite sons Tim Ginever and George Fiacchi. The One Club campaign galvanised the Port Adelaide community, encouraging them to rally behind the idea that unless Port Adelaide could unite as one, it would be doomed.

Thousands of passionate Port Adelaide supporters rose to the challenge and the first steps to drawing the Club back together were taken.

Then came the decision to combine the two football programs, allowing all AFL and SANFL Port Adelaide players to compete for Port Adelaide every weekend. This wasn’t a decision taken lightly, but again our members listened to the argument and saw the big picture. If Port Adelaide wished to be successful at both the AFL and the SANFL level, its football program and its membership base needed to be united behind the one cause…making the Port Adelaide Football Club great again.

As we all stood as one and sang the very first rendition of ‘Never Tear Us Apart’ at Adelaide Oval at the start of season 2014, I believe every Port Adelaide supporter there that day, understood immediately what it meant. The Port Adelaide community was standing as one again, united and proud.

For me, our Club’s past five years epitomise why club membership is so crucially important.

Port Adelaide simply would not have survived in its current form without your determination to reunite our divided Club.

As funny and enjoyable as the debate was in regards to Port Adelaide lifting the title of highest club membership in SA, the number in itself is not the story.

The story is in the people who support this great Club.

And it is right and absolutely fitting that this weekend, we pay homage to you.

What a weekend it’s going to be. Good luck to the Power who take on the Dockers in our final AFL game of the season on Saturday at 3.20pm, the Magpies league team who clash with West on Sunday from 3.10pm at Adelaide Oval in the SANFL Qualifying Final and our Magpies Academy who will battle it out with North at Glenelg from 11.25am on Saturday in the Reserves Qualifying Final.

See you at the footy!

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