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AFL Gather Round sells out as Premier eyes 2024 sequel

Premier Peter Malinauskas says he’s seeking “long-term assurances” from the AFL about the future location of the Gather Round after all nine games in Adelaide sold out this weekend, amid hopes the event can be expanded to South Australia’s wine regions.

Apr 14, 2023, updated Apr 14, 2023
Norwood Oval is set to play host to an AFL match between Fremantle and the Gold Coast this afternoon. Photo: Matt Turner/AAP

Norwood Oval is set to play host to an AFL match between Fremantle and the Gold Coast this afternoon. Photo: Matt Turner/AAP

The weekend of football kicked off last night with the Adelaide Crows defeating Carlton by 56 points in front of more than 47,000 people at Adelaide Oval.

Fremantle will face Gold Coast at Norwood Oval this afternoon followed by Richmond vs Sydney at Adelaide Oval tonight, before the festivities move to Mt Barker on Saturday for a clash between Brisbane and North Melbourne.

Around 7500 people are expected to attend the Mt Barker fixture.

The AFL announced this morning that the last remaining tickets available for the Richmond vs Sydney clash had been snapped up, meaning all nine games are now sold out with more than 200,000 tickets sold.

Speaking at Mt Barker’s Summit Sport and Recreation Park this morning, Malinauskas said he was hoping the Gather Round would return to South Australia in 2024.

“The fact that all games are now sold out, I mean we were hoping for a good crowd that would be respectable, but for all games to be sold out has just demonstrated the value of this event and that the risk was worth taking,” he told reporters.

The state government today touted the tourism benefits of bringing the Gather Round to South Australia.

It estimates 115,000 passengers will pass through Adelaide Airport over the weekend in the busiest four days since the pandemic, with airlines adding 35 extra flights to Adelaide for the Gather Round.

More than 50,000 interstate visitors will be in the state this week, according to Tourism Minister Zoe Bettison’s office, with hotel booking data showing occupancy of 91 per cent on Friday and 92 per cent on Saturday.

Deck looks good in Mount Barker. pic.twitter.com/XhzvjZPbXi

— Peter Malinauskas (@PMalinauskasMP) April 14, 2023

Asked whether he would be pitching for the Gather Round to be held in South Australia in 2024, Malinauskas said: “The AFL know what they’re doing – they don’t need me telling them what to do.

“They know footy and what they require for an AFL game.

“I’d like to think that we’ve got a pretty good idea about the state, and we’d love to see the Gather Round back here in South Australia.

“In the event that occurred with a longer lead time, hopefully we’d be able to get a venue at the Barossa up or McLaren Vale or the South East.

“There’s plenty of options, but we just need time.”

Malinauskas said he hoped the AFL would provide “a degree of assurance so that we can make long-term investments”.

“If we know that the Gather Round is going to be in South Australia on a frequent basis, we can make investments that set us up,” he said.

“It’s hard to do that for a once-off.

“We’ve got to be pragmatic, there’s only so much we can invest in something like this.

“But with long-term assurances, we can invest in the long-term in other venues outside of just this one.”

Outgoing AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan today indicated the event could be returning to South Australia in 2024.

He told 3AW Melbourne this morning: “I think we couldn’t have asked for any more – I’m not sure we anticipated this.”

Asked whether the Gather Round would stay in Adelaide, he said: “Well that’s the discussion, it’s the right question.

“I think if I’m direct, we anticipated moving it next year if it worked.

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“But I hear you, and I think that’s what we’re discussing – Adelaide just feels the right spot.

South Australian Premier Peter Malinauskas and AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan at Adelaide Oval on Wednesday. Photo: Matt Turner/AAP

“We knew about the city and the Adelaide Oval and the suburban venues and the accessibility.

“[But] the fact that it’s in the middle of Australia and people can drive from Melbourne, you can get here from Perth pretty easily – there’s so many Western Australians here and people from everywhere – that’s an asset as well.

“I think there’s a pretty strong case to support what you’re saying that probably it’s got its roots down here and needs to be here for a while.”

Laura Kane, AFL general manager of competition management, would not confirm a timeline on when the location for the 2024 Gather Round will be decided.

Asked whether the weekend sell out would help South Australia’s case, Kane said: “I think it’s certainly a good start, it’s a good start to have all games sold out.”

“I think it goes a long way towards what we review and where we land on this round moving forward.”

Mt Barker’s Summit Sport and Recreation Park will on Saturday become the 50th venue to host an AFL game.

Mt Barker District Council mayor David Leach said the community was “honoured to be chosen”.

“Three years ago, this was a paddock with Murray Grey cattle walking around eating the grass,” he told reporters at the ground.

“Today you can see something that any groundsman would be proud to call their own oval.”

After the Mt Barker game, Adelaide Oval will host a doubleheader with Essendon vs Melbourne followed by Port Adelaide vs Western Bulldogs.

Geelong will face West Coast, also at Adelaide Oval, in the early Sunday game, before Norwood Oval hosts its second game between GWS and Hawthorn.

The weekend concludes with a highly-anticipated clash between top-of-the-table St Kilda and fancied Collingwood.

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