Big double a possibility for MCG

There would need to be up to four hours break between matches to take care of the various logistics. Photo: Paul RovereMCC chief Stephen Gough says the MCG would be capable of hosting a double-header if the AFL opts to schedule four finals at the famous venue on the opening weekend of September.

The AFL has asked Gough whether two finals on a Saturday could be scheduled, with one beginning early afternoon and the second at night.

There are likely to be four Victorian-based teams hosting a first final – Geelong, Hawthorn, Collingwood and Richmond – and each has a large enough supporter base to insist its match be held at the MCG, rather than at the smaller Etihad Stadium.

“The question was asked: ‘If it had to be, could it be done?’ Well, subject to a whole lot of things which are very difficult, it’s a possibility,” Gough said on Monday.

“We just had to outline what are those issues. I wouldn’t be reading much more into it than that.”

There would need to be up to four hours break between matches to take care of the various logistics. These include ensuring spectators of the first match have enough time to leave, the car park and changerooms emptied, and the venue cleaned before ticket holders of the second game are allowed in.

“The AFL probably just wanted to collect some data on if it had to be, could it be? But I think they recognise there are a whole lot of issues in that are a bit risky. But that’s their (the AFL’s) call,” Gough said.

“All we had to do was identify the issues.”

Another issue would be the impact on the stadium surface, particularly if there was heavy rain over the weekend.

Etihad Stadium has the contractual right to host one final in the opening two weeks of September, but stadium management has been willing to trade finals for more matches through the home-and-away season.

An AFL spokesman said the league would probably wait until next weekend before making a call on the venues, while Etihad Stadium spokesman Bill Lane said management was hopeful of an answer this week.

”At this stage we haven’t been advised one way or the other,” he said.

”We are certainly available if we are required to host a final.

”It’s the AFL’s call – they determine the fixture and where finals will be played.

”We have said this before publicly — if we miss out there is a mechanism for us to negotiate with the AFL for a couple of extra games for 2014.”

The first VFL-AFL double-header was held at the MCG on Anzac Day, 1986. A poor crowd of 40,117 attended to watch Melbourne host Sydney, with North Melbourne and Geelong clashing in the second game. Supporters were able to use the one ticket for both matches.

Gough said any double header in the finals would require separate tickets.

The AFL remains keen to clinch a deal to buy Etihad Stadium. The AFL will take ownership of the stadium on March 8, 2025, for $1, but the league is keen to get hold of the stadium and its lucrative management rights earlier — a move that would allow greater funds to be distributed to clubs.

This would help to solve the problem of poor venue returns for Etihad Stadium tenants the Western Bulldogs, North Melbourne and St Kilda, although Etihad Stadium management says it is tired of the criticism and maintains there is more to the story.

It’s understood Melbourne Stadiums Ltd wants more than $250 million for the remaining 12 years.

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