Rugby League

Marvel-less: Bombers’ bid for extra MCG games

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Essendon want to play an extra home game at the MCG after their contract to play seven home games per season at Marvel Stadium expires at the end of 2024.

The Bombers have been pushing hard to turn their mix of games from 2025 onwards into five home games at the MCG and six at Marvel Stadium, the venue where they have been a tenant club since it opened in 2000.

Essendon’s Anzac Day clash against Collingwood at the MCG is always a highlightCredit: The Age

In 2024, because of the current contractual arrangement, they will play four home games at the MCG and seven at Marvel Stadium as they did in 2023.

Last year, the Bombers played four home and four away games at the MCG, averaging 71,977 spectators for the eight matches at the venue while their average attendance in eight games at Marvel Stadium (seven home, one away) was 36,470. Their average crowds were a little more than 70 per cent of each venue’s capacity.

Club CEO Craig Vozzo told members at the club’s annual general meeting the Bombers had been in constructive talks with the AFL about a different mix when the current contract with Marvel Stadium runs its course.

“At the moment, it is four [games] at the ’G and seven [games] at Marvel. We would love to play at least another one to two games [at the MCG],” Vozzo said. “We’re aiming to for one to two over the next period of time, and we need to keep pushing our case in a considered way to achieve that outcome, and that is what we are committed to doing.”

An opportunity could arise for Essendon to host Hawthorn and North Melbourne at the MCG as those clubs transition away from playing home games in Tasmania now that a licence has been awarded for a standalone team from the Apple Isle to join AFL.

Increasing the number of home games Essendon play at the MCG has been on the club’s agenda for several years, but they have been unable to make significant progress because of their contract as a Marvel Stadium tenant, along with Carlton, St Kilda, the Western Bulldogs and North Melbourne.

Essendon moved from Windy Hill to play home games at the MCG in 1992 before signing a deal to play home games at the new Docklands Stadium from 2000.

Bombers president David Barham told members the club was committed to extra home games at the MCG, and it would be a matter of negotiating what’s possible with the Melbourne Cricket Club and also the AFL, which prepares the fixture and owns Marvel Stadium.

The major tenants at the MCG – Collingwood, Richmond, Hawthorn and Melbourne – have won 10 of the past 12 AFL premierships.

The AFL, MCG and Marvel Stadium declined to comment.

Meanwhile, former Bomber Dean Rioli resigned from the club’s board because of personal reasons after becoming the first Indigenous director in the club’s history in November 2022. The club will look to replace him as it prepares for its VFL and VFLW sides to play a game in Darwin in January.

The members also re-elected incumbents Kevin Sheedy and Tim Roberts to the board after anti-pokies campaigner Graham Evans standing was unable to unseat them despite their positions being made vacant.

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