Essendon legend Tim Watson has accused the AFL of snubbing fans following Gillon McLachlan’s blunt response to a formal request.
Essendon legend Tim Watson has accused the AFL of snubbing fans following Gillon McLachlan’s blunt response to a formal request.

Footy great accuses AFL of snubbing fans

Essendon legend Tim Watson has accused the AFL of snubbing fans after denying a request to move the Bombers' season-opener to a larger venue.

Earlier this week, Essendon reportedly lodged a formal request for their blockbuster round one fixture against the Hawthorn Hawks to be moved from Marvel Stadium to the MCG.

Taking into account the 50 per cent capacity limit, Marvel Stadium would be allowed to host almost 29,000 spectators, while the MCG could hold around 50,000.

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However, AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan said there were "huge knock-on consequences" of moving the game to the MCG - a game between the Melbourne Demons and Fremantle Dockers is scheduled at the same venue earlier that same day.

 

Speaking on SEN Breakfast, Watson pleaded for the AFL to make more of an effort to allow footy fans into the club's season-opener.

"Come on, AFL. You preach the game is all about the fans, you get the opportunity to allow more footy-starved fans to a game - and you baulk," Watson said on Wednesday morning.

"You say it has too many flow-on effects, none of which are insurmountable. The MCC, though, says it can be flexible and accommodate a double-header. We're not talking about Melbourne having to shift their game here, Essendon will be flexible, Hawthorn can be flexible.

"Agility was the buzz word in the footy world last year as COVID-19 affected the season. Now, AFL, you are acting like a player standing on the mark - you're not going to move.

"Nothing was unachievable last year. No stadium deal was non-negotiable. The collegiate approach ensured a season of AFL under extreme conditions.

"The fans are the lifeblood of this game, paid memberships last year they did for games they didn't attend.

"Nearly 22,000 extra fans could watch the round one game, AFL, if you just pivot a little bit. That's all you need to do to accommodate almost 22,000 fans that won't be able to get in and watch that first game. They would be able to go to the MCG and watch that first game between Essendon and Hawthorn."

Adam Saad of the Bombers.
Adam Saad of the Bombers.

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Watson played 307 games for Essendon after making his AFL debut in 1977. He won three premierships with the club, and was inducted into the Australian Football Hall of Fame in 2000.

The AFL has traditionally avoided scheduling multiple games at the same venue on the same day to assist with cleaning and catering demands.

The league may also be reluctant to move fixtures away from Marvel Stadium considering they own the Docklands venue.

 

Originally published as Bombers great accuses AFL of snubbing fans


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