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RMIT experts available on the return of AFL

RMIT experts available for comment on the return of AFL football

Experts from RMIT University are available to talk to media about the challenges of and how we can enjoy sport and football during a global pandemic.

Con Stavros (0411231371 or

Topics: AFL, night grand final. club membership

“While fans across the country are excited that AFL footy is back this week, behind the scenes is an air of nervous anticipation as to what lies ahead for the hugely popular sport.”

“The AFL has made a bold move this year shortening matches from 20 minutes per quarter to 16. The decision poses potential challenges in that it alters the product for broadcasters who may have less time to sell advertising in the period after a goal is scored.

“Television executives will push for a night grand final to bolster national viewing figures and thus advertiser appeal.

“For clubs a significant loss of membership revenue is unlikely.

“AFL fans predominantly buy memberships as a form of connection to and support of their beloved team, so the sense of that is only amplified in the current extraordinary circumstances.

“The focus for clubs will be on cost-containment, at least in the short-term.

“It will be interesting to watch how crowds return to stadiums when health authorities permit it.

“This is the first time we are seeing relatively lengthy seasons being played out behind closed-doors for an array of sports locally.

“Marketers of sport, and the many brands who use sport to reach their audiences, will be fascinated by what eventuates. Although, the sheer resilience and appeal of the AFL, particularly in traditional markets, is likely to stand it in relatively good stead.

“The AFL and its constituent clubs are extremely good operators who have successfully married the business and passion of sport into a highly marketable product.

“That acumen will be put to the test like never before in coming months.”

Associate Professor Con Stavros is a leading expert in the marketing of, and through, sport. He is a regular media commentator, has published numerous books and articles on sport and is the editor of the international journal 'Sport, Business & Management'.

Liam Davies (0404 207 633 or )

Topics: Transport, AFL, COVID-19, community

“With many of us excited for the return of AFL, while we’re still in the midst of a global pandemic, the way we enjoy the footy will have to change.

“Even if crowds can attend matches later in the year, physical distancing will not be enough to prevent further COVID-19 outbreaks. 

“The MCG has a maximum capacity of 100,000 spectators and even if we were to reduce crowd capacity to only 20%, our transport system would not be able to cope.

“Melbourne’s trains can only carry a few hundred people while maintaining safe physical distancing between passengers, meaning they would not be able to safely service even the reduced number of attendees after a game. 

“The usual throngs seen at Richmond or Jolimont stations would be a breeding ground for COVID-19.

“Driving to the game may seem appealing, but is not a solution either, as Yarra Park can only hold 7,600 cars - not to mention the traffic congestion would be unbearable.

“For the foreseeable future, the best way to watch footy is in smaller groups.

“This could be done by portable screens placed in public spaces such as parks or repurposing drive-in cinemas to help punters barrack for their team in a communal way.

“This would spread footy crowds across Melbourne, making physical distancing easier to maintain.”

Liam Davies is a PhD Candidate at the RMIT Centre for Urban Research. He is currently researching affordable housing in Victoria and is a senior transport analyst at the Institute for Sensible Transport.

Rachel Iampolski (0448 449 383 or

Topics: AFL, Covid-19, parks and recreation, safe use of public space, 20-minute neighbourhoods, community

“During lockdown we have been using our local parks more than ever.”

“With footy about to start and many of us unable to watch at the stadium or in pubs due to COVID-19 restrictions, we may look towards creating safe, local ‘hubs’ to watch the game.

“This could be pop-up viewing areas in our neighbourhood parks – including Yarra Park – school ovals, squares or even high streets.

“Different measures have been used overseas to ensure social distancing in public space  such as painting circles in the grass that are 1.5m apart in New York parks.

“Similar approaches could be used here in our local parks and public squares to make social gatherings as safe as possible.

“But let’s also continue to (re)imagine how we can extend the use of these great spaces, such as enjoying the social side of footy season in a way that is also safe and sustainable.

“Even without being able to gather in large groups to watch the game, we can continue to show our support by decorating the front of our homes with our team colours, or tuning into the game from our front balconies or verandas along with neighbours, just as we do for Grand Final Day.”

Rachel Iampolski is a PhD Candidate at the RMIT Centre for Urban Research. Her research investigates the connection between cultural heritage and the re-purposing of public space and the urban built form.


Associate Professor Ian McShane (0401 136 778 or

Topics: Local sport, community, social interaction, resuming sport

“AFL is a much-loved and authentic part of Australian culture, but let's not forget about the integral part our suburban and country footy has to play.

“Suspending suburban and country sport competitions has a major impact on sporting and social life, particularly for those in regional and rural centres.

“Suburban sports are a social glue for communities and an important focus for voluntary work.

“Smaller competitions have shown a capacity to innovate, such as the merging of football and netball competitions to share facilities and keep both ventures viable.

“There have also been significant campaigns in several sports around mental health and social inclusion.

“Trainers and attendants have become skilled and knowledgeable at dealing with the issues arising from contact, such as blood rules, so surely appropriate measures can be put in place in the current environment.”

“If the AFL is considering whether or not up to 50 fans could attend games as soon as July, surely the same could be considered for our suburban and country games.”

Ian McShane is an Associate Professor at the RMIT Centre for Urban Research and the Sustainable Urban Planning Program. His research focuses on informal and formal education systems, local infrastructure and community services, and digital technologies.


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