Melbourne truly is the sporting capital of the world

David Lord Columnist

By David Lord, David Lord is a Roar Expert

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55 Have your say

    How often have we heard Bill ‘It’s all happening’ Lawry championing the cause of the G, and Melbourne, on Channel Nine over the last 40 years?

    In latter years he’s been joined by Shane Warne, as a partner-in-crime for the cause.

    Parochial as it may seem, they are both right on the money. Melbourne is the the best sporting spectator city in the world, pro-rata to population.

    There are just over four million living in Melbourne, but a tick over nine million in London.

    Compare the MCG, and the home of cricket at Lord’s.

    The record at the G is 93,013 for the 2015 World Cup final between Australia and New Zealand.

    Lord’s is chockers at 30,000.

    With the Ashes series decided, there were still 88,172 at the G on Boxing Day, 67,882 on the second day, a working day, and 61,839 yesterday, another working day.

    That’s 217,893 with two days to go. Lord’s at capacity for five days – 150,000.

    Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne leave the MCG

    (Photo by Hamish Blair/Getty Images)

    But cricket’s not the only sport where Melbourne is the best.

    Melbourne has hosted the first Formula One Grand Prix of year at Albert Park since 1996, rated by the drivers as the very best year in, year out.

    On race day there are always 100,000-plus, with over 300,000 for the event.

    The Australian Tennis Open at Melbourne Park also kicks off the four Grand Slam tournaments every year – again voted the best by the players year in, year out.

    It’s also the Slam tournament with vision, having the first retractable roof, then the first two, and now the only three.

    With such superb state-of-the-art facilities, Melbourne Park keeps breaking attendance records – setting a record that currently stands at 728,763 for the two weeks, set last January.

    And the race the stops the nation the Melbourne Cup, the richest and most prestigious two-miler in the world.

    The first Tuesday in November at Flemington regularly attracts 100,000-plus with 123,736 the record set in 2003.

    Throw in Melbourne’s world-renowned sand-belt golf courses, and if ever the PGA of Australia got off its butt to provide world class tournaments to attract the world’s best, the crowds would flock there too.

    So the next time you hear Bill Lawry, and Shane Warne, extolling the sporting virtues of the southern capital, they have good reason.

    By the way, that will probably be today, and tomorrow.

    David Lord
    David Lord

    David Lord was deeply involved in two of the biggest sporting stories - World Series Cricket in 1977 and professional rugby in 1983. After managing Jeff Thomson and Viv Richards during WSC, in 1983 David signed 208 of the best rugby players from Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and France to play an international pro circuit. The concept didn?t get off the ground, but it did force the IRB to get cracking and bring in the World Rugby Cup, now one of the world?s great sporting spectacles

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    The Crowd Says (55)

    • December 29th 2017 @ 6:48am
      AR said | December 29th 2017 @ 6:48am | ! Report

      In a London v Melbourne comparison, London wins by history/tradition and Melbourne wins by sheer number of spectators.

      London is the ‘home’ of several sports, with Lords, Wembley, Twickenham, Ascot etc.

      But as David points out, Melbourne draws significantly more spectators to the Aus Open, Grand Prix, Flemington carnival, Test cricket etc, than the corresponding events in London.

      (*it should be noted, however, that Silverstone and Cheltenham are not in London, unlike Melbourne’s racing and motor racing events). And let’s not forget Bells Beach, the home of surfing in Australia.

      The sheer volume of spectators that flock in to Melbourne events is quite amazing.

      But there is genuine history too. The MCG is older than Twickenham and Wembley. It is the venue which hosted:
      – the first ever game of Test Match cricket
      – the first ever Ashes Test Match
      – the first ever ODI Match

      Not bad for a dull little town at the arse end of the earth.

      • December 29th 2017 @ 9:32am
        Not so super said | December 29th 2017 @ 9:32am | ! Report

        Bells beach ain’t the home of surfing
        It’s the Gold Coast followed by sydneys northern beaches
        Hardly any pro surfers come from bells and it’s not in australias top ten waves
        And it’s not in Melbourne

        • December 29th 2017 @ 11:00am
          AR said | December 29th 2017 @ 11:00am | ! Report

          “Bells beach ain’t the home of surfing”

          In Australia it certainly is.

          It’s the home of the oldest surfing tournament in the world, and the place where Quiksilver and RipCurl were born.

          There’s plenty of better waves around, but nowhere with that sort of bonafide history.

