2014 was a noteworthy season in which the Australian Ice Hockey League (AIHL) made record progress on strategic fronts, while continuing to deliver record returns to stakeholders and building foundations for our future.
The AIHL continued evolving our standard of play- by practicing more often, extending the preseason, and attracting better skilled imports. These efforts culminated in the most successful Finals series to date. All seats were sold out three weeks ahead of time.
The competition was more balanced than ever in 2014. Every team had a chance to defeat their opponent in every game, and our finalists were only confirmed in the last fortnight of the regular season. Two teams, the Melbourne Mustangs and CBR Brave, competed for the Goodall Cup for the first time in their club’s history.
75 000 fans were entertained at AIHL games, a 25% attendance growth compared to 2013. We can attribute most of this growth to the revitalised franchise in Canberra and continued improvement of Melbourne Mustangs.
Broad awareness for the AIHL continued to grow. This was a result of organic growth and effective partnerships. Our Facebook community jumped from 8 700 fans to 17 944 (206% YoY growth), Twitter followers increased by 1 416, from 3 000 to 4 416 (47% YoY). Similar rates were realised by each club.
For the second year, we broadcasted a featured AIHL game each week of the season and all three Finals series games. Fox Sports broadcasts helped us reach more than 475 000 unique Australians via television. Melbourne Mustangs and CBR Brave live streamed games for the first time, further extending awareness and access to our product. Again in 2014, The Age featured weekly articles about the AIHL written by Will Brodie. Lee Gaskin at the Canberra Times also reported on the CBR Brave and AIHL regularly.
As part of our Better Together community program, the AIHL partnered with Soldier On for the 2014 season to enhance recovery, inspire communities and empower Australia’s wounded warriors of our Defence forces. We raised over $12 000 and markedly improved the lives of more than a dozen wounded warriors and their families- boosting confidence and employment prospects.
Total revenue increased 20% over the previous year and we generated 32% more profit compared to 2013. New partners, coupled with a bigger Finals series, fuelled our revenue and profit increases.
The AIHL remains indebted to our corporate partners for their continued investment and support for the flagship hockey league in the country. Our major sponsors include APA Group, Air Canada, and ATC Productions whose association make the competition and Finals series possible. We were also pleased to welcome new partners to the AIHL, including Borealis Infrastructure, Uber, Molson Coors, and Body Science.
It’s not just about what we achieved in 2014, but also how we achieved record results. This last season we welcomed a lot of new people to the AIHL family; commissioners, governors, coaches, volunteers and other stakeholders. I am proud of the inclusive approach, collaboration and best practice sharing by all teams. We worked together to build trust and accountability across the league.
All of this combined truly made this a season like no other. By any measure 2014 was the most successful season on and off the ice in AIHL history. But, we have a lot of unexploited opportunities, starting with fan development. We need to invest more in grassroots programs, like camps, clinics, game night activities, and creating chances for kids to play hockey.
Ice hockey remains an emerging sport in the Australian context. To generate mainstream awareness, we must develop partnerships with key reporters, writers, and media outlets in every market.
The financial gap between our teams continues to grow and the capacity of many teams to invest in their hockey departments and to grow other elements of their respective businesses is challenged. We must offset inherent advantages- supporter base, rink agreements, location, fixture, etc. Competitive balance is a crucial structural issue for the AIHL.
The business case for diversity of thought is clear. To take the AIHL to the next level, we need to integrate more life experiences and personal perspectives to make us react and think differently; approach challenges and solve problems differently; make suggestions and decisions differently; and see different opportunities.
Finally, I would like to thank our dozens of volunteers for their ongoing dedication to our fans and striving to make the AIHL the best hockey experience and entertainment possible. I also want to thank our governors and commissioners for their counsel and drive towards delivering continued value to our stakeholders and the best opportunity to connect with our game, stars, and community.
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