AFL Central Victoria has welcomed the lifting of crowd limits at community games to 5000 for the start of the season.
The increase is a major boost from the initial limit of 1000 people, providing clubs with an opportunity to generate more much-needed match-day dollars, while also easing the pressure on volunteers who were faced with the prospect of having to turn sport-starved supporters away at the gate.
The increased crowd limit comes a fortnight out from what's set to be two high-drawing stand-alone games on Good Friday - Strathfieldsaye v Sandhurst at Tannery Lane and White Hills v Elmore at Scott Street.
The greater crowd limit follows the state government's changes to its COVID-19 public events framework.
For community matches expecting crowds of under 5000, the event will be designated as a "low risk Tier 2", meaning clubs must still ensure the government's COVID-safe requirements are adhered to without seeking formal approval.
"There were a number of clubs (when the limit was 1000) looking at applying for a tier two permit to try to increase their numbers for certain games and it was a fairly lengthy document to complete," AFLCV region manager Carol Cathcart said on Thursday.
"So it certainly makes it much easier for our clubs and volunteers to no longer have to complete such a lengthy document.
"And it allows them to be able to really concentrate on getting their footballers and netballers back out on the field knowing that the 5000 limit, certainly for our home and away games, is something we can stay in, which is great news for our communities wanting to get back to the football and netball."
Excitement is building with the return of community football-netball imminent following last year's cancelled seasons.
"The increased crowd limit is obviously better financially for clubs, but more importantly, I think it makes it easier for clubs," Cathcart said.
"When the limit was at 1000 clubs had to be worried about how they were going to count the people coming in and out and making sure they were in the boundary.
"There was the chance they'd have volunteers telling people they can't come in through the gate, but with the increase it essentially means anyone who wants to come to the football and netball will be able to.
"We can have our communities there... whether it's people with a connection to a player, a supporter of a club or a partner of the club, there will be space for them to attend, whereas at the 1000 limit for some of our bigger games it was at times going to be difficult to manage and onerous on volunteers.
"This certainly makes it easier for volunteers and we're looking forward to people coming back to support."
This certainly makes it easier for volunteers and we're looking forward to people coming back to supportCarol Cathcart
AFL Victoria head Brad Scott described the increase as "a positive development for community football across the state".
"With this latest development community footy will be as close as possible to back to normal when the season starts, which is really exciting," Scott said.
"It will be great to see big crowds at community football matches, while kids will be high-fiving and can have parents, grandparents and family watching their junior games.
"These are all parts of community football that Victorians love and it's fantastic to have the season nearly here after the year we had."
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