The inaugural AFLW match between Essendon and Hawthorn has been shifted to the 53,000-capacity Marvel Stadium after tickets for the original venue sold out within 24 hours – and more games this season could be moved to bigger stadiums if interest levels remain high.
The AFL said “unprecedented ticketing demands” for the first AFLW clash between the two expansion clubs resulted in the move from Port Melbourne’s ETU Stadium – which can hold 12,000 – across the Yarra River to the far larger Docklands venue.
The women’s competition will grow to a full compliment of 18 clubs this season, with the Bombers and Hawks to join Port Adelaide and Sydney in making their AFLW debuts.
The round one clash between the traditional rivals on 27 August attracted particular interest and a campaign to “Move it to Marvel” – led by the clubs – put pressure on the league to green light a switch.
That pressure paid off after the initial allocation of tickets were quickly snapped up – reportedly inside just two hours of going on sale – and the AFL confirmed the venue change on Sunday. “The Essendon faithful have spoken,” a Bombers tweet read.
The AFL said it had no choice but to make the move given the demand for tickets.
“Quite simply the fans of both clubs, and supporters of women’s footy in general, showed why we needed to move to a bigger venue by selling out the game so quickly,” AFL administrator Travis Auld said.
The venue change is reflective of the growing interest in the expanding women’s competition, which is heading into its seventh campaign and has seen record membership numbers and attendance rates off the back of last season.
“We know the appetite for AFLW is huge, but the strength of sales across all nine round one matches and having an inaugural game sell out in a day is amazing,” the AFL’s general manager of women’s football Nicole Livingstone said.
“To see two teams – and traditionally arch rivals, no less – debut to a packed Marvel Stadium is the stuff dreams are made of.”
The AFL said it will monitor future ticket sales for games at ETU Stadium, with the league open to further venue changes if ticket sales warranted a bigger stadium.
“We’re continuing to work with ETU or Port Melbourne Oval. It’s a great oval and facility, obviously it has broadcast lights as well there, but we want to make sure we’re doing the right thing for AFLW,” Livingstone told the AFLW website.
“We do have matches scheduled there between rounds two and four, so there are more matches there. We’d like to be able to utilize North Port Oval as well, but we’ll continue to monitor ticket sales. We want to make the most of AFLW, it’s a new time for us.”
The game will follow the season curtain-raiser between Collingwood and Carlton at Ikon Park on Thursday 25 August, and the grand final rematch between Adelaide and Melbourne a day later.