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Crowds are back at major sporting events in Melbourne after the state government announced a gradual easing of restrictions, with plans for the MCG and Marvel Stadium to return to 85 per cent capacity next weekend.
For this weekend, crowds will be capped at 50 per cent of capacity for outdoor stadiums, up to a maximum of 25,000 spectators. That will be the limit at the MCG and Marvel Stadium.
A total of 15,000 fans will be permitted at the A-League grand final at AAMI Park on Sunday while 5000 people can attend the third game of the NBL’s grand final series at John Cain Arena.
Acting Premier James Merlino’s announcement came as the Sydney-based AFL teams fled NSW and relocated to Victoria. Two extra AFL games are expected to be played in Melbourne over the next fortnight as a result. The Giants are scheduled to play Hawthorn at the MCG on Sunday and Sydney are a chance to play West Coast in Melbourne the following week.
The timing of the state government’s decision was a stroke of luck for the three codes, with the A-League grand final venue in doubt before Wednesday while uncertainty prevailed over both the NBL and the AFL as the COVID-19 situation worsened in Sydney.
Collingwood’s match against Fremantle was rescheduled to 1.45pm on Saturday at Marvel Stadium and Carlton will play Adelaide at 4.10pm on Sunday at Marvel Stadium as the league made allowances for teams to be able to fly in and out on the same day.
The MCG will host Richmond and St Kilda on Friday night, Essendon-Melbourne on Saturday night and Hawthorn-GWS on Sunday.
Club and AFL members will receive priority to attend this weekend’s matches, with general public sales only available if member allocations are not filled.
Marvel Stadium’s roof will remain open, and all fans aged 12 and above will need to wear a face mask when moving around the MCG and Marvel, but not while sitting and watching the game in their seats.
As was the case for many MCG games earlier in the season, the top level of the ground will remain shut for round 15.
Round 15 ticketing
- Friday: Richmond v St Kilda (MCG). Tickets via Ticketek from Thursday 3pm for AFL members, 4pm Richmond members, 5pm St Kilda members (currently no general public tickets)
- Saturday: Collingwood v Fremantle (Marvel Stadium). Tickets via Ticketmaster from Thursday 12pm for AFL members, 1pm Collingwood members, 4pm Fremantle members, Friday 9am for general public. Essendon v Melbourne (MCG). Tickets via Ticketek from Friday 9am for AFL members, 10am for Essendon members, 12pm for Melbourne members (currently no general public sales)
- Sunday: Giants v Hawthorn (MCG). Tickets via Ticketek from Friday 9am for AFL members, 10am for GWS members, 12pm for Hawthorn members, 2pm for general public. Carlton v Adelaide (Marvel Stadium). Tickets via Ticketmaster from Thursday 12pm for AFL members, 1pm for Carlton members, 4pm for Adelaide members, Friday 9am for general public sales. (Clubs to inform members of protocol for ticketing)
The Melbourne Cricket Club’s rationale is that shutting the top level helps manages the smaller crowd, while the venue will be zoned into five sections, limiting patrons’ movement anyway.
Melbourne City will host the A-League grand final after league chiefs gave the go-ahead for the championship decider against Sydney FC to take place at AAMI Park. The match will start at 5.05pm.
“We’ve got two teams looking to make history by winning the grand final and we can’t wait to see it all happen on Sunday,” A-League commissioner Greg O’Rourke said.
Melbourne United will play the Perth Wildcats in game three of the best-of-five NBL grand final series at John Cain Arena on Friday night. Melbourne United lead the series 2-0.
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Peter Ryan is a sports reporter with The Age covering AFL, horse racing and other sports.
Michael Lynch is The Age's chief soccer reporter and also reports on motor sport and horseracing