The Victorian Government announced last Friday that major sporting facilities in Victoria will be upgraded as part of a funding package worth almost $500 million.
Labor premier Daniel Andrews and the AFL agreed to a $225 investment involving the upgrade of Etihad Stadium and the surrounding Docklands precinct.
The MCG’s Great Southern Stand is also set for an upgrade that will ensure the capacity of the ground remains above 100,000 to accommodate large sporting events, particularly the AFL Grand Final.
However MCC chairman Steven Smith believes the MCG upgrade may not occur within the next decade.
“While there is no firm timeline or plan surrounding a redevelopment of the Great Southern Stand, we expect that such a project would be delivered in the next 10-15 years.”
Despite the extended wait on the Great Southern Stand’s upgrade, the new multi-million dollar deal has given the MCG the license to host the AFL Grand Final until 2057.
Every year, the argument that a interstate club who has won the home ground advantage for the Grand Final, should have the right to host the game in their respective state.
Former West Coast player Xavier Ellis played in a losing Grand Final in 2015 against Victorian based club Hawthorn, and believes the AFL’s decision to let the MCG host the Grand Final for the next 40 years has contradicted their own mantra.
“Regardless of how the AFL polish it, the advantage is significant. And in a supposedly ‘national’ game which is so heavily structured around fairness and equality, this decision stinks of parochialism.”
In recent years, the favourite going into the Grand Final has been an interstate team, ultimately going down at the hands of a Victorian club. Most recently: Richmond defeated Adelaide (2017) and the Western Bulldogs beat the Sydney Swans (2016).
Unfortunately for non-Victorian based teams, the AFL aims to generate as much money possible out of the Grand Final weekend. In 2016 the AFL profited an estimated $19 million from the Grand Final alone – the leagues biggest single injection of money outside of the broadcasting deal.
There is some good to come out of this deal for interstate teams, with the AFL promising charter flights to Melbourne if they make the Grand Final, as well as more training access to the MCG before home and away games and finals.
Premier Daniel Andrews stated that the $225 million allocated to upgrade Etihad Stadium would be to improve the ground in order to host other sports like soccer, rugby league and rugby union.
Andrews told ABC Radio Melbourne that this multi-million dollar packaged is “an investment in the sports infrastructure that we need, the stadiums … that we need in order to stay number one.”
The pressure had been put on Melbourne to stay ahead in sports infrastructure after Perth and Adelaide both provided their cities with state of the art stadiums. The newly built Optus Stadium in Perth holds 60,000, whilst the recently upgraded Adelaide Oval seats 53,500.
The MCG is able to accommodate 100,024 spectators and now with the mega-package deal to upgrade the two major sporting stadiums in Melbourne, the AFL has left their future in good hands.
The plans involving an upgrade of the Southern Stand of the MCG will increase the already mammoth capacity of the prestigious oval, as well as a “concourse that will be built and a redevelopment of Richmond station … so that you’ll never have to put your foot on the road again at Brunton Avenue or Punt Road,” – Eddie McGuire, The Footy Show.
More than 70 pedestrians have been involved in crashes in the area over the last five years, including 17 that were seriously injured.
A new footpath will also be built under Richmond Station Bridge, connecting Olympic Boulevard and Brunton Avenue.
In addition, Women’s Football will receive $20 million to redevelop Ikon Park, making it the official home of the AFLW. $13 million will be put towards the redevelopment of Moorabbin Oval to assist the St.Kilda Football Club in returning to their previous home ground. The budget will also invest $60 million for community sporting grants which will upgrade facilities at suburban sporting grounds.