There’s no better time than the present to be a football fan in Queensland.
That’s the message from SUNS CEO Mark Evans as the AFL world descends on Queensland and the Gold Coast amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
This week it was announced the 10 Victorian AFL clubs would have to relocate to Queensland in order to continue the 2020 season as COVID cases continue to spike in Melbourne.
The buzz around the region has seen a sharp rise in TV ratings for Queensland audiences, with SUNS matches benefitting by a 50% increase in viewership.
Speaking on ABC Gold Coast, Evans said there was a definite economic benefit to the Gold Coast as well.
“The facilities that are hosting, all the accommodation places and all of the activities that are being put on for the teams benefit quite directly, whether that’s gymnasiums or laundries or places for scans and medical services,” he said.
“But what we’re seeing at the moment is the social media reach of 800 players and the 18 clubs, some of the stories about the Gold Coast have been going viral.
“We just have to keep reminding the southerners that when travel is a bit more free and easy than what it is at the moment, there’s no better place to be in a southern winter than to come to Queensland.”
A major consideration in relocating the clubs to Queensland came down to facilities, but Evans said the Gold Coast was more than up to the task.
“We’ve been providing lots of our facilities for the other clubs,” he said.
“We have three ovals at Metricon Stadium and the two biggest things to try to solve for clubs is oval space for training and then gymnasium space for doing strength training.
“With the AFL’s very strict protocols around cleaning and social distancing and making sure groups have left before others have come in, it’s a little bit like a train timetable to organise.
“I think later in the season there’s a chance that even more teams descend on Queensland.”
Earlier this week Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk also made a bid for the state to host the AFL Grand Final and Brownlow Medal awards night.
Evans echoed the Premier’s sentiments and threw Metricon Stadium’s hat in the ring as a contender to host the AFL Grand Final later in the year.
“We have a couple of advantages in that it’s a stadium that is completely run by the Gold Coast SUNS so therefore we can block it out for the AFL,” Evans explained.
“Our disadvantage is that it doesn’t hold the same number of people as some of the other stadium.
“So I think we’re in the queue… but we wanted to make sure that everyone knew we were a chance.”
Last week saw Metricon Stadium host four matches across two days, the first time a venue has achieved that feat in AFL history.
Round 7 will also see two more matches played at Metricon Stadium before the SUNS occupy Thursday night’s primetime slot in Round 8.