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‘Far from over’: Pressure mounts on AFL to move Round 1 fixture to MCG

Sportsday
Article image for ‘Far from over’: Pressure mounts on AFL to move Round 1 fixture to MCG

The AFL is facing a possible fan revolt as pressure grows on the league to move Essendon’s first round clash with Hawthorn to the MCG so more fans can attend.

AFL boss Gillon McLachlan has already shot down the proposal and said there would be no venue shift and that the Round 1 fixture had been locked in.

Melbourne is due to play Fremantle at the home of football at 1.45pm on Saturday, March 20.

Essendon wants to play its match against Hawthorn, currently set for Marvel Stadium, at the MCG later that night.

There is no match fixtured at the MCG on the Sunday, either.

Under Victoria’s COVID-19 restrictions, no more than 28,961 fans can attend matches at Marvel Stadium.

50,000 fans are allowed at the MCG.

Complicating matters further, there is still no clarity on whether the Dockers will be able to travel to Victoria for their match with the Demons due to Western Australia’s harsh border restrictions.

Sportsday co-host Sam McClure said he didn’t expect the AFL to bend to the pressure, but Essendon certainly hadn’t given up on its mission of getting the match moved to the MCG.

“This is far from over,” he said.

McClure said the Bombers would likely be open to moving an MCG match to Marvel later in the season to hold up their venue contracts.

McClure pointed out that Marvel Stadium could possibly host more fans at games later in the season, should the COVID-19 situation improve.

“The AFL has refused to let Geelong host finals at GMHBA based on the fact they don’t want to lock fans out,” he explained.

“So, can it happen? Yes. Do I think it will? No.”

There was overwhelming support for moving the game from callers, with most saying the AFL “owed it” to footy-starved Victorian fans to get as many people into games as possible after losing last season to COVID-19.

AFL greats Gerard Healy and Leigh Matthews also supported moving the game.

“I think this is going to gather some steam,” Gerard Healy said.

Leigh Matthews pointed out the AFL’s mantra was to be “flexible and agile” last season.

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