Melbourne’s sporting status at risk due to ongoing restrictions
Melbourne typically hosts more big sporting events than any other Australian city, but the mass exodus of events has its sports capital title at risk due to the State Government’s inability to effectively manage the pandemic.
Victoria has had significantly more events impacted than any other State, with more relocated, played in empty stadiums or restricted capacity, than anywhere else in Australia. Overall, crowds have evaporated by 73% while average attendances have dropped by 66%.
While the rest of the country has opened up and got on with life, Melburnians have endured 173 days in lockdown in all, due to the Dan Andrews Government unable to control the pandemic in the State, with ongoing hotel quarantine botches and heavy-handed lockdowns.
The 2020 AFL Grand Final was undoubtably the biggest causality, moved from Melbourne for the first time in its history, to the Gabba in Queensland, which hosted much of the AFL season after teams fled the state, while major international events such as the Australian Open and Melbourne Cup have also been impacted.
While other states have managed the pandemic remarkably better and managed to return to no capacity restrictions in stadiums, Victoria was only able to get up to 85% of capacity, before the recent setback, with another 14 days of lockdown leaving stadiums eerily empty once more.
Professional sport recommenced in Australia on May 28, 2020, with games played in empty stadiums for two weeks, before limited crowds were permitted to attend matches in Queensland and New South Wales. Restrictions continued to ease, with Queensland the first to allow 100% of capacity, when a then-world record post-Covid crowd of 49,155 attended Suncorp Stadium for the Origin decider.
The Austadiums events database lists 1449 sports events held in Australia since sport resumed. It reveals at least 123 events have been moved from Victoria and played elsewhere in the country – 40 of which were played interstate in empty stadiums and the remaining events had an average attendance of just 4102.
Events relocated include at least 64 AFL games, 8 NRL, 5 Super Rugby, 10 A-League, 7 NBL, 7 BBL and 20 Super Netball games, while the recent State of Origin series opener was the latest casualty, moved from the MCG to Townsville.
Crowds packing stadiums for AFL games in Melbourne is the norm, but 2020 was different, with not a single game played in front of spectators. Of the 72 home games Victorian teams have played outside of Victoria (up to the end of round 13 this season), the average attendance is just 5508 – this figure includes three finals relocated to Queensland that averaged 15,275 and the Grand Final which had 29,707 in attendance.
To compare, in 2019, the average attendance for games in Victoria was 43,012; so far this season it is 16,243, from 51 games – of which three were played behind closed doors. It has the AFL reeling, with the entire industry losing money while crowds continue to be impacted, and while the Grand Final is scheduled back at the MCG this year, a heavily-reduced capacity will almost certainly see it shifted again.
The impact has been felt across all sports, while it’s impossible to measure the significant flow-on effects to other industries, not to mention the general health and wellbeing of individuals.
Cricket’s marquee game, the Boxing Day Test, went ahead at the MCG in December, albeit with a vastly reduced 30% capacity. Across four days, 89,472 spectators attended the game – down from 203,472 in 2019.
The Australian Open also proceeded with limited numbers in a later February timeslot, however, just 130,274 tennis fans attended over nine days, with five days played at an empty Melbourne Park. The crowd was well down on the previous year, when 812,174 spectators attended the first Grand Slam of the year.
The entire Spring Racing Carnival, including all four days of the Melbourne Cup Carnival at Flemington, the Caulfield Cup and Cox Plate, which usually attract tens of thousands of spectators, were all run at empty racetracks.
And the list goes on and on.
Since professional sport recommenced, the Austadiums events database reveals 100% of events that remained in Victoria have been impacted (48 behind closed doors, 246 with restricted capacity), while 68% have been impacted in NSW (42 closed, 290 restricted) and 60% in Queensland (9 closed, 197 restricted).
As a result, crowds have taken a huge hit in Victoria. When comparing sports events since the restart, to the same period two years ago (May 28, 2018, to June 15, 2019), Victoria’s total crowds have fallen by 73% (66% for average attendances), compared to NSW (40% overall and 54% average) and Queensland (15% overall and 46% average).
It’s worth noting that Austadiums covers more sports events now than it did in 2018/19 – yet while NSW and QLD’s number of events have increased by 29% and 57% respectively, Victoria’s has decreased by 21%.
The pain looks set to continue in the short term with the Victorian Government showing no signs of significantly easing restrictions. Melbourne will remain footy-free this weekend with two games relocated to Tasmania (Hawthorn v Essendon & North Melbourne v Brisbane), while Geelong will play the Bulldogs at an empty GMHBA Stadium on Friday night, despite eased restrictions in regional Victoria and not a single Covid case reported.
