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Melbourne Cricket Ground
MCG, The 'G
Melbourne Cricket Ground logo.png
2017 AFL Grand Final panorama during national anthem.jpg
Panorama of the MCG before
the 2017 AFL Grand Final
Location East Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Owner Government of Victoria
Operator Melbourne Cricket Club
Executive suites 109
Capacity 100,024
Record attendance
  • 100,022 – 2018 AFL Grand Final (post-configuration)
  • 121,696 – 1970 VFL Grand Final (pre-configuration)
Field size 171 metres x 146 metres
Surface Grass
Construction
Opened 1853; 170 years ago (1853)
Renovated 1992 (Southern Stand redevelopment)
2006 (Northern Stand redevelopment)
2032 (Proposed Shane Warne Stand redevelopment)
Tenants
Australian Football League

Melbourne Football Club (1858–present)
Richmond Football Club (1965–present)
Collingwood Football Club (1993–present)
Essendon Football Club (1991–present)
Hawthorn Football Club (2000–present)
Carlton Football Club (2005–present) Victoria cricket team (1851–present)
Melbourne Stars (BBL; 2011–present)

Rugby League
Melbourne Storm (2000)
Ground information
End names
West: City End (AFL);
North: Members End (Cricket)
MelbourneCricketGroundPitchDimensions.svg
South: Shane Warne End (Cricket);
East: Punt Road End (AFL)
International information
First Test 15–19 March 1877: Australia v England
Last Test 26–30 December 2021: Australia v England
First ODI 5 January 1971: Australia v England
Last ODI 18 January 2019: Australia v India
First T20I 1 February 2008: Australia v India
Last T20I 18 February 2021: Australia v Sri Lanka

The Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) is a cricket and Australian Rules Football stadium in Melbourne, Australia. It has a capacity of 100,000. It was used as the main stadium for the 1956 Summer Olympics.

The Melbourne Cricket Club started to use the area for cricket in 1853. Their old ground, now Southbank, was often flooded by the Yarra River, and was also in the way of a new railway line. In 1859, the first game of Australian Rules Football was played at the ground.

The MCG is run by a trust. The first chairman of the trust was the first Premier of Victoria, William Haines.

Early history

The MCG is built atop a Wurundjeri camping ground and site of numerous corroborees. Founded in November 1838 the Melbourne Cricket Club (MCC) selected the current MCG site in 1853 after previously playing at several grounds around Melbourne. The club's first game was against a military team at the Old Mint site, at the corner of William and La Trobe Streets. Burial Hill (now Flagstaff Gardens) became its home ground in January 1839, but the area was already set aside for Botanical Gardens and the club was moved on in October 1846, to an area on the south bank of the Yarra about where the Herald & Weekly Times building is today. The area was subject to flooding, forcing the club to move again, this time to a ground in South Melbourne.

It was not long before the club was forced out again, this time because of the expansion of the railway. The South Melbourne ground was in the path of Victoria's first steam railway line from Melbourne to Sandridge (now Port Melbourne). Governor La Trobe offered the MCC a choice of three sites; an area adjacent to the existing ground, a site at the junction of Flinders and Spring Streets or a ten-acre (about 4 hectares) section of the Government Paddock at Richmond next to Richmond Park.

Between European settlement in 1835 and the early 1860s, this last option, which is now Yarra Park, was known as the Government or Police Paddock and served as a large agistment area for the horses of the Mounted Police, Border Police and Native Police. The north-eastern section also housed the main barracks for the Mounted Police in the Port Phillip district. In 1850 it was part of a 200-acre (81 ha) stretch set aside for public recreation extending from Governor La Trobe's Jolimont Estate to the Yarra River. By 1853 it had become a busy promenade for Melbourne residents.

An MCC sub-committee chose the Richmond Park option because it was level enough for cricket but sloped enough to prevent inundation. That ground was located where the Richmond, or outer, end of the current MCG is now.

At the same time the Richmond Cricket Club was given occupancy rights to six acres (2.4 hectares) for another cricket ground on the eastern side of the Government Paddock.

In 1861, a board of trustees was appointed to be responsible for the ground. Over the first forty years, most of the trustees were appointed by the MCC, giving the cricket club relative autonomy over the use of the ground. In 1906, the state governments' Lands ministry appointed five new trustees, putting the government-appointed trustees in the majority; and the government has appointed and overseen the trust since. This gives the state government, via the trust, a level of control over the ground's use.

At the time of the land grant, the Government stipulated that the ground was to be used for cricket and cricket only. This condition technically remained until 1933 when the Melbourne Cricket Ground Act 1933 widened its allowable uses. The 1933 act has been replaced by separate acts in 1989 and 2009.

