Just over 78,000 spectators packed a Melbourne stadium Sunday for an Australian Rules football match, in what is believed to be the biggest crowd at a sporting fixture since the Covid-19 pandemic began.
However, the crowd size at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) fell short of expectations that 85,000 could attend the traditional Anzac Day match between the Collingwood Magpies and Essendon Bombers.
The MCG can seat 100,000 people and the Australian Football League (AFL) had hoped health authorities would allow the match to be played in front of a capacity stadium.
However, officials ordered ticket sales to be capped at 85 percent of capacity, up from a previous limit of 75 percent.
A spokeswoman for the MCG said 78,311 people attended on Sunday.
One commentator for Channel 7, which broadcast the match, said “we think that’s a world record crowd for any sporting event since the pandemic hit”.
Australia and neighbouring New Zealand have been home to some of the largest sporting crowds since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, thanks to the sports-mad nations largely containing the spread of Covid-19.
Last November, the State of Origin rugby league finale between Queensland and New South Wales took place in front of 49,000 fans in Brisbane.
A month earlier 46,000 people saw hosts New Zealand beat Australia at rugby union in Dunedin.
AFL matches during the first five rounds of this year’s season have averaged 28,233 attendees, including almost 55,000 last weekend who watched the West Coast Eagles triumph over Collingwood.
The Magpies were again defeated Sunday, losing to the Bombers by 24 points.