Grassroots football in NSW barely misses a beat in highly disruptive 2020


Football clubs and associations across New South Wales coped remarkably well last year, comfortably beating the Shunt social media coremetric sector average for Facebook productivity and engagement. Following a winter season that was shutdown before it really began the sports grassroots came out firing once play resumed.  

A five-year Shunt analysis (2015-19) of football clubs and associations in New South Wales has highlighted that the number of posts published were up 82%, while audience engagement climbed an impressive 224% and the performance of posts (an engagement to productivity ratio) also improved by 78%.

Barely missed a beat

Strong, year-on-year increases in the number of posts published has been the order of the day for football clubs and associations across New South Wales as productivity improved by 17% in 2016 then 20% (2017) and 12% (2018) respectively. Breaking through the 130,000 post barrier in 2019, the sport was on-track for even greater things in 2020 until Covid came along.  

Overall, New South Wales grassroots football did remarkably well last year with content published 15% better than 2018 levels compared to a small drop of 10% in 2019. Considering the industry average across 8,000 clubs analysed by Shunt fell 21%, football is well placed to bounce back strongly in 2021.

Great outcome all things considered

While the internal productivity systems and processes across New South Wales football steadily improved resulting in consistent output increases the outlook for audience engagement (total Facebook reactions, comments and shares) was even better.

2016 engagement levels were up 41% on the previous year, with 2017 returning a 32% boost and 2018 a 33% uplift.

As with every other sport Shunt has assessed to date these results couldn’t be sustained through 2020 with total reactions, comments and shares falling from a 2019 high of over 2.7 million to 2.1 last year – representing a 22% drop. Once again, football clubs still beat the industry trend with the Shunt sector average coming in at a worrying 35%.

Performance losses kept to a minimum

The real test of how healthy and robust a sports social media presence is the performance of posts published. This simple ratio that divides total engagement by the number of posts is a key indicator of how efficient and effective they are.

When engagement growth far exceeds increasing productivity levels the net result is continual improvement in New South Wales football club and association post performance from 2015 to ‘19.

With the average number of engagements per post increasing from 11.75 (2015) to 20.91 (2019) it suggests the sports clubland have become more and more efficient in how they manage their time on social media. Even in 2020, a smaller reduction in productivity than engagement has limited the impact Covid-19 lockdowns have had on this key metric.

A sure sign of a sport that has a handle on its social media and the delicate interplay between informing and engaging audiences.

Then along came Covid…..

Shunt has recently published industry-wide research examining the impact Covid-19 and associated lockdowns have had on the sector.

As was the case with football in South Australia, the 2020 Q1 productivity and engagement profiles indicate New South Wales was on track for another strong year as the winter season was just getting underway. As lockdowns then came into effect both productivity and engagement crashed as it did for most of the 30 other sports that Shunt has analysed to date.

Testament to the resilience of New South Wales football clubs and associations they rolled with the punches, reorganised themselves and then came out fighting as soon as lockdowns were lifted with core Facebook social media metrics highlighting a spirited recovery that saw core metrics move well past pre-Covid levels by July.

July productivity push

As per other sports Shunt has analysed to date, the productivity profile of football clubs in New South Wales was building from 7,337 published posts in January to a little over 12,000 by March just as the winter season was kicking into gear. Then Covid hit.

Content published plummeted to just 5,854 posts by April as lockdowns bit and didn’t improve much in May (5,959) before a dramatic turnaround. Each month recorded a steady climb in outputs culminating in a July result that exceeded the best pre-Covid result by over 4,000 posts.

Despite everything the sport achieved in 2020 productivity outputs are down on previous years with the final tally standing at 116,980. This has meant football beat 2018 totals (113,173/+3.36% ) but fell short of the 2019 result (130,622).  

The fact that total productivity across grassroots clubland is only 10.44% lower than 2019 numbers is testament to just how well the sport has adapted to the disruptive impact of Covid, setting up football in New South Wales for a strong comeback in 2021.

Double peak defies productivity taper

One of the truisms of social media is that if you don’t publish you won’t get an audience response. Equally the more you post, typically the higher the engagement as is the case here when comparing New South Wales grassroots football organisations productivity and engagement profiles.

All the effort the sport put into finishing a disrupted season on a high with a massive ramp-up of productivity from April onwards was repaid with interest by Facebook fans. This is reflected in a low of 82,776 reactions, comments and shares (April) compared to a massive 308,040 in October.

What is interesting is the July to October ‘plateau’ of engagement while productivity actually started to dip from August onwards. As posts published steadily dropped, engagement levels held their own. 

This suggests grassroots football fans are both receptive and highly responsive to content club’s post. The takeaway here is that perhaps the fastest way for football in New South Wales to get back within striking distance of its 2.7 million tally in 2019 is simply to post more often? 

The collective comeback by football clubs and associations in 2020 wasn’t enough to better the exceptional results of 2019 with total reactions, comments and shares at the end of the year standing at 2.1 million. This in itself represents a massive achievement considering the turbulent year that Australian sport has endured.

Wanderers in a class of their own

Closing-out 2020, the Doris Avenue based Earlwood Wanderers Football Club were in a class of their own when it comes to audience size at 46,692!

A fairly distant, but still impressive second is the Sydney Olympic football club with well over 16,000 followers while Manly United rounded-out the top three with 13,041 fans.

Marrickville busts +1,000 marker

Publishing a post a day is an achievement, while at least twice a day has rarely been seen across the thousands of grassroots clubs Shunt currently monitors. To have a club that posted more than three times a day (3.26) is unique – as is the case for the Marrickville Football Club. Well done team!

Amongst the remainder of the Shunt Top-10 for productivity there were definitely no slouches with all recording around 600 posts published through 2020. Of these, Wollongong United were next best at 682 (1.87 per day) followed by PCYC Cessnock (1.79 per day).

Wollongong fans highly engaged

Wollongong United FC epitomises the Shunt golden rule of social media that the more content you publish the more engagement you are likely to receive. Having finished second for productivity the club then led the way for total reactions, comments and shares on Facebook with over 30,000 last year.

It was a closely run battle for the runner-up spot with Sydney United 58 (26,549) coming home ahead of the Arncliffe Aurora football club (24,051).   

United 58 performance standard-setters

Shunt’s performance metric is all about striking the right balance between content quality and quantity with Sydney United 58 nabbing bragging rights as easily the highest performing club in the state at average engagements per post coming-in at a whopping 111.07. A truly remarkable result from an account that every football club in the country should be paying close attention to.  

Two clubs had similarly impressive results in what was a very tough year with post averages in excess of 60. Blacktown City FC landed a 64.37 result while Coogee United came in at 60.49.

Research notes;

736 Football clubs and associations from across New South Wales (incorporating Football NSW and Northern New South Wales member organisations) with a Facebook page were analysed as part of this report. Results are for Facebook only. Annual data from January 2015 to December 2020 inclusive. 2020 results from January 1st to December 31st inclusive.

Uncertain as to what 2021 has in store?
You’re not the only one! Throughout 2020, Shunt doubled-down on its work with our state and national sports clients to proactively expand their situational awareness. If you also want your ‘socials’ to deliver actionable insights that ensure you don’t just survive, but thrive then let’s chat. Get in touch at



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