Victorian government has announced further easing of Covid-19 restrictions over the coming months.
There are hopes that a crowd of 80,000 could be allowed into the MCG for the Boxing Day Ashes Test after the Victorian government announced further easing of Covid-19 restrictions over the coming months.
Melbourne has just emerged from a sixth lockdown, having spent more days in lockdown than any other city in the world over the past two years.
Last year there were restrictions at the MCG for the Boxing Day Test against India with only 30,000 allowed to attend. A crowd of 78,113 was allowed into the MCG for an AFL match in April but Melbourne has not had a significant crowd at a sporting event since the latest lockdown began in mid-July.
There are smaller crowds returning to horse racing events in Melbourne in the coming weeks but with vaccination rates rising rapidly Premier Daniel Andrews said the goal was to have 80,000 at the MCG on Boxing Day.
“I want to see 80,000 plus people at the Boxing Day Test on day one, that’s what I want to see,” Andrews said.
“We are determined to deliver that. It won’t be easy. I think selling the tickets will be pretty easy.”
Victoria will need to have 90 per cent of people over the age of 12 fully vaccinated before a crowd of that size was allowed to attend a sporting event and all attendees would need to be fully vaccinated. But the Victorian government is confident that target will be reached by November 24.
Meanwhile, there are still concerns over the Perth Test with WA Cricket CEO Christina Matthews conceding on 6PR radio that Perth Scorchers men’s team could play their entire BBL season on the road following the announcement that the WA government would keep the borders to Victoria and New South Wales closed until at least Christmas.
WA currently refuses entry for people travelling from Victoria or New South Wales due to the WA government’s zero Covid policy. Some can enter but need to apply for and be granted special exemption from WA police and then need to do 14 days strict quarantine in a house or hotel upon arrival into the state.
With the 4th Ashes Test to finish in Sydney on January 9 and then the 5th Test to be played in Perth on January 14, there are still major doubts about how it could be played if the hard border remained in place.
There is no chance the Scorchers will be able to travel freely in and out of WA during December and January if BBL games are scheduled in Melbourne or Sydney.
“We may be forced to be travelling the entire tour,” Matthews told 6PR. “That is worst-case scenario at this moment, we just have to wait and see.
“Unless they start here and schedule it a certain way [we won’t have games].
“But with the announcement last week from [Tasmania] … it has made it very challenging.
“Next week’s meeting [of state CEOs] will be very interesting and may make it difficult for us.”
WA will host WBBL games over the coming weeks, although that was briefly under threat when Tasmania went into lockdown on the opening weekend of the WBBL after a Covid case emerged in Hobart. WA have hosted Sheffield Shield and Marsh Cup fixtures however those have only been against Tasmania due to those borders being open. South Australia is set to play there this week.
Cricket Australia is currently facing a major problem in scheduling the BBL because New South Wales and Victoria’s men’s teams can’t travel anywhere other than to play each other up until at least the start of the BBL on December 5, and four of the eight BBL clubs are based in those two states.
There are also players from those two states who play for franchises in Covid-zero states and would need to do 14 days quarantine to join their squads if they were to play matches in their home cities.
Peter Hatzoglou has signed with the Scorchers but is based in Melbourne and would need to do 14 days quarantine in Perth to train with the squad in the lead-up to the tournament. Peter Handscomb, Scott Boland, and Wil Parker are all in Victoria’s state squad for Shield and Marsh Cup cricket but play for the Hobart Hurricanes in the BBL which may mean they could miss the early part of the tournament if the Hurricanes start their season in Tasmania.
Alex Malcolm is an Associate Editor at ESPNcricinfo