The Western Bulldogs is debt free for the first time in more than forty years after a record contribution from commercial partnerships and strong growth in membership and attendance.

Commercial partnerships grew 8.9% for the year to $10.5 million, and membership increased 19% to 47,709. Total revenue rose 7.3% to $51.9 million.

The club posted a net profit of $1.65 million, its third consecutive year of profit above $1 million.

“The key financial objective for 2017 was to continue to reduce debt while supporting growth and investing in football to support our three teams. Each of those financial objectives was achieved,” said Bulldogs’ CEO Gary Kent.

Kent said it was more than forty years since the club had been debt free.

“The renewal of Mission Foods as the club’s major partner for a further three years from 2018, the announcement of the club’s three-year partnership with Mercedes-Benz Vans and the renewal of our partnership with Victoria University for a further five years will provide tremendous opportunities for partnering with these world class organisations,” Kent said.

“The growth in number and quality of sponsors and partners is also recognition of the increased value being attributed to the club’s brand and its commercial assets.”

Kent said average home attendance at Etihad Stadium increased to 36,306 and the club booked $2.5 million in merchandise sales.

He said the result allowed the club to increase expenditure on the football department by $2.8 million to $25 million, and broaden the operations of the club’s community foundation, which committed $1.5 million to a range of programs during the year.