The Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) looks set to host the world’s biggest sports crowd since the start of the pandemic, with up to 75,000 footy fans allowed into the stadium from this Thursday.
The move comes just hours after the Australian Football League (AFL) conceded that crowd numbers for round two between Carlton and Collingwood this Thursday would remain at 50 percent (or 50,000 spectators), under the Victorian government’s COVIDsafe guidelines.
But on Tuesday, the Victorian government announced an easing of the state’s COVID restrictions that included a 25 percent crowd increase to Thursday’s game.
“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,” AFL fixture boss Travis Auld said.
Auld added that having the world’s biggest crowd since the pandemic was “an exciting prospect.”
AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan has welcomed the announcement and thanked the Victorian Government for their assistance in safely getting fans back to the footy.
“As men’s footy returned across the weekend, you could really feel the excitement in the air throughout Melbourne. It felt like the rhythm of the city had returned, and the announcement today should only amplify this,” he said.
Round one saw 248,030 fans attend nine matches, with opening night last week at the MCG hosting 49,218 fans.
“In round one, to have the biggest crowd at a sporting event in Australia since the COVID pandemic is a testament to the passion and support of footy fans, and I know we will only build on that number in the coming weeks,” McLachlan said.
Ticket allocations will increase in line with the venues’ increased capacity, the AFL said in a statement, with Marvel stadium hosting 43,400 spectators, GMHBA hosting 27,819 spectators, and Mars Stadium hosting 8,335 spectators. General Public tickets will also be available.
While McLachlan previously hoped for a full house at the traditional Anzac Day clash, Victorian Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said achieving 100 percent capacity would be difficult.
“For very large venues, getting 100 percent is pretty tricky,” Sutton said 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 percent.”
Among the restrictions set to be eased from 6 p.m. Friday include having 100 visitors at home, 200 people for public gatherings, masks will no longer be required in retail settings but will be required on public transport, in taxis and rideshare vehicles and aged care facilities and hospitals.
Additionally, offices will increase their capacity from 75 percent to 100 percent, though a density limit of one person per two square metres will still apply.
Victoria’s Minister for Health Martin Foley said these changes were another “positive step in Victoria’s social and economic recovery but also a reminder that now is not the time to be complacent.
“We must continue to keep each other safe, so we can stay open.”
AAP contributed to this report.