50% crowds approved for Melbourne AFL games as Bombers are denied venue shift
Up to 50,000 fans will be able to attend AFL matches at the MCG during the first round of the 2021 season, and there’s hope that figure could be increased.
Under the deal announced on Friday, the MCG can host 50,000 fans and Marvel Stadium 28,961 supporters, with GMHBA Stadium set to be allowed 18,000 fans at a 50 per cent ratio when a deal is finalised for the Geelong venue in coming weeks.
It’ll be the first time spectators are allowed into AFL premiership season matches since the 2019 Grand Final, after all matches played in Melbourne last year were planed behind closed doors as Victoria’s second wave of Covid hit hard.
At the MCG, it’ll mean 11,000 tickets will be allocated to MCC Members, 10,000 to AFL Members, 1000 to corporates and the remaining 28,000 to club members. It’s believed home clubs may allocate just 1000 tickets to away members.
The 2021 AFL season commences on March 18 when Richmond host Carlton at the MCG. The Tigers have confirmed they’ll be using a ballot system to allocate tickets for home games, while the AFL has confirmed tickets won’t go on sale until one week prior to matches. Only if tickets remain from member allocations will they go on sale to the general public.
As was the case during the Boxing Day Test, the MCG will be split into five zones, with fans unable to move between them. The venue will remain cash-free, while fans will have to scan a QR code upon entry for contact-tracing purposes.
It’s believed the AFL have been pushing the Victorian Government for 75% crowds, in line with other states, and while 50% has been officially announced, there’s hope it may increase if there are no new Covid cases in the state.
At present, Queensland permits 100% capacity of stadiums, New South Wales recently increased to 100% of seated capacity of stadiums and South Australia is currently 75%. View Covid updates & restrictions here.
Round one of the AFL season will see three games played at the MCG, while Marvel Stadium will host two matches. Games are also scheduled for the Adelaide Oval, Gabba, Giants Stadium and Optus Stadium to start the season.
There were reports on Monday evening that Essendon had hoped to relocate its Saturday night home game against Hawthorn from Marvel Stadium to the MCG, to allow an additional 21,000 supporters to attend. The last five matches between the two clubs at the MCG has attracted an average crowd of almost 65,000.
However, AFL CEO Gill McLachlan confirmed today there would be no changes to the round one fixture, commenting that there’s “huge knock-on consequences of moving games”.
The league boss also said the first six rounds of the season would go ahead as planned should the West Australian government dial back border restrictions with Victoria as is currently expected.
WA Premier Mark McGowan has had a hard-lined approach to its border controls since the beginning of the pandemic, resulting in no international cricket played in Perth during summer and various events postponed.
He indicated last week if there were no new community transmission cases up until March 13, his state would open up its border to Victorians. But that date is just seven days before Fremantle’s clash with Melbourne – and should a Victorian coronavirus case end the state’s streak, the Dockers would then have to quarantine for 14 days when re-entering WA, throwing the AFL fixture into chaos.