K rock Football

Crowds to return in Melbourne

Melbourne players warm-up before the Round 11 clash with the Western Bulldogs in front of an empty Marvel Stadium. (Sports Media Image/Marcel Berens)

CROWDS will return to AFL matches in Melbourne after the Victorian government announced an easing of coronavirus restrictions.

The AFL had lobbied the state government for a 50 per cent capacity at the MCG and Marvel Stadium, but crowds will be capped at 25,000 fans this weekend before a planned boost to 85 per cent capacity next week.

It means Friday night’s Richmond-St Kilda match at the MCG to be the first fixture played in front of spectators in the city since May 23.

“From 11.59pm tomorrow night, outdoor stadiums can have 50 per cent of the venue capacity up to 25,000 people,” acting Premier James Merlino.

“This means that the A-League grand final can proceed with 15,000 people and the MCG can host 25,000 people.

“From the following week, commencing 11.59pm on 1 July and subject to public health advice, indoor and outdoor stadiums will be able to increase to 85 per cent capacity – so that includes the MCG, Marvel Stadium and AAMI Park.”

The MCG will host Essendon-Melbourne on Saturday night, with Marvel Stadium hosting Collingwood-Fremantle (Saturday) and Carlton-Adelaide (Sunday).

Meanwhile, Sydney could be forced to move their crucial top-eight AFL clash with West Coast from the SCG to Melbourne due to a COVID-19 outbreak in NSW.

The Swans and cross-town rivals GWS made a dash to Victoria on Tuesday night as health authorities prepare for a coronavirus cluster in Sydney’s eastern suburbs to worsen.

Sunday’s clash between GWS and Hawthorn has been moved from Giants Stadium to the MCG.

The Swans are awaiting an exemption to be able to fly to South Australia for Saturday night’s game against Port Adelaide.

The AFL still has a floating fixture for round 16 with the Swans due to host the Eagles in a crucial game on July 3.

Sydney chief executive Tom Harley admits the Swans are bracing for that match-up to be moved away from their home ground.

“That’s part of the reason for us being here (in Melbourne) and then we can explore all options for where, if we aren’t able to play our game against West Coast the following week in Sydney,” Harley told SEN.

“Obviously Melbourne becomes an option, as does probably South Australia.

“We’re certainly not at a stage to lock anything in but we’ll be undertaking – providing the exemption (in SA) gets past – the same quarantining requirements as Geelong and Collingwood.”

All Swans players and staff were tested for COVID-19 when they arrived in Melbourne at about 9.30pm on Tuesday.

(C) AAP 2021