Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has banned crowds from attending Geelong’s home clash against St Kilda this weekend, as Western Australia’s deputy police commissioner declared his state was “well-placed” to host the grand final should it be shifted from the MCG.
Earlier this week Andrews had left the door ajar for limited numbers to attend GMHBA Stadium because of regional Victoria’s early exit from lockdown but on Wednesday said a final decision had been made.
There will be no fans in the stands in Victoria this weekend.Credit:Getty Images
“There will be no crowds in Geelong,” he said.
This came as Andrew confirmed Melbourne’s metropolitan lockdown will continue at least until August 19. There will be no crowds in matches in Melbourne this weekend, while next weekend’s final round of the home-and-away season appears likely to have no crowds either, adding to the financial strain the league and its 18 clubs are experiencing this season.
As of Wednesday afternoon, the league had yet to confirm this weekend’s round 22 fixtures. While Richmond and Greater Western Sydney are set to clash in a Friday-night blockbuster at Marvel Stadium, Tigers coach Damien Hardwick even queried on Wednesday whether there had been actual confirmation of match details.
The big-picture item remains the AFL finals series, and whether crowds of any number will be allowed to return in Melbourne or Geelong, whether that be in the opening weeks of the finals – due to begin in three weeks – or the grand final on the final Saturday of September.
AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan last week said the league was determined to stage the grand final in Melbourne and could wait as late as days before the opening bounce to make any change. But he added that the Queensland, South Australia and WA governments had all been contacted about hosting the showpiece event.
McLachlan has previously said he does not want the grand final held in an empty stadium. The MCG may need a capacity of at least 40 per cent to retain the clash.
As reported last month, there is still the possibility the finals series could be held in Perth with teams in a hub at Crown or Joondalup Resort. Finals-bound Port Adelaide and the Brisbane Lions could stage any home finals matches despite border restrictions provided a sterile corridor was agreed upon by health authorities. The Lions are set to host Collingwood at the Gabba this weekend, with the easing of restrictions allowing a 50 per cent capacity crowd.
Andrews said on Wednesday that the issue of AFL crowds in Melbourne fell into a wider-ranging events focus, led by Sport Minister Martin Pakula.
“There is an events framework where we work not just with the AFL but with the NRL, everybody, all those different sports, as well as live theatre, a whole range of different events,” he said.
“It’s too early for us to say what those events will look like next week, let alone beyond that, but we work, the public health team work with the events sector to try and make sure that events happen in a safe way. If we can have crowds, we will, but it’s a bit early for us to forecast that.”
The grand final parade in Melbourne has already been scrapped but the government and the AFL have said they will do all they can to retain the match itself, having had to cede it to Queensland last year in a pandemic-impacted season.
Perth’s Optus Stadium, which hosted a spectacular Dreamtime clash between Essendon and Richmond in front of more than 55,000 fans earlier this year, has gathered support to be the primary back-up should there be a change this season.
Deputy WA Police Commissioner Gary Dreibergs sits on the state’s sports COVID-19 committee and confirmed on Wednesday discussions had been ongoing with the AFL over the prospect of hosting the grand final.
He refused to say what the likelihood was that the state would host the grand final but said it was one of only a few states that could host events of that size.
“I think that WA is well-placed because we do currently run AFL games here with crowds whereas very few jurisdictions do that,” he said.
Dreibergs said any finals games would be subject to restrictions and directions from the state’s chief health officer. A financial deal would also need to be brokered with the AFL.
Sunday’s derby between West Coast and Fremantle is expected to be played in front of a sellout crowd of more than 55,000.
WA Premier Mark McGowan said discussions with the AFL were “ongoing”.
“They want to complete the season, obviously, and I fully understand that, but we’re not going to do anything that compromises or jeopardises the health of West Australians,” he said.
“So whatever we do will be a COVID-safe measure, it can be done, but it has to be in very, very secure and COVID-safe ways and that’s the conversation that’s being undertaken at the moment.”
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