Aboriginal cricket team at MCG in 1867
Aboriginal cricket team with captain-coach Tom Wills, December 1866. In the background is the original MCC pavilion, built in 1854.

In 1863, a corridor of land running diagonally across Yarra Park was granted to the Melbourne & Hobson's Bay Railway Company and divided Yarra Park from the river. The Mounted Police barracks were operational until the 1880s when it was subdivided into the current residential precinct bordered by Vale Street. The area closest to the river was also developed for sporting purposes in later years including Olympic venues in 1956.

Stadium development

MCG grandstand
Grandstand built for the English cricket team's 1877 visit

The first grandstand at the MCG was the original wooden members' stand built in 1854, while the first public grandstand was a 200-metre long 6000-seat temporary structure built in 1861. Another grandstand seating 2000, facing one way to the cricket ground and the other way to the park where football was played, was built in 1876 for the 1877 visit of James Lillywhite's English cricket team. It was during this tour that the MCG hosted the world's first Test match.

In 1881, the original members' stand was sold to the Richmond Cricket Club for £55. A new brick stand, considered at the time to be the world's finest cricket facility, was built in its place. The foundation stone was laid by Prince George of Wales and Prince Albert Victor on 4 July and the stand opened in December that year. It was also in 1881 that a telephone was installed at the ground, and the wickets and goal posts were changed from an east–west orientation to north–south. In 1882 a scoreboard was built which showed details of the batsman's name and how he was dismissed.

When the Lillywhite tour stand burned down in 1884 it was replaced by a new stand which seated 450 members and 4500 public. In 1897, second-storey wings were added to 'The Grandstand', as it was known, increasing capacity to 9,000. In 1900 it was lit with electric light.

MCG 1914
MCG, ca. 1914. The 1881 members' stand is the smaller building on the left

More stands were built in the early 20th century. An open wooden stand was on the south side of the ground in 1904 and the 2084-seat Grey Smith Stand (known as the New Stand until 1912) was erected for members in 1906. The 4000-seat Harrison Stand on the ground's southern side was built in 1908 followed by the 8000-seat Wardill Stand in 1912. In the 15 years after 1897 the grandstand capacity at the ground increased to nearly 20,000, while the full ground capacity was almost 60,000.

In 1927, the second brick members' stand was replaced at a cost of £60,000. The Harrison and Wardill Stands were demolished in 1936 to make way for the Southern Stand which was completed in 1937. The Southern Stand seated 18,200 under cover and 13,000 in the open and was the main public area of the MCG. The maximum capacity of the ground under this configuration, as advised by the Health Department, was 84,000 seated and 94,000 standing.

The Northern Stand, also known as the Olympic Stand, was built to replace the old Grandstand for the 1956 Olympic Games. By Health Department regulations, this was to increase the stadium's capacity to 120,000; although this was revised down after the 1956 VFL Grand Final, which could not comfortably accommodate its crowd of 115,802. Ten years later, the Grey Smith Stand and the open concrete stand next to it were replaced by the Western Stand; the Duke of Edinburgh laid a foundation stone for the Western Stand on 3 March 1967, and it was completed in 1968; in 1986, it was renamed the W.H. Ponsford Stand in honour of Victorian batsman Bill Ponsford. This was the stadium's highest capacity configuration, and the all-time record crowd for a sporting event at the venue of 121,696 was set under this configuration in the 1970 VFL Grand Final.

The MCG was the home of Australia's first full colour video scoreboard, which replaced the old scoreboard in 1982, located on Level 4 of the Western Stand, which notably caught fire in 1999 and was replaced in 2000. A second video screen added in 1994 almost directly opposite, on Level 4 of the Olympic stand. In 1985, light towers were installed at the ground, allowing for night football and day-night cricket games.

MCG99
View of the Great Southern Stand during the 1998 Boxing Day Test match. The Olympic Stand is visible at the bottom left of the photo.

In 1988, inspections of the old Southern Stand found concrete cancer and provided the opportunity to replace the increasingly run-down 50-year-old facility. The projected cost of $100 million was outside what the Melbourne Cricket Club could afford so the Victorian Football League took the opportunity to part fund the project in return for a 30-year deal to share the ground. The new Great Southern Stand was completed in 1992, in time for the 1992 Cricket World Cup, at a final cost of $150 million. It was renamed the Shane Warne Stand after Victorian bowler Shane Warne in 2022 shortly after his death.

New Ponsford Stand Construction
The W.H Ponsford Stand undergoing reconstruction in 2003.

