Incredible measures to keep massive Gabba crowd safe
The sporting world will watch on as the Brisbane Lions blaze a trail through the post-COVID crowds at the Gabba tonight.
Some of the biggest sporting brands on the planet, including the NBA and gridiron's Dallas Cowboys, have been monitoring Queensland's COVID-safe stadium strategies as the Gabba prepares for a 25,000 sell-out for the Lions vs Richmond AFL qualifying final.
One of the biggest crowds in world sport since the start of the coronavirus pandemic will be regulated with spectators limited to specific sectors and encouraged to wear masks to and from the game in a litmus test for the case to increase the crowd at this month's historic Gabba Grand Final beyond 30,000.
Empty bays will separate sections to guard against any potential spread of COVID-19, while Gabba officials, who have already made several contact tracing test runs throughout the regular season, are confident the strategies will minimise the chance of any new clusters as Queensland yesterday recorded another day with no new cases of the virus.
Under the state's latest coronavirus regulations, tonight's crowd could be capped at 31,500, but Gabba management has opted to limit the numbers to 25,000.
Stadium general manager Mark Zundans said officials were confident in the measures in place.
"We're going to be a world leader in this space," he said.
"We're doing everything according to the strictest health advice designed to keep people safe, but Queensland is in a great space with the response to the pandemic and that allows us to push the envelope in a way that a lot of other sports around the world just can't do."
Tonight's crowd will be the second biggest in Australia since the start of the pandemic, behind a West Coast Eagles attendance of 27,339 last month.
Internationally, New Zealand's domestic rugby premiership has been one of the few competitions to feature any crowds at all, with America's ice hockey, baseball and NBA finals all taking place without spectators, while a handful of NFL teams have allowed small crowds.
An AFL spokesman said the league would be guided by health advice before making any overtures about increasing crowd numbers at future finals matches at the Gabba.
"We know Queensland is ready to go for the 2020 AFL Finals Series (and) as we have all year the health and wellbeing of the community has been our number one priority," he said.
"We will be led by the State government and relevant medical authorities on capacity of stadiums, and will adjust accordingly where needed."
Yeronga Devils juniors Holly Fosker, 7, Jemima Walsh, 6, and Patrick Walsh, 4, are excited at the prospect of the Gabba hosting up to five games during the AFL finals series.
Originally published as Incredible measures to keep massive Gabba crowd safe