'All at risk': Health officials slam 'dangerous' AFL crowds

Sam Goodwin
·Sports Editor
·4-min read
AFL fans, pictured here flocking to the footy at Optus Stadium.
AFL fans crowded onto trains and flocked to the footy at Optus Stadium. Images: Getty

Health officials have hit out after large crowds flocked to the footy over the weekend and packed onto crowded trains.

Over 22,000 fans turned out to watch Collingwood and Geelong in the AFL at Optus Stadium in Perth on Thursday night, before 25,000 were in attendance for the Western derby between the Eagles and Dockers.

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Western Australia’s current virus restrictions allow for up to half the capacity of major stadiums to be filled, with Optus Stadium capable of fitting 60,000.

The first two rows of seats were left vacant, masks were encouraged and fans only sat in every second row.

The stadium was fully disinfected after the games, as were trains.

However health officials have expressed their concerns after fans were seen crowding onto packed trains after each game.

“I know that some people did leave as soon as they could after the game and crowded onto the early trains, which was silly," Public Transport Authority spokesman David Hynes told the ABC.

“There's plenty of trains there and some of the trains that came through later were, not empty, but there was heaps of space, even some seating space.”

The president of the WA branch of the Australian Medical Association says the 50 per cent stadium rule might have seemed appropriate two weeks ago, but needs to be reconsidered in light of concerning outbreaks in Victoria.

Spectators, pictured here seated in every second row to observe social-distancing guidelines.
Spectators were seated in every second row to observe social-distancing policies at Optus Stadium. (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)

“I think the game has changed and that's how quickly it changes with COVID. All of a sudden things that seemed exciting and fun, now look quite, very dangerous and quite risky,” Dr Andrew Miller said.

“I hope we don't look back on it as a super-spreader event and think, ‘Yes, that was really silly.’”

Dr Miller said the whole community is at risk when mass gatherings occur.

“You're doing it for every small business, you're doing it for every aged care home, every hospital, every disabled person, every person on chemo, they're all at risk when you run an event like that,” he said.

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Last week a poll of around 2000 West Australian nurses found 94 per cent were against the large crowds.

Australian Nursing Federation Secretary Mark Olson said it was “clearly a risk”, while Dr Miller described it as a “huge gamble”.

“What we’re betting with is the health and livelihood of the whole of Western Australia,” Mr Olson said.

“We’ve had at least 1000 Victorians allowed to enter the state in the week prior to the latest Victorian lockdown and the Premier cannot guarantee that all of those people were COVID-19 free.

Dockers fans, pictured here celebrating a goal during Fremantle's clash with West Coast.
Dockers fans celebrate a goal during Fremantle's clash with West Coast. (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)

“The Premier knows there is already a danger to WA from the Victorian outbreak because he quickly moved to postpone the level five easing of restrictions for at least two weeks and that’s presumably to see if there are any positive cases turning up here.”

However WA Health Minister Roger Cook said the crowds were appropriate “with the public health risk in Western Australia at the moment.”

Fans were also quick to express their concerns on social media.