The 1928 Members' stand, the 1956 Olympic stand and the 1968 W.H Ponsford stand were demolished one by one between late 2003 to 2005 and replaced with a new structure in time for the 2006 Commonwealth Games. Despite now standing as a single unbroken stand, the individual sections retain the names of W.H. Ponsford, Olympic and Members Stands. The redevelopment cost exceeded A$400 million and pushed the ground's capacity to just above 100,000. Since redevelopment, the highest attendance has been 100,022 at the 2018 AFL Grand Final.

From 2011 until 2013, the Victoria State Government and the Melbourne Cricket Club funded a $55 million refurbishment of the facilities in the Great Southern Stand, including renovations to entrance gates and ticket outlets, food and beverage outlets, etc., without significantly modifying the stand. New scoreboards, more than twice the size of the original ones, were installed in the same positions in late 2013.

From November 2019 until February 2020 all the playing field lights, including those in the light towers, were replaced with LED sports lighting with the lighting under the roof and in two of the light towers completed in time for the Boxing Day Test against New Zealand.

World War II

During World War II, the government requisitioned the MCG for military use. From 1942 until 1945 it was occupied by (in order): the United States Army Air Forces, the Royal Australian Air Force, the United States Marine Corps and again the RAAF. Over the course of the war, more than 200,000 personnel were barracked at the MCG. From April to October 1942, the US Army's Fifth Air Force occupied the ground, naming it "Camp Murphy", in honor of officer Colonel William Murphy, a senior USAAF officer killed in Java. In 1943 the MCG was home to the legendary First Regiment of the First Division of the United States Marine Corps. The First Marine Division were the heroes of the Guadalcanal campaign and used the "cricket grounds", as the marines referred to it, to rest and recuperate. On 14 March 1943 the marines hosted a giant "get together" of American and Australian troops on the arena.

In 1977, Melbourne Cricket Club president Sir Albert Chadwick and Medal of Honor recipient, Colonel Mitchell Paige, unveiled a commemorative plaque recognizing the Americans' time at the ground.

In episode 3 of the 2010 TV miniseries, The Pacific, members of the US Marines are shown to be camped in the war-era MCG.

Olympic Games

The MCG's most famous moment in history was as the main stadium for the 1956 Olympic Games, hosting the opening and closing ceremonies, track and field events, and the finals in field hockey and soccer. The MCG was only one of seven possible venues, including the Melbourne Showgrounds, for the Games' main arena. The MCG was the Federal Government's preferred venue but there was resistance from the MCC. The inability to decide on the central venue nearly caused the Games to be moved from Melbourne. Prime Minister Robert Menzies recognised the potential embarrassment to Australia if this happened and organised a three-day summit meeting to thrash things out. Attending was Victorian Premier John Cain, Sr., the Prime Minister, deputy opposition leader Arthur Calwell, all State political leaders, civic leaders, Olympic officials and trustees and officials of the MCC. Convening the meeting was no small effort considering the calibre of those attending and that many of the sports officials were only part-time amateurs.

As 22 November, the date of the opening ceremony, drew closer, Melbourne was gripped ever more tightly by Olympic fever. At 3 pm the day before the opening ceremony, people began to line up outside the MCG gates. That night the city was paralysed by a quarter of a million people who had come to celebrate.

The MCG's capacity was increased by the new Olympic (or Northern) Stand, and on the day itself 103,000 people filled the stadium to capacity. A young up and coming distance runner was chosen to carry the Olympic torch into the stadium for the opening ceremony.

Although Ron Clarke had a number of junior world records for distances of 1500 m, one mile (1.6 km) and two miles (3 km), he was relatively unknown in 1956. Perhaps the opportunity to carry the torch inspired him because he went on to have a career of exceptional brilliance and was without doubt the most outstanding runner of his day. At one stage he held the world record for every distance from two miles (3 km) to 20 km. His few failures came in Olympic and Commonwealth Games competition. Although favourite for the gold at Tokyo in 1964 he was placed ninth in the 5,000 metres race and the marathon and third in the 10,000 metres. He lost again in the 1966 Commonwealth Games and in 1968 at altitude in Mexico he collapsed at the end of the 10 km race.

Ron Clarke carrying the Olympic Torch during opening ceremony at Melbourne Olympic Games
Ron Clarke carrying the Olympic Torch through the MCG at the 1956 Olympic Games' opening ceremony.

On that famous day in Melbourne in 1956 the torch spluttered and sparked, showering Clarke with hot magnesium, burning holes in his shirt. When he dipped the torch into the cauldron it burst into flame singeing him further. In the centre of the ground, John Landy, the fastest miler in the world, took the Olympic oath and sculler