The AFL is closely monitoring overseas sports that have allowed large crowds on the condition of vaccination or negative COVID-19 tests, as the head of Victoria’s peak business organisation suggested that such measures were the way forward for football and other sporting events to return to full stadiums.
AFL sources said while the the league was focused on getting this season completed amid COVID-19 issues, the league was watching the experiences in places such as the United States and the United Kingdom, where higher jab rates – and mandatory vaccination or COVID-negative test results – has enabled the finals of the delayed Euro 2020 soccer tournament and Wimbledon to be played before capacity crowds.
An AFL spokesman said the league would “continue to review crowd guidelines” that ensured the health and safety of fans, but would not elaborate on a “no jab, no entry” concept that has been flagged by Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews – and the AFL says it will be guided by government policy on crowds.
The recent infection of spectators at AAMI Park at a rugby international and the MCG at the Carlton-Geelong game with the Delta strain has led to the AFL and stadium operators taking a conservative approach to crowds when there are low levels of vaccination.
But the head of the Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Paul Guerra, said entry subject to vaccination or a negative test – the model seen in the US and UK – was a likely path in Melbourne, once vaccinations were widely available to the public, reaching around 70 per cent, a ratio he hoped was achievable by the Australian Open tennis tournament early next year.
“I think that’s where we’ll probably head,” said Guerra, who still felt it was possible for the MCG to have a capacity crowd at this year’s grand final as well as racing’s spring carnival.
Guerra also suggested that “different arrival times” for fans at venues was a measure that could help the AFL, separate to vaccinations or testing, and he cited the Bruce Springsteen concert, which also required a vaccination to attend.
Like the AFL, Racing Victoria – which had empty stands at last year’s spring carnival – says it will be bound by government policy on crowds. “While this proposal has not been evaluated in any detail, we remain open to exploring any initiative that will assist in the safe return of crowds to Victorian racetracks,” said an RV spokesman.