      • December 30th 2017 @ 5:04pm
        Mitcher said | December 30th 2017 @ 5:04pm | ! Report

        News just in from deep inside the Melbourne bubble.

      • January 3rd 2018 @ 9:33am
        Cam said | January 3rd 2018 @ 9:33am | ! Report

        Would you class Phillip Island as Melbourne?

    • December 29th 2017 @ 7:02am
      Not so super said | December 29th 2017 @ 7:02am | ! Report

      How about including some sporting events that matter to a decent amount of countries?
      Those cricket match numbers are less than what turn out to college football games in Hicksville towns of less than 200,000.

      Ever heard of NYC? Or Rio?

      • Columnist

        December 29th 2017 @ 8:21am
        David Lord said | December 29th 2017 @ 8:21am | ! Report

        Not So Super, you’re not so hot on facts:

        New York has a population of 8.5 million, with their biggest sporting ground New Era Field, home of the Buffalo Bills, capacity 71,608.

        The famous Yankee Stadium has a capacity of 50,291, the home of the New York Yankees baseball, and basketball’s Carrier Dome, capacity 49,262. There are plenty more, but all well short of Carrier Dome.

        Rio has a population of 6.32 million with Maracana their biggest sporting ground, capacity 78,838, with their next biggest Engenhao, capacity 46,831.

        The MCG, with the biggest capacity stadium and the smallest population, leaves your alternatives Not So Super for dead.

        • December 29th 2017 @ 9:28am
          Not so super said | December 29th 2017 @ 9:28am | ! Report

          Yeah, but he hide stadiums fill up on a much more regular basis
          2 NFL teams that fill that stadium every week
          2 baseball teams that play 81 home games each.
          3 Hockey teams with 41 games each
          Madison square garden which hosts the knicks and various other sports
          The us open tennis which is the most attended
          Plus 2 professional soccer teams in a much bigger league than ours

          You can’t claim to be the sporting capital of the world then qualify it by being on a per capita basis.

          You also can’t pick out certain events – it’s the day in day out attendance that matters

          According to David lord the measure of sporting capital of the world is stadium size adjusted for population. Nothing to do with actual total number of people

          • December 29th 2017 @ 12:28pm
            Bakkies said | December 29th 2017 @ 12:28pm | ! Report

            I think what David is trying to say is that the only NFL stadium in New York is upstate in Buffalo. The Giants and Jets play in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

          • December 29th 2017 @ 11:22pm
            Andrew Browne said | December 29th 2017 @ 11:22pm | ! Report

            I think you are also missing the AFL games played at the MCG. That fills the MCG plenty over winter.

        • December 30th 2017 @ 7:34am
          Mark said | December 30th 2017 @ 7:34am | ! Report

          The Bills play in upstate New York. Buffalo might as well be in a different state.

          As for Met Life, that might as well be NYC, its 12 miles from Manhattan.

          Metlife is as much NYC, as the Skins are DC. Its a tax dodge and nothing more.

          NYC is still sporting capital of the world.

          Nets, Nicks, Mets, Yankees, Jets, Giants, Rangers, Islanders etc etc…

    • December 29th 2017 @ 7:45am
      Glen said | December 29th 2017 @ 7:45am | ! Report

      Has to be London.

      Most of Melbourne’s sporting events aren’t watched by most of the world. Compare international TV ratings for the Melbourne based AFL clubs with the London based EPL clubs. What is more popular globally?
      – Chelsea or Carlton?
      – Arsenal or Collingwood
      – Tottenham or Richmond
      Nearly the whole world know about the first 3 clubs. Probably less than 1% know about the latter 3

      Wimbledon is a hell of a lot more prestigious than the Australian Open. Wembley is the home of the FA Cup Final.

      London could probably hold the Euros or even a World Cup all on its own. Just look at the sheer number of modern large stadiums already there or being constructed.

      Melbourne in comparison has only a measly 2 (3 if you count AAMI Park) decent sized stadiums. And two of those are oval, making them useless and horrible for most sports.

      • December 29th 2017 @ 1:42pm
        AR said | December 29th 2017 @ 1:42pm | ! Report

        “Melbourne in comparison has only a measly 2 (3 if you count AAMI Park) decent sized stadiums.”

        Sure, but David is talking about a range of sports – tennis, golf, Motorsport etc – all of which are far superior in Melbourne, both in terms of venues and attendances.

