Crowd restrictions ease as states eye off AFL Grand Final
Restrictions on sporting crowds continue to ease with Optus Stadium set to welcome a full house on July 19, mounting pressure on the MCG to retain the 2020 AFL Grand Final. While NSW has banned Victorian fans from events.
In Victoria, the Covid-19 situation has gone backwards, with new restrictions put in place, and the state now unlikely to see any crowds at sport for at least the short-term. This has promoted New South Wales to ban Victorian fans from attending NRL and AFL games played in the state, with supporters required to show ID to enter stadiums.
Western Australia has entered phase four of its easing of restrictions, meaning stadiums can now be filled to 50% of their capacity (30,633 at Optus Stadium, 10,150 at HBF Park and 7,150 at RAC Arena). This will be boosted to 100% of capacity from July 18, just in time for the western derby.
The AFL released the round 7 fixture yesterday, confirming two Melbourne teams will be based in a ‘WA Hub’ and two games at Optus Stadium in three days – the first AFL action for the stadium this season. Geelong will meet Collingwood on July 17 with the venue able to be filled to 50% of capacity, while Fremantle will host the West Coast Eagles on Sunday July 19 in front of 60,000 fans.
New South Wales was the first state to welcome fans back to sport, allowing one person per four square metres in corporate boxes – enabling crowds of around 300-500 at stadiums. As of July 1, stadiums with a capacity of up to 40,000 may be filled up to 25% of their capacity, while larger stadiums (the SCG and ANZ Stadium) can accommodate 10,000 spectators.
South Australia has increased their limit from 2,000 to 5,000 for this weekend where the SANFL will open its season at Adelaide Oval, while from June 29, stadiums will be able to be filled to half their capacity. 2,000 fans can currently attend in Queensland and that’ll rise to 10,000 from this weekend.
Meanwhile, stadiums in Victoria remain empty.
That has other states eyeing off the 2020 AFL Grand Final, despite a watertight contract being in place to host the marquee fixture in Victoria until 2047. The Grand Final is expected to be played on Saturday 24th October – assuming no further delays in the AFL season. The MCG was to be unavailable due to the ICC T20 World Cup, however that tournament now appears likely to be postponed.
Western Australia has pushed to poach the biggest game on the footy calendar, saying it’ll be able to cater for 60,000 fans at Optus Stadium, while South Australia has also weighed in, with over 50,000 fans able to fill the Adelaide Oval. Regardless of the contract, the border controls currently in place, particularly in WA, would make the prospect of a Perth Grand Final difficult.
Sydney has also emerged as a contender to snatch the game. Despite no AFL being played at ANZ Stadium for five years, the 83,500-capacity Olympic venue is keen on the prospect of hosting both the NRL and AFL Grand Final’s on the same weekend.
The NSW Government sensationally dumped the proposed $810 million redevelopment of the stadium recently, meaning it will no longer be converted into a rectangular venue and still able to host oval sports for the foreseeable future.
Debate has raged this week comparing a half-filled MCG to a full house at an alternative venue for the Grand Final, however despite the proposals and bickering, a move still appears highly unlikely given the contract in place.
The ball is now in Victoria’s court to see how it can recover from the current outbreak of coronavirus and how many of the MCG’s 100,000 seats can be filled by the end of October.