Eased restrictions in Melbourne open door for 75,000 crowd at MCG

Melbourne Cricket Ground could host a crowd of 75,000 for upcoming AFL clash

The AFL season-opener between reigning champions Richmond and Carlton last Thursday attracted 49,218 fans to the 100,000-seater MCG. Photograph: Getty Images

The AFL season-opener between reigning champions Richmond and Carlton last Thursday attracted 49,218 fans to the 100,000-seater MCG. Photograph: Getty Images

 

The Melbourne Cricket Ground could host a crowd of 75,000 for an Australian Rules match this week after restrictions on the capacity of stadiums were eased on Tuesday.

The State of Victoria was officially Covid-19 free on Tuesday after the last active case was cleared of the virus, allowing the local government to raise the maximum capacity of stadiums to 75 per cent from 50 per cent.

The Australian Football League (AFL) season-opener between reigning champions Richmond and Carlton last Thursday attracted 49,218 fans to the 100,000-seater MCG.

Carlton will return to the stadium to face Collingwood on Thursday and one of Australian sport’s oldest and fiercest rivalries should attract a bumper crowd.

“I know in round one, we had the biggest crowd at a sporting event in Australia since the pandemic hit us,” the AFL’s Travis Auld told reporters in Melbourne.

“So that’s a big moment in this country, and to increase that further this weekend with a couple of really big games starting this Thursday night will be a wonderful achievement for the people of Melbourne and more broadly for this country.

“75,000 certainly gives us the capacity to have the largest crowd at a sporting event since Covid has hit.”

The AFL is one of the best supported leagues in the world with crowds averaging 35,108 per match in 2019, lagging behind only North America’s National Football League and the German and English top-flight soccer leagues.

AFL chief Gillon McLachlan was hoping to be able to fill the MCG for the traditional Anzac holiday clash between Collingwood and Essendon next month but Victoria’s chief health officer Brett Sutton was cautious about that prospect. “For very large venues, getting 100 per cent is pretty tricky,” Sutton told reporters on Tuesday.

“You’ve got to maintain those hard zones and so you do need that space to be able to have the infrastructure to separate people. “But we’ll continue to review how things are going at 75 per cent.”

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