What’s happening at the ‘G?
Words by Jake Pike
While the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) sat dormant for another AFL Grand Final last month, the Victorian Government has made agreements with the AFL to see that East Melbourne will still be the home of football in the future.
After losing the AFL Grand Final for the second year in a row due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the government has organised for the MCG’s Grand Final lease to be extended for a further year until 2059.
The ‘G has also been promised another eight AFL games over the next five seasons in addition to the venue’s ongoing guarantee of a minimum 43 AFL premiership matches per year.
Victorian Minister for Tourism, Sport and Major Events Martin Pakula has said that the decision was made in the best interests of both the Victorian public and football.
“This is a decision made in the best interests of the health and safety of Victorians as we continue to drive down the current outbreak. It’s also in the best interests of football – if the Grand Final can be played in front of supporters, then it should be,” Mr Pakula said.
We look forward to the Grand Final returning to its traditional home at the MCG in 2022 and for decades beyond.
However, unvaccinated fans may not get to experience games firsthand as Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has stated that the fully vaccinated would be given priority at major sporting events in the future to reduce the risk of transmission.
“Travel within our country, international travel, going to the pub, going to the footy, going to the cricket, all of those things, there’s going to be preferential treatment – as it should be – for double vaccinated people,” Mr Andrews said in a press conference on September 23.
Eastern Melbourne Group President Ian Mitchell has said that it was disappointing for locals that the area had again missed out on the Grand Final.
“Many in our East Melbourne community are keen football fans who miss the excitement of the Grand Final in our suburb. As a Demons supporter, I am especially disappointed the Grand Final was not at the MCG,” Mr Mitchell said.
“Each year we see residents and businesses adorning their properties with ribbons, scarves and colours of their favourite teams. Maybe there are fewer adorned properties this year, but they have been enthusiastically decorated.”
“Local businesses who might otherwise have increased customers at this time are hurting with the lockdown.”
But while missing out on the Grand Final was disappointing, Mr Mitchell said a silver lining was that anyone who lived within a 10-kilometre radius was able to enjoy Yarra Park in pristine condition as the grass hadn’t been spoiled by car parking.
The East Melbourne Group would like to see alternatives to Yarra Park being used as a car park in the years to come.
“We continue to work with authorities to have Yarra Park retained as a parkland for all rather than a car park for some,” Mr Mitchell said.
“Maybe the proposed federal funding of car parks near stations, and our proposal for MCG tickets to include a tiny levy for free public transport, can reduce the need for car parking in Yarra Park. It was very effective for the Commonwealth Games.”
The East Melbourne Group believes that while the additional AFL games promised to the MCG may have some economic benefit to local businesses, it won’t support the move unless Yarra Park is no longer used for parking during matches.
“There might be some benefit to businesses who are able to open pre and post games. We would not support these extra games if car parking continued in Yarra Park,” Mr Mitchell said.
Jab at the ‘G
With the MCG vacant, The Herald Sun recently proposed another use for the iconic stadium on Grand Final Day and the Grand Final Day Eve public holiday.
The newspaper launched a campaign to see the ‘G used as a mass vaccination hub on September 24 and 25 in a bid to improve the inner city’s low vaccination rates.
Despite receiving the support of a range of prominent figures including AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan, Lord Mayor Sally Capp and Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt, it ultimately didn’t go ahead.
At the time of publishing, the City of Melbourne local government area had a full vaccination rate of just 30.5 per cent and partial vaccination rate of 59.5 per cent, making it the lowest vaccinated LGA in the state.
The “Jab at the ‘G” vaccine campaign aimed to provide a fun and light-hearted environment to encourage unvaccinated Melbourne residents to get the jab.
Potential attendees were encouraged to wear their teams’ colours to score points for their side with one point per vaccination.
The drive had bipartisan support to use up Victoria’s existing stores of the less popular AstraZeneca vaccine which, despite its widespread availability, currently only accounted for around 25 per cent of vaccinations in Victoria by the end of September. •
Get vaccinated to bring footy back to East Melbourne: melbourne.vic.gov.au/community