Former Collingwood president Eddie McGuire has laid out a dramatic proposal to ensure the AFL Grand Final is played at the MCG in front of a full capacity crowd, despite ongoing COVID concerns and restrictions.
Speaking on Channel 9’s Footy Classified, McGuire detailed what he referred to as a ‘ring of steel’ around the MCG and surrounding areas, which would consist of a large fenced-off area spanning Melbourne’s entire sporting district, as well as a number of measures intended to detect and prevent the spread of COVID-19 among patrons.
The plan, masterminded by Respond Global’s Dr Ian Naughton, and Bruce Keebaugh of The Big Group, would see 200 testing stations operating within the sector equipped with rapid ten minute COVID testing capabilities. Test results would then be quickly linked to the patrons’ ticket. Initial cost estimates for the plan are believed to be somewhere between $2-2.5m but would allow for crowds between 50-100k.
McGuire explained that screening questions would take one minute, temperature checks and swabbing would take one minute, linking tests to tickets would take one minute, and test results would take up to 10 minutes. To offset this inconvenience to patrons, McGuire suggested that once people were let into the secure area that carnivals and food trucks could be set up within the precinct.
“We could turn it into something absolutely sensational.”, he said.
McGuire also noted that if successful, this bold method could see other high profile sporting events commencing and operating with minimal COVID-related disruption, including the Melbourne Cup, Australian Open and the Boxing Day Test.
While McGuire has stated that “everyone who needs to like the idea likes the idea”, and that meetings have already been held with the AFL and Visit Victoria, he concedes that the plan will have to be approved by Victoria’s Chief Health Officer, Professor Brett Sutton, who may baulk at the 94% accuracy of the ten minute tests. However, McGuire argues this may be countered with patrons seeking out COVID testing in the week prior and providing a negative test upon arrival to the venue.
This news comes after Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews stated that he is “determined to have people at the grand final and as many as we can safely get in”. It remains to be seen if this plan will be of any success or will be utilised in any form at all. Whilst the proposal does appear to be a step in the right direction for large scale COVID-safe sports events, there remains concern for other types of live events who will likely not have the financial means to mimic similar plans.
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Watch Eddie describe his full proposal in the video below.
Photo: Channel 9 Footy Classified Screenshot