Players enter Adelaide Oval during the round five Adelaide v Carlton clash on April 13, 2023. Picture: Getty Images

THE SUCCESS of the inaugural Gather Round has led to a deal that locks in South Australia as host of the football festival for the next three years.

All nine matches have sold out this week, with the AFL reporting more than 220,000 fans attended fixtures at Adelaide Oval, Norwood Oval and Mount Barker.

More than 60,000 fans bought tickets from interstate, driving a reported $85 million economic benefit for SA.

THREE MORE YEARS Read the full AFL announcement

"It has been an unbelievable success," AFL CEO Gill McLachlan said on Sunday.

"It has been an amazing weekend where people have pulled this together in four and a half months.

"I know now, with a three year commitment with the state government, we can actually plan ... with certainty.

GWS players run out onto Norwood Oval for their match against Hawthorn in Gather Round, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

"And AFL supporters can put this in their calendar as a place where all 18 clubs come together and celebrate our game and enjoy this state."

McLachlan said the round would be taken outside of SA "at some point".

But he was buzzing at Adelaide's reception, just as the city itself was abuzz during the round.

Fans outside Adelaide Oval before the round five Richmond v Sydney clash on April 14, 2023. Picture: Getty Images

The return is a boon for the South Australian government, which declined to detail its monetary incentive to the AFL for hosting rights though the figure was reportedly in the vicinity of $14m.

SA Premier Peter Malinauskas is a footy-besotted character - he played in underage ranks for SANFL club West Adelaide, as recently as last year turned out in seventh-division amateurs, and wears his Port Adelaide colours on his sleeves, scarf and wherever else possible.


The Premier was the key player in SA's team bid to earn hosting rights. McLachlan said Malinauskas applied a "hard tag" on AFL commission members during persistent lobbying at last year's grand final.

Malinauskas' efforts were pivotal. Sydney, in footy parlance, was five goals up and kicking with the wind in the last quarter of voting - but the AFL commission opted for Adelaide.

Fans at the round five, 2023 Brisbane v North Melbourne clash in the Adelaide Hills. Picture: AFL Photos

Thousands flocked to Elder Park on the banks of the River Torrens, just a Shannon Hurn drop-punt over the water from Adelaide Oval, where large screens televised all games and players from all clubs mingled with fans.

Adelaide's suburban footy ovals were hives of activity as the AFL clubs trained and held coaching clinics.

Inner suburban Norwood Oval was packed for its two games; ditto for Mt Barker's oval in the pictureseque Adelaide Hills when the township hosted.

Fans at Elder Park during 2023 Gather Round. Picture: AFL Photos

For Malinauskas, there's deep method to his footy madness.

"It's more than just a footy round, it's an investment attraction opportunity," he said.

"We believe we have got an event here in South Australia now that we can grow and take it to a whole new level. This three-year commitment gives us that lead time."