The impact of crowd limits at local sports matches, as part of Victorian Government coronavirus restrictions, has been pushed into the spotlight by the Member for Murray Plains, Peter Walsh.
He said The Nationals took their concern to the floor of the Victorian Parliament this week to get the government to reconsider its 1000 crowd cap at local sporting venues.
“The numerous leagues across my electorate are some of regional Victoria’s premier competitions and as such regularly draw crowds in their thousands, not hundreds,” Mr Walsh added.
“Apart from all the local heroes there are also ex-AFL players signed up and ready to play for respective clubs, it is simply wrong that crowd numbers are restricted to 1000 people,” he said.
“Social distancing is not a problem because clubs have plenty of room to ensure a safe distance is kept by all.”
Mr Walsh said the first game of the season was also a gilt-edged opportunity for local clubs to attract sponsors and to kick off fundraising for the year.
And he confirmed this year fundraising will be especially critical – but it’s not going to happen if the Andrews government locks fans out.
“Many clubs had basically zero revenue for their 2020 season; but were still responsible for ongoing costs such as maintenance, keeping ovals and courts in tip top shape and other routine costs,” Mr Walsh explained.
“And many of the major sponsors, the big social clubs, have had their revenue smashed by not one, but three, lockdowns and have told me they will be lucky to have 30 per cent of their usual funds available for sponsorship – there are going to be huge financial gaps and now Daniel Andrews seems content hammer the nails into the regional sport coffin,” he said.
“And if a club has the temerity to ask for increased capacity; the Andrews government will send them an 18-page submission document to complete justifying the request for more fans.”
Mr Walsh said clubs north of the border have a crowd limit of 3000 – just take Echuca-Moama for example. United can play home in Echuca before a maximum of 1000 while the same day, just 3km away, Moama can play before a maximum of 3000 at its ground.
“A lot of derbies the length of the river involve teams from twin towns. It would be a real shame to deny major local fixtures that support and revenue potential.
“This really doesn’t pass the pub test. This is political grandstanding to justify its sledgehammer approach to COVID control because the Andrews government has now had three goes at quarantine and contact tracing and failed every time – so its response is to make everyone pay the price for its incompetence,” he said.
“I am calling on the Minister for Community Sport, Minister for Sport and the COVID experts to stop restricting community organisations from making a buck and being financially viable.
“By all means; set the social distance parameters but don’t put a cap on numbers when it is unnecessary. These games kick off at Easter and it’s fair to say local markets and streets will be full of tourists, which do not have capped capacities.
“Give our communities the chance to survive while still honouring social distancing measures.”