HAWTHORN has overtaken Collingwood at the top of the AFL membership ladder, riding a 3.33 per cent increase to a club-record tally of 75,351. 

Collingwood suffered a 0.53 per cent decrease compared to 2015, dropping to 74,643 members, but still sits second in the competition ahead of Richmond (72,278).

The combined AFL club membership tally (as of July 31) hit record numbers for the 25th time in the past 26 years, rising by 4.67 per cent to 875,197.

Thirteen of the competition's AFL clubs recorded membership increases in 2016, with St Kilda (16.07 per cent), Sydney Swans (15.74), Geelong (14.12) Greater Western Sydney (13.59) and Western Bulldogs (12.03) leading the way.

The Brisbane Lions suffered the biggest drop, failing from 25,408 members in 2015 to 23,286 this year, an 8.35 per cent decrease. 

Gold Coast (-5.78 per cent), Essendon (-5.47), Port Adelaide (-0.58) and Collingwood were the other clubs whose membership numbers dipped. 

Eleven clubs achieved record tallies, while the same number now have more than 50,000 members.

AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan said the membership figures were a testament to the loyalty and passion of football fans.

"To reach a record for AFL club membership with a rate of retention across the industry of 86 per cent is a tremendous result," McLachlan said.

"The total number of AFL club members equates to one in every 28 Australians, which is a sign of the reach and strength of Australian football.

"The financial and emotional commitment fans make to their teams is the key reason why our game continues to prosper." 

The only time in the past 26 years when total club membership did not reach record levels was in 2000, when the AFL season was moved forward by a month to accommodate the Sydney Olympics.

 Total Members
West Coast65,18860,221+8.25%
Sydney Swans56,52348,836+15.74%
Port Adelaide53,74354,057-0.58%
North Melbourne45,01441,012+9.76%
Western Bulldogs39,45935,222+12.03%
St Kilda38,00932,746+16.07%
Brisbane Lions23,28625,408-8.35%
Greater Western Sydney15,31213,480+13.59%
Gold Coast12,85413,643-5.78%