The Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) has been given the green light to welcome up to 75,000 spectators for Round 2 of the AFL season after the state government in Victoria eased restrictions on fan attendance.

The 100,000-seat stadium opened at around 50% capacity for last week’s season opener between Richmond and Carlton, with the 49,218 crowd marking the biggest in Australia since the onset of the pandemic last March.

Following the success of last week’s game, Acting Premier of Victoria James Merlino has confirmed that capacity will be able to increase to 75% for Round 2, which kicks off on Thursday night with Carlton vs Collingwood at the MCG.

A 75,000 attendance for the game would mark the largest sporting crowd in the world since the COVID-19 outbreak. The figure would surpass the reported 66,000 that attended the Twenty20 cricket match between India and England at the Narendra Modi Stadium earlier this month.

The announcement to further ease restrictions in Victoria will also allow around 43,440 fans to attend AFL games at Marvel Stadium from this weekend. The capacities of GMHBA Stadium and Mars Stadium will also increase to 27,819 and 8,335, respectively.

AFL fixture boss Travis Auld said: “I know in round one, we had the biggest crowd at a sporting event in Australia since the pandemic hit us. So that’s a big moment in this country, and to increase that further this weekend with a couple of really big games starting this Thursday night will be a wonderful achievement for the people of Melbourne and more broadly for this country.

“… (The) 75,000 (capacity) certainly gives us the capacity to have the largest crowd at a sporting event since COVID has hit.”

The AFL announced earlier this month that this year’s Grand Final will return to the traditional format of an afternoon kick-off at the MCG, with officials targeting a full house for the game on September 25.

The AFL staged its Grand Final outside the state of Victoria for the first time last year, with Brisbane’s Gabba stadium awarded the hosting rights to reward Queensland’s assistance to the league during COVID-19.

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