        As a side note, the Melbourne sand belt and, in particular, Royal Melbourne GC, is one of the real jewels of Melbourne. RM has been the No.1 course in Australia for more than 130 years, and the only Australian course to host a Presidents Cup (it will host it’s 3rd Pres Cup in 2019)

        • December 30th 2017 @ 7:05am
          Toth said | December 30th 2017 @ 7:05am | ! Report

          London has the Wentworth Club. Hosts the PGA on the Euro tour every year. Also hosted a Ryder Cup. Presidents Cup vs Ryder Cup, I know what I’d rather attend…

    • December 29th 2017 @ 8:11am
      Geoff Schaefer said | December 29th 2017 @ 8:11am | ! Report

      Ah yes, the delusional Victorian syndrome….
      “Melbourne has hosted the first Formula One Grand Prix of year at Albert Park since 1996, rated by the drivers as the very best year in, year out.”
      Being closely involved with the race when it was held in Adelaide before Melbourne made an offer Bernie couldn’t refuse, I can assure you the drivers said exactly the same thing every year. As the tennis players do as well, because it’s common courtesy and they’re hardly going to say it’s a shit hole if that’s what they think.
      And having watched cricket and AFL at most Australia venues, there’s plenty I would prefer to be at than the MCG where you need binoculars to view half the action from many parts of the ground.
      The Melbourne Cup of course is viewed by the equine elite as the pinnacle. But do you really think the 100,000 attendees are going to see a sporting event? For most it is just an excuse for the ladies to frock up, the A listers to mingle and a giant swim through for the rest interspersed with a few horse races which can only be seen in the last few hundred metres of the race anyway. If you think the average attendee is interested in the nags, ask him or her to name even three Group One horses.
      Yes, Melbourne has some good sporting venues and they are well attended. Largely I suspect because without sport, Melbourne and its surrounds really doesn’t offer a lot else to inspire.
      A crowded city on a brown river with people dressed in black.
      The only colour is in the graffiti filled lanes…

      • December 30th 2017 @ 8:46pm
        Andy og said | December 30th 2017 @ 8:46pm | ! Report

        The green winds of jealousy in this comment, Melbourne is a great city. It’s surrounded by Victoria which is beautiful state, most of it habitable. To believe melbournians have nothing else to do is ignorance to the extreme. Personally I think Melbournians love going to sporting events because they are more connected to their city than most. It works in many ways than let’s say Sydney which is beautiful but disconnected. Those in the north don’t travel south. Those in the east don’t cross the Anzac bridge.Its a cultural thing and one that is crafted over many generations. It’s the understanding that it’s attendance that make magic moments. Growing up in Melbourne so many of my favourite memories are attached to the “G” or Flemington.I saw warnies hat trick, and Makybe’s 2nd,I saw Tiger tee off and Rafa storm home and the mighty rooboys win a flag. I’ve watched the storm get into a grand final and Liverpool with 90,000.Ive seen Ayrton win a race and azumah smash fenech. I don’t know if it’s the greatest sporting city, I suppose that depends on the sports that you follow. But I’m guessing not many people have that kind of sports resume without leaving home.

    • December 29th 2017 @ 8:31am
      Justin Kearney said | December 29th 2017 @ 8:31am | ! Report

      Melbourne the sporting capital of the world? Massive lols at this. Should be fun watching the inane discussion that follows.

    • December 29th 2017 @ 8:55am
      JohnB said | December 29th 2017 @ 8:55am | ! Report

      If they keep producing pitches like that, it should be the MCG that is in danger of losing its test match.

      • December 29th 2017 @ 11:04am
        Alicesprings said | December 29th 2017 @ 11:04am | ! Report

        Thats what happens when AFL pays the bills. Drop in pitches are a reality if we want modern stadiums.

        The ground that really needs to lift is game is the Gabba, evident with Canberra winning out hosting Australia v India next summer.

        • December 29th 2017 @ 12:30pm
          Bakkies said | December 29th 2017 @ 12:30pm | ! Report

          Canberra is hosting a test against Sri Lanka.

          • December 29th 2017 @ 5:04pm
            Alicesprings said | December 29th 2017 @ 5:04pm | ! Report


            Adelaide, Perth, Melbourne, Sydney to host AUS v INDA.

            Brisbane and Canberra to host AUS v SRI

            Hobart to miss out.

            Either way the GABBA is under pressure to update facilities as now both Adelaide and Perth have leap frogged it as preferred venues.

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