Talks to increase footy crowd capacity ahead of round two
The AFL has left the door ajar for an increase in crowd numbers for Thursday night’s crucial game between arch-rivals Carlton and Collingwood.
League executives were locked in phone conversations with the Department of Health and Human Services on Monday afternoon, where authorities were discussing the possibility of increasing the cap on crowd numbers currently locked at 50 per cent of venue capacity.
Sources familiar with the league’s conversations have told The Age an announcement will be made on Tuesday, where crowd increases could be implemented for as early as Thursday.
Fans enter the MCG during round one to watch live AFL for the first time in more than 500 days.Credit:Eddie Jim
It’s, according to sources, likely caps will be lifted from 50 per cent to between 60-75 per cent for round three games at the latest, assuming there are no more cases of COVID-19 community transmission.
But Tuesday’s announcement could see more fans allowed at all nine games this weekend, the same day that tickets go on sale to members.
“From an AFL process point of view, tickets go on sale [on Tuesday], so we don’t have a huge amount of time, but there is a window there if there’s an increase,” league fixture boss Travis Auld said.
“There may be an opportunity to review it for Thursday but I think it’s more likely sometime after that.
“We’re setting ourselves up for 50 per cent capacity, we’re comfortable if it remains at that for this weekend. If there’s an opportunity for more then we’ll take that.”
Games between Carlton and Collingwood have drawn an average crowd of more than 62,000 people since 2015, not counting last season’s encounter which was played at the Gabba due to COVID-19 restrictions.
But if current crowd caps are kept in place for Thursday, the maximum allowed in the ground will be 50,000.
Geelong, too, would be hoping crowd increases would come into effect for this weekend, given they play their first home game of the season at GMHBA Stadium against Brisbane on Friday night.
Home games for the Cats are almost always sold out, with a recently renovated Kardinia Park now able to house 36,000. That would be reduced to just 18,000 unless crowd limits are eased before the weekend.
“Our job is to adhere to the protocols and the plans in place on the basis that we are here to play the long game and when those big games come up in subsequent rounds we can get to those bigger crowds,” Auld said.
Crowds returned to football on the weekend, with more than 250,000 fans attending the opening round after largely being locked out during the early stages of last season. Round one saw an average total TV audience of 4.53 million.
Friday night football TV audiences were up 16 per cent in Melbourne compared to the 2019 season average, while Saturday night’s Essendon v Hawthorn match was up seven per cent compared to an average Saturday night game in 2019.
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