A successful trial involving 200 AFL fans has paved the way for Suncorp Stadium to be filled to 75 per cent capacity for State of Origin III.
Footy fans were permitted to sit next to each other in Bay 13 as part of, what is believed to be, a world-first trial during Monday night’s Collingwood-Port Adelaide clash. The experiment was conducted with a view to expanding it to the entire stadium for the AFL grand final on October 24.
Trial participants were asked about their game-day experience and gave positive feedback regarding comfort and safety. The NRL is considering a similar trial in Queensland for the Storm’s semi-final at Suncorp, with a view to expanding capacity for the final Origin game.
That would raise the number of fans to almost 40,000 for the match, providing an improved atmosphere and millions of dollars in extra revenue.
The AFL will also benefit from allowing more people to attend its showpiece event in the first decider ever staged outside Melbourne.
Gabba general manager Mark Zundans said Queensland had been at the forefront of getting fans to matches under COVID-safe plans approved by Queensland Health.
“More than 400,000 people have returned to watch sport at our major stadiums across Queensland since restrictions were eased in late May,” Zundans said.
“Participants in the trial were overwhelmingly supportive of the COVID-safe measures already put in place within the venue.
“It was also clear that patrons felt more comfortable wearing a mask only when they were moving into a crowded area - such as upon entry, exit or when moving about the concourses - as opposed to being seated.
“We will carefully consider the feedback to provide the safest possible venue experience and continue to build on the great work already done by all Queenslanders.”
Given the Queensland government has backed the move, it raises the prospect of the NSW government following suit and boosting venue capacity to 75 per cent. NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian last week confirmed that ANZ and Bankwest stadiums would be able to boost their capacity from 25 to 50 per cent from October 1 under a "chequerboard" seating arrangement. The SCG has also provided a COVID-safe plan that is likely to be ticked off, while venues including Panthers and McDonald Jones stadiums are seeking similar increases.
Patrons at the AFL trial had access to hand sanitiser and were offered face masks.
The key findings from the trial were:
- 97 per cent of those surveyed used hand sanitiser
- 88 per cent used hand sanitiser more than once
- 97 per cent of patrons either brought their own face mask or accessed masks available at the venue
- 47 per cent of patrons wore their mask while inside the venue at some point during the game
Given the Queensland government has backed the move towards 75 per cent capacity, the NRL is poised to liaise with the NSW government about further easing of crowd restrictions. The parties are already in negotiations about increasing the capacity inside corporate areas of stadiums.
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