AT LEAST 10,000 people are expected to attend the historic first match of the NAB AFL Women's competition between Collingwood and Carlton after it was moved to Ikon Park.
The Magpies' training ground at Olympic Park Oval was set to host the clash on Friday, February 3. But an estimated attendance of 2000 for a practice match between Carlton and Melbourne at Ikon Park last Saturday forced the AFL to reconsider.
The crowd figure for the Blues-Demons match was especially significant considering the match was not widely publicised.
Similar crowds attended practice matches involving Adelaide and Fremantle in Darwin, and the Brisbane Lions' home clash against Greater Western Sydney.
While Ikon Park can seat 22,000 people, Olympic Park Oval has very little seating.
AFL game and market development manager Simon Lethlean said the early demand for women's football suggested a strong turnout for the opening Magpies-Blues clash.
"We're expecting above 10,000. If it's 15,000 or 20,000, fantastic. We've had 17,000 there for a NAB Challenge game last year (between Carlton and Essendon)," he said.
Lethlean said both clubs were satisfied with the decision to move the game.
"We've had some pretty strong crowds at practice games so far, including at Ikon Park on the weekend. It's a new competition, it's a flexible competition, we want to get as many people as we can into the game," he said.
"We've had Ikon Park as a back-up all along. Carlton and Collingwood are both happy with the decision and so are our broadcasters."
The Magpies did have worries about safely fitting in a large number of people at Olympic Park Oval.
"We spoke to the Pies in the last week or so and they shared some concerns about, first and foremost, safety, rather than (losing) any home-ground advantage," Lethlean said.
"There's been no games in this competition yet so I'm not thinking there's too strong a home-ground advantage for Victorian clubs just yet. The most important thing was to get as many there as possible and as safe as possible."
The AFL will pay for temporary floodlights at the ground, as was the case in the All Stars exhibition match last year at Whitten Oval.
"We'll bring in lights that are broadcast quality at an expense to the competition, but it's an expense that backs up our broadcast support," he said.
"They will certainly be hired-in lights and we're looking to work with government and others in the years to come to try and make some community grounds better lit for broadcast."
Lethlean does not anticipate having to move any other matches. The Pies have another three matches scheduled for Olympic Park Oval, coming up against Melbourne, GWS and Adelaide.
"This (match) is our main concern at this stage, because it's the first game and it's two of the biggest clubs in Victoria. We don't expect any other capacity issues at any games but it's a flexible new competition. We can do what we need to do to maximise exposure and access," he said.
Carlton CEO Steven Trigg was pleased with the AFL's decision to move to a higher-capacity venue.
"We welcome the decision to shift the opening match of the inaugural AFLW season to Ikon Park, on the basis of a higher than first anticipated attendance," he said.
"Naturally, we feel very privileged to be opening the inaugural season with Collingwood and we understand the AFL's decision to change the location of the game."
The start time for the game has been pushed back five minutes to 7.45pm AEDT.
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