As the AFL season approaches September, it is hard to remember a more even competition, with so many finals positions up for grabs. Each weekend is full of upsets, and it is this evenness that has contributed to a 10 per cent increase in attendances at the MCG.After 17 rounds, the MCG has attracted more than 1.8 million people at an average of 52,477 per match – up from 47,167 at the same stage last season.
Attendances in the Members Reserve are also up, averaging 11,813 per match compared to 10,311 (the capacity of the Members Reserve is approximately 22,800). We have seen a strong take up of dining facilities, with the Members Dining Room and Jim Stynes Grill continuing to be popular locations for members to host their guests at the footy.
The improved performance of some of our home teams has also played a major part in the larger crowds, particularly for some of the themed matches, such as Dreamtime at the ‘G, Anzac Eve and Queen’s Birthday.
As the finals approach, we will be hoping that some of the Victorian clubs – in particular Melbourne, Richmond, Geelong, St Kilda and Essendon – can finish in positions that enable them to host finals at the MCG. The prospect of finals matches involving one or more of these teams at the ‘G is exciting.
Speaking of big crowds, we were thrilled to host more than 95,000 people at the Brazil v Argentina match on June 9, followed by a Brazil v Socceroos match on June 13. They might have been friendlies, but we saw some exquisite skills on display from some of the world’s best players.
The MCG looked spectacular, and I congratulate our arenas team for the way they presented the MCG playing surface for two soccer matches and two AFL matches in a five-day period. These matches bring with them thousands of tourists and visitors to our city, and we will work with Visit Victoria to ensure we can keep attracting such large-scale events to the MCG.
Security is a topic that remains at the forefront of our thinking in what is a heightened security environment. Incidents of terrorism, both overseas and closer to home, reinforce the need for us to constantly examine our procedures to ensure we are doing all we can to protect our staff and customers.
In addition to receiving advice from local authorities, we have also visited stadiums in other countries to see first-hand the latest developments in venue security. This year we have enhanced our protection against high-speed vehicle attack outside the stadium and in Yarra Park, and we will continue to assess the need for other measures such as clear bags in the future.
It is good to see that patrons have heeded our advice and are arriving earlier than usual, which allows time for everyone to undergo security screening without missing any of the match.
The MCG Trust, the government-appointed body that oversees our management of the stadium, has a new chairman, one who is no stranger to the MCG and the people of Victoria.
Former Premier of Victoria, The Hon. Steve Bracks, has replaced the retiring Bob Herbert, who steps down after four years as chair and 14 years as an MCG Trustee. I thank Bob for his outstanding service and dedication to the MCG, and we look forward to working closely with Steve and his fellow trustees, as we fulfil our role of managing the MCG and Yarra Park on behalf of all Victorians.
The MCC has relationships with a number of overseas cricket and sporting clubs with reciprocal rights for members. In recent months, your committee has endorsed the addition of two new reciprocal overseas clubs - Royal Bangkok Sports Club in Bangkok, Thailand and the Western Province Cricket Club in Cape Town, South Africa.
Both clubs have extensive hospitality and recreational facilities, and they also participate in a number of sports.
Western Province CC is the owner of the Members’ Pavilion at Newlands, one of the oldest and most famous Test grounds. Details on our members’ specific entitlements at both clubs will be provided as they come to hand.
Finally, on the subject of reciprocal clubs, I congratulate Guy Lavender on his appointment as the next chief executive and secretary of Marylebone Cricket Club at Lord’s. Formerly CEO at Somerset County Cricket Club, Guy is just the 16th person to hold the post in the club’s long history.
We wish Guy well, and look forward to hosting him and many of our UK friends when the Ashes contest heads to Melbourne on Boxing Day.