AFL in a COVID-19 world

How are the ovals around the country adjusting to being able to have crowds back? (Image: Round 1: Brisbane Lions vs Sydney Swans at The Gabba. Source: Michael Wilson)

By Alexandra Bull | @ally_bull19

With the AFL season truly underway, it is amazing to remember this time last year, when the 2020 season was shut down for just under three months.

Now two rounds in and 18 games played, footy fans are finally experiencing a sense of normality after last years disrupted season.

Round one was a welcome site for fans, especially in Melbourne where the last game played in the state was the 2019 AFL Grand Final.

All stadiums that host a multitude of events including AFL matches have specific COVID-19 rules that allow patrons to watch matches or attend events as safely as possible.

The biggest crowd at an AFL game last season was the AFL Grand Final held at The Gabba in Brisbane, which had a crowd of 29,707- quite a large difference between the usual sell-out crowd at the MCG each year.

Adelaide Oval footy goers are required to wear masks to and from the game and when moving inside the stadium but are able to take them off when seated in their designated pod sections.

The stadium is currently at 75 per cent capacity, meaning they are able to have 40,000 attendees per match.

Port Adelaide fan Thomas Basso says the imposed COVID-19 rules at Adelaide Oval are quite sensible.

“I am very happy with the 75 per cent capacity figure which basically ensures that all members and paid-up supporters of both SA clubs are able to have the choice of going to the game if they want to and are able to mostly sit in their preferred seats.”

“The wearing of masks is certainly strange after not needing them to go to a game last year, but it was very noticeable that all spectators were following the rules and wearing masks when asked,” Thomas said.

“The lines to enter the game on Saturday was the longest I have ever seen it going into Adelaide Oval, which of course meant you were jammed in with a lot more people.”

“I think most people are willing to put up with a bit of COVID-Safe rules in order to allow as big a crowd as possible.”

After a disrupted season last year, Thomas expressed his joy about being able to head back to Adelaide Oval under semi-normal circumstances.

“It was super exciting to be back at the Oval on the weekend in my normal seats after last year’s crowd restrictions,” Thomas said.

“The atmosphere felt a lot more like a normal pre-pandemic game and as though we were back to normal compared to the chaos of last season.”

The MCG has recently announced they are able to have 75 per cent capacity, allowing them to have 75,000 spectators, which is a massive change considering Victoria hosted no AFL games last season.

The game between Collingwood and Carlton last Friday, April 26 had a crowd of 51,723, the largest crowd at any sports event in the Southern Hemisphere since the pandemic began.

Optus Stadium in Perth, home to the West Coast Eagles and Fremantle Dockers, is able to operate at 60 per cent capacity and is able to host 45,000 fans per game, which is a staggering 10,000 more than last year.

However, upcoming games at The Gabba are under tight watch after the growing COVID-19 cluster in Brisbane, with the Brisbane Lions currently stuck in Melbourne due to the greater Brisbane area going into lockdown as of 5pm (AEST).

The SCG has a capacity of 48,000 home, are able to have 28,500 spectators to watch the Sydney Swans at their home game, as well as matches for the NRL and Super Rugby.

Manuka Oval in Canberra, where GWS play their home games, is the only venue where capacity is at 100 per cent, due to its original capacity only being 13,550.

As COVID-19 is relatively stable in Australia, it is a blessing for AFL fans and sports fans alike to be able to head back to their favourite ovals to watch their teams once more.

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