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  • Writer's pictureRebecca Ruthven

"It hurt the footy": Hodges on Formula 1-AFL crowd clashes

Formula One expert Tim Hodges says the AFL needs to consider reshuffling its fixtures to accommodate the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne moving forward. 

Over 450,000 fans walked through the gates at Albert Park over the weekend and was a sellout on all three days. 

Victorian footy fans were torn between attending the Grand Prix or the AFL, with the former prevailing - leading to uncharacteristically low numbers at Victorian team home games across the weekend. 

Additionally, interstate and international fans visiting Melbourne were unable to attend any AFL matches. 

Speaking on Monday morning after the Grand Prix, Tim Hodges says it’s ‘crazy’ how big the sport has gotten in Australia.

“It now rivals the tennis as the biggest sporting event in the country each year, and it gets bigger and bigger,” he said. 

“Even when you pit it against football, footy used to dwarf it, and now it is clearly so much bigger than football. The AFL, probably going forward, has to move their games and fixture them almost around the Grand Prix to avoid clashing with it. 

“You saw the very small crowd at Richmond-Port Adelaide yesterday, which was just a strange schedule to go up against it, and it hurt the footy at the turnstiles.

“Not many people at the Tigers-Power game, because there were so many people just across the tan at the Grand Prix instead.”

A mere 30,000 people attended Sunday’s match hosted at the MCG between Richmond and Port Adelaide, clashing with the race. 

Saturday’s matches saw similar trends, with seventeen thousand people attended North Melbourne and Fremantle early afternoon, while Hawthorn and Melbourne attracted over 43 thousand people to the MCG due to a clash with F1 Qualifying. 

Also on Saturday, only 9,000 fans attended the Western Bulldogs vs Gold Coast game in Ballarat. 

Hodges says it’s in the AFL’s best interest to avoid the Formula One clash next season. 

“Part of the long-term agreement for the Grand Prix is, I think it's once every four or once every five years, Albert Park is the season opener,” he said. 

“It looks like it will move forward two weeks to it when it used to be on the Labour Day long weekend. 

 “[The AFL] had the opening round on Labour Day weekend this year, whether they pull the entire season forward a week and run nine games. 

“They'd have to try and avoid the Grand Prix, if it is that weekend I think, or if they do opening round that weekend and push everyone out of Victoria to go and play their footy game. Scheduling will be an issue and you'll see that next year.” 

Spaniard Carlos Sainz bounced back from appendix surgery to won his third Grand Prix during Sunday’s race after missing the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix 16 days prior. 

His Ferrari teammate Charles Leclerc and McLaren’s Lando Norris joined him on the podium, while Melbourne-born Oscar Piastri came fourth. 

WA’s Daniel Ricciardo recovered to finish 12th after qualifying in 18th, but there are plenty of question marks surrounding his form.  

“That RB is just not good enough. It's nothing like we thought it was going to be at the start of the season,” said Hodges.

“He has to lift his game, he has to improve his performance, and he needs his team to give him a better car, but the first thing, Daniel Ricciardo has to start beating his teammate, Tsunoda. 

“He's out-qualified him again across the weekend, so unfortunately, Daniel Ricciardo has to lift his game if he wants to stay in the sport of Grand Prix racing.”


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