Tim Paine wants as many fans as is safe to watch the top two sides in the world do battle.
Tim Paine wants as many fans as is safe to watch the top two sides in the world do battle.

‘Other options’ if MCG can’t host fans for Boxing Day Test

CRICKTE Australia is yet to finalise a contract with the MCG for the Boxing Day Test as questions mount over when Melbourne can be trusted again to host major sporting events.

Melbourne's escalating COVID-19 setback has Australia's sporting capital under threat, particularly at a time when other States are on the verge of welcoming back mass crowds to the AFL and NRL.

The AFL grand final's traditional status at the MCG will be the first event put under the microscope if the Victorian Government can't get a handle on the alarming number of outbreaks, particularly with Perth Stadium already talking up the prospect of drawing capacity 60,000 crowds.

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The MCG is the home of the Boxing Day Test, though the pandemic means CA will remain fluid over scheduling for the India series this summer.
The MCG is the home of the Boxing Day Test, though the pandemic means CA will remain fluid over scheduling for the India series this summer.

Cricket Australia would not entertain the idea of moving the Boxing Day Test away from Melbourne except in the case of emergency, but in response to the pandemic they have made it clear that their schedule for the home summer must stay flexible and fluid to deal with the unprecedented challenges posed by COVID-19.

The fact that no new deal has been signed between the Melbourne Cricket Club and Cricket Australia to secure the Boxing Day Test is an intriguing subplot adding to the uncertainties of the summer.

Cricket Australia has had no discussions whatsoever about the Boxing Day Test being moved, but Test captain Tim Paine said if Perth could hypothetically pack 60,000 in and Melbourne couldn't, organisers would have to at least be open to shifting tradition for this summer's blockbuster Indian tour.

Tim Paine wants as many fans as is safe to watch the top two sides in the world do battle.
Tim Paine wants as many fans as is safe to watch the top two sides in the world do battle.

"I think given these current circumstances, I dare say that everything is well and truly on the table," said Paine.

"We're hopeful that everywhere we play, come summertime we'll be able to have crowds. How big they are we don't know obviously.

"Look, it's a difficult one for anyone to answer because there is so much that's changing week to week, day to day. Give it 3-4 months, we just don't know what it's going to look like.

"But, certainly from a players' point of view, we want to be playing in front of big crowds, at the best venues and a big day like Boxing Day is something that everyone looks forward to and a big part of that is playing at the MCG.

"So fingers crossed that things are going well enough that we can do that but as you said we are spoilt for choice here in Australia with some world-class stadiums. If something had to change then we've got plenty of options."

Cricket Australia said yesterday that its ongoing talks with the MCC are constructive and centre around commercial discussions about how the operating model might look for sports in the post COVID-19 era.

It's understood the virus and Cricket Australia's changing of CEOs has pushed back the timeline for a new deal being signed.

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