It’s believed the AFL and MCG had been working together on a submission that would request Melbourne crowds of 20-30% capacity. That scaled-back proposal came after strong advice from the Victorian government it was still worried about undetected Covid positives in the state and would not allow half-full stadiums.
The all-Melbourne NBL semi-final series between United and the Phoenix, concluding with game 3 tonight, has been played at an empty Qudos Bank Arena in Sydney, while the league has confirmed the first two games of the Grand Final series will be played in Perth.
And in the A-League, Melbourne City FC, who finished the season on top of the ladder, host their semi-final at AAMI Park on Sunday, but still have no clarity if a crowd will be permitted to attend. A win would lock in a home Grand Final on June 26.
There’s also some doubt starting to creep in for the hosting of October’s MotoGP at Phillip Island and the F1 Australian Grand Prix scheduled for November 21 at Albert Park, due to mandatory 14-day quarantine periods.
While other states have shown how life can go on with the pandemic and continue to host major sports events with big crowds, Victorian authorities continue to take an extra-cautious approach, one which is at least temporarily making Melbourne a sporting wasteland.
List of sports events moved from Victoria
|2/7/20||NRL: Storm v Roosters||5132||Suncorp Stadium|
|9/7/20||AFL: Geelong v Brisbane Lions||1311||Sydney Cricket Ground|
|10/7/20||AFL: Collingwood v Hawthorn||1772||Giants Stadium|
|10/7/20||Super Rugby AU: Rebels v Reds||TBC||4 Pines Park|
|11/7/20||AFL: Essendon v North Melbourne||4271||Metricon Stadium|
|11/7/20||AFL: Melbourne v Gold Coast Suns||250||Giants Stadium|
|12/7/20||AFL: Carlton v Western Bulldogs||2178||Metricon Stadium|
|12/7/20||AFL: Richmond v Sydney Swans||3606||Gabba|
|16/7/20||AFL: Geelong v Collingwood||22077||Optus Stadium|
|17/7/20||AFL: Essendon v Western Bulldogs||4949||Metricon Stadium|
|17/7/20||NRL: Storm v Titans||5310||Sunshine Coast Stadium|
|18/7/20||AFL: Richmond v North Melbourne||4337||Metricon Stadium|
|19/7/20||AFL: Carlton v Port Adelaide||3510||Gabba|
|19/7/20||AFL: Hawthorn v Melbourne||750||Giants Stadium|
|25/7/20||A-League: Melbourne Victory v Western United||Closed||Bankwest Stadium|
|25/7/20||AFL: North Melbourne v Carlton||3655||Gabba|
|26/7/20||AFL: Melbourne v Brisbane Lions||3011||Metricon Stadium|
|29/7/20||A-League: Melbourne Victory v Brisbane Roar||Closed||Bankwest Stadium|
|29/7/20||AFL: Western Bulldogs v Richmond||2824||Metricon Stadium|
|30/7/20||AFL: Melbourne v Port Adelaide||323||Gabba|
|31/7/20||AFL: Carlton v Hawthorn||12304||Optus Stadium|
|31/7/20||AFL: Essendon v Brisbane Lions||4863||Metricon Stadium|
|1/8/20||A-League: Melbourne City v Sydney FC||Closed||Stadium Australia|
|1/8/20||AFL: North Melbourne v Adelaide Crows||522||Metricon Stadium|
|1/8/20||AFL: St Kilda v Sydney Swans||2978||Gabba|
|2/8/20||NRL: Storm v Knights||5357||Sunshine Coast Stadium|
|2/8/20||Super Netball: Vixens v Magpies||TBC||Nissan Arena|
|3/8/20||A-League: Melbourne Victory v Central Coast Mariners||Closed||Netstrata Jubilee Stadium|
|4/8/20||AFL: Richmond v Brisbane Lions||5651||Metricon Stadium|
|5/8/20||AFL: Geelong v North Melbourne||2282||Gabba|
|6/8/20||AFL: Collingwood v Sydney Swans||4146||Gabba|
|7/8/20||A-League: Western United v Western Sydney Wanderers||Closed||Netstrata Jubilee Stadium|
|7/8/20||AFL: Essendon v GWS Giants||1178||Metricon Stadium|
|7/8/20||Super Rugby AU: Rebels v Brumbies||Closed||Leichhardt Oval|
|8/8/20||NRL: Storm v Bulldogs||3440||Sunshine Coast Stadium|
|9/8/20||AFL: Melbourne v North Melbourne||2172||Adelaide Oval|
|10/8/20||AFL: St Kilda v Geelong||3903||Gabba|
|11/8/20||A-League: Melbourne City v Adelaide United||Closed||Stadium Australia|
|12/8/20||Super Netball: Vixens v Lightning||TBC||USC Stadium|
|14/8/20||AFL: Geelong v Port Adelaide||3378||Metricon Stadium|
|15/8/20||AFL: Melbourne v Collingwood||5338||Gabba|
|15/8/20||AFL: North Melbourne v Brisbane Lions||2722||Metricon Stadium|
|15/8/20||Super Netball: Magpies v Fever||TBC||Nissan Arena|
|16/8/20||AFL: St Kilda v Essendon||4686||Gabba|
|16/8/20||AFL: Western Bulldogs v Adelaide Crows||613||Metricon Stadium|
|16/8/20||Super Netball: Vixens v Thunderbirds||TBC||USC Stadium|
|17/8/20||AFL: Richmond v Gold Coast Suns||4062||Gabba|
|19/8/20||A-League: Western United v Melbourne City||Closed||Netstrata Jubilee Stadium|
|19/8/20||Super Netball: Magpies v Thunderbirds||TBC||USC Stadium|
|22/8/20||AFL: Essendon v Richmond||5401||TIO Stadium|
|22/8/20||AFL: Western Bulldogs v Melbourne||1765||Metricon Stadium|
|23/8/20||Super Netball: Vixens v Giants||TBC||USC Stadium|
|24/8/20||AFL: Collingwood v North Melbourne||2443||Gabba|
|26/8/20||A-League: SF Melbourne City v Western United||1897||Bankwest Stadium|
|27/8/20||AFL: Hawthorn v Essendon||4973||Adelaide Oval|
|27/8/20||AFL: Richmond v West Coast Eagles||3628||Metricon Stadium|
|28/8/20||AFL: Western Bulldogs v Geelong||2156||Metricon Stadium|
|29/8/20||AFL: Melbourne v St Kilda||1917||TIO Traeger Park|
|29/8/20||Super Netball: Magpies v Giants||TBC||Nissan Arena|
|29/8/20||Super Netball: Vixens v Swifts||TBC||Nissan Arena|
|29/8/20||Super Rugby AU: Rebels v Waratahs||1758||Leichhardt Oval|
|30/8/20||AFL: Carlton v Collingwood||9033||Gabba|
|30/8/20||NRL: Storm v Sea Eagles||2460||Sunshine Coast Stadium|
|1/9/20||AFL: Hawthorn v Adelaide Crows||6191||Adelaide Oval|
|1/9/20||Super Netball: Magpies v Swifts||TBC||Nissan Arena|
|2/9/20||AFL: Richmond v Fremantle||1818||Metricon Stadium|
|5/9/20||AFL: North Melbourne v Port Adelaide||592||Metricon Stadium|
|5/9/20||Super Netball: Vixens v Fever||TBC||Nissan Arena|
|5/9/20||Super Rugby AU: Rebels v Force||817||McDonald Jones Stadium|
|6/9/20||AFL: Geelong v Essendon||5011||Gabba|
|6/9/20||AFL: St Kilda v Hawthorn||2740||Metricon Stadium|
|6/9/20||AFL: Western Bulldogs v West Coast Eagles||532||Metricon Stadium|
|7/9/20||AFL: Melbourne v Fremantle||3279||Cazalys Stadium|
|8/9/20||AFL: Carlton v Sydney Swans||1580||Metricon Stadium|
|10/9/20||AFL: St Kilda v West Coast Eagles||1925||Gabba|
|11/9/20||AFL: Geelong v Richmond||7061||Metricon Stadium|
|12/9/20||AFL: North Melbourne v Fremantle||308||Metricon Stadium|
|12/9/20||Super Netball: Magpies v Vixens||TBC||Nissan Arena|
|13/9/20||AFL: Carlton v Adelaide Crows||2735||Metricon Stadium|
|13/9/20||AFL: Hawthorn v Western Bulldogs||2625||Adelaide Oval|
|13/9/20||NRL: Storm v Cowboys||3826||Sunshine Coast Stadium|
|14/9/20||AFL: Collingwood v Gold Coast Suns||2896||Gabba|
|16/9/20||Super Netball: Magpies v Lightning||TBC||Townsville Entertainment and Convention Centre|
|17/9/20||AFL: North Melbourne v West Coast Eagles||724||Metricon Stadium|
|18/9/20||AFL: St Kilda v GWS Giants||1528||Gabba|
|19/9/20||AFL: Essendon v Melbourne||2175||Metricon Stadium|
|19/9/20||NRL: Storm v Wests Tigers||3867||Sunshine Coast Stadium|
|20/9/20||AFL: Hawthorn v Gold Coast Suns||2136||Adelaide Oval|
|20/9/20||Super Netball: Vixens v Firebirds||TBC||Cairns Pop-Up Arena|
|21/9/20||AFL: Collingwood v Port Adelaide||5424||Gabba|
|26/9/20||Super Netball: Magpies v Firebirds||TBC||Nissan Arena|
|3/10/20||AFL: EF St Kilda v Western Bulldogs||10651||Gabba|
|3/10/20||NRL: QF Storm v Eels||16238||Suncorp Stadium|
|3/10/20||Super Netball: SF Vixens v Lightning||TBC||USC Stadium|
|9/10/20||AFL: SF Richmond v St Kilda||13778||Metricon Stadium|
|10/10/20||AFL: SF Geelong v Collingwood||21396||Gabba|
|16/10/20||NRL: PF Storm v Raiders||37112||Suncorp Stadium|
|18/10/20||Super Netball: GF Vixens v Fever||TBC||Nissan Arena|
|24/10/20||AFL: Grand Final - Richmond v Geelong||29707||Gabba|
|8/11/20||Sheffield Shield: Victoria v Western Australia||0||Karen Rolton Oval|
|11/12/20||BBL: Melbourne Stars v Brisbane Heat||2471||Manuka Oval|
|12/12/20||BBL: Melbourne Renegades v Perth Scorchers||1119||Blundstone Arena|
|12/12/20||BBL: Melbourne Stars v Sydney Thunder||3295||Manuka Oval|
|29/12/20||BBL: Melbourne Renegades v Sydney Sixers||3375||Metricon Stadium|
|1/1/21||BBL: Melbourne Renegades v Sydney Thunder||2707||Metricon Stadium|
|4/1/21||BBL: Melbourne Stars v Hobart Hurricanes||6082||Blundstone Arena|
|5/1/21||BBL: Melbourne Renegades v Adelaide Strikers||12707||Adelaide Oval|
|25/2/21||Sheffield Shield: Victoria v New South Wales||TBC||Bankstown Oval|
|22/5/21||Super Netball: Magpies v Firebirds||0||Silverdome|
|28/5/21||NBL: SE Melbourne Phoenix v Cairns Taipans||1251||Cairns Pop-Up Arena|
|30/5/21||AFL: Richmond v Adelaide Crows||4236||Giants Stadium|
|31/5/21||A-League: Western United v Macarthur FC||TBC||Leichhardt Oval|
|31/5/21||NBL: Melbourne United v Cairns Taipans||Closed||Qudos Bank Arena|
|2/6/21||NBL: SE Melbourne Phoenix v Brisbane Bullets||Closed||Cairns Pop-Up Arena|
|4/6/21||AFL: Melbourne v Brisbane Lions||3772||Giants Stadium|
|5/6/21||AFL: Essendon v Richmond||55656||Optus Stadium|
|5/6/21||NRL: Storm v Titans||7630||Sunshine Coast Stadium|
|5/6/21||Super Netball: Magpies v Fever||Closed||Ken Rosewall Arena|
|6/6/21||AFL: Carlton v West Coast Eagles||5137||Sydney Cricket Ground|
|6/6/21||NBL: Melbourne United v Adelaide 36ers||1817||Adelaide Entertainment Centre|
|6/6/21||Super Netball: Vixens v Thunderbirds||0||USC Stadium|
|9/6/21||State of Origin - QLD v NSW||27533||Queensland Country Bank Stadium|
|10/6/21||A-League: Melbourne City v Newcastle Jets||Closed||Netstrata Jubilee Stadium|
|11/6/21||NBL: SF - Melbourne United v SE Melbourne Phoenix||Closed||Qudos Bank Arena|
|12/6/21||AFL: St Kilda v Adelaide Crows||5969||Cazalys Stadium|
|12/6/21||Super Netball: Magpies v Vixens||TBC||Ken Rosewall Arena|
|12/6/21||Super Rugby TT: Rebels v Crusaders||TBC||Leichhardt Oval|
|13/6/21||NBL: SF - SE Melbourne Phoenix v Melbourne United||Closed||Qudos Bank Arena|
|14/6/21||AFL: Melbourne v Collingwood||16453||Sydney Cricket Ground|
|15/6/21||NBL: SF - Melbourne United v SE Melbourne Phoenix||Closed||Qudos Bank Arena|
Note: As the 2020 AFL fixture was re-done, the above list & average AFL crowds are inclusive of the 8 games initially scheduled for Tasmania.