The AFL will be able to welcome back capacity crowds across Victoria this season in a boost to the competition and its clubs as they attempt to recover from financial hits caused by the global pandemic.
Up to 100,000 fans will be allowed at the MCG when the season begins on March 16, with premier Melbourne hosting the Western Bulldogs in a re-match of last year’s grand final.
Regular AFL venues Marvel Stadium and GMHBA Stadium, as well as Ballarat’s Mars Stadium, will also have capacity limits lifted.
It comes under a COVID-safe plan approved by the state government, with masks required to be worn when fans are moving around venues, but not while they are seated outdoors.
Fans have not attended AFL matches in Victoria since July last year, when a restricted crowd of less than 30,000 watched Collingwood beat Richmond at the MCG.
AFL boss Gillon McLachlan hopes for a bumper attendance to kick off the new season, with all 10 Victorian clubs scheduled to play in their home state in round one.
About 80,000 fans are tipped to attend the Melbourne-Bulldogs clash at the MCG, with up to 90,000 predicted for the Richmond-Carlton meeting the following night.
“We want to get big crowds back to the footy,” McLachlan said.
“The weekly ritual of being able to go to a game and the sense of community it creates, connecting families and friends, is something we have missed in the state.
“Our AFLW finals series and start of our AFL season is an exciting time for fans, we look forward to seeing crowds return to our venues in huge numbers as well as to all the surrounding business and venues that rely on footy and big events being staged across the city.
“Footy can hopefully help bring the heartbeat of the city back to Melbourne and back to the state of Victoria.”
General public walk-up ticket sales will be allowed at Victorian venues again this season after they were put on hold for the past two years.
Only fully vaccinated fans will be allowed to attend AFL matches in Victoria.