I’m not just a journalist – I work in hospitality as well (as many of you already know).
That gives me a unique perspective to observe what often happens around me.
“Welcome back to the footy!” was the battlecry most of those in hospitality – myself included, and event staff personnel included as well as anyone in event catering – would call out to those people they were serving at AFL matches.
A small statement, but it’s something to make others feel that they were welcomed and appreciated.
Such people as the object of that salutation would consist of footy fans starved of the simple action of attending games in person – something which they were deprived of last year in the woes of the COVID-19 pandemic.
And AFL fans in Victoria – under the cautious guidelines of being reduced to 50 percent capacities at the MCG and Marvel Stadium to start the season – have begun to flock back.
At three games at the MCG and two others at Marvel Stadium, a total of 154,812 fans attended, for a per-match average of 30,962. Include the four other games around the country, and 248,066 fans attended in total, with an average of 27,563 fans per match for Round 1.
And not forgetting the NRL: so far 155,604 fans have entered the grounds, with an average of 11,970 fans attending each match over the first two rounds.
Between the two major autumn-to-winter football codes in Australia, that represents roughly 300,000 fans – not counting those who have been to more than one match, and hey, who would blame them? – who have returned to the footy.
So that also makes roughly 300,000 fans who would be appreciative of those words, no matter how many times they have heard them.
In AFL-mad Victoria, where there were no crowds even amid few games last year before the AFL moved up shop to Queensland mid-season, the return of Australian Rules football and a league playing in front of fans for premiership points for the first time in well over 400 days would have represented a significant morale boost for Melburnians in dire need of it.
Imagine: just being among friends, work colleagues, and people with a common tribal interest of barracking for a common team, that means something to individuals and communities alike.
Even hearing others screaming epithets and expressions such as “who’s paying you, umpire?” among any of an assorted array of varieties of sledges against opposition players and umpires alike – all the while to trying, and failing on the odd occasion, to keep it clean yet not antisocial – sounded and felt as refreshing as a cold beer.
Even if you had to pay for an overpriced one at the footy!
At least the opportunity to do so is back. And amid all of the salutations and appreciations, it does give a sense of normalcy returning to people’s routines and their lives in general.
Disregard the wins and losses on the ladder – if you were able to attend the footy for the team and/or code of your choice, this past weekend or beforehand, you’re definitely part of a winning team.
- Instagram, @inside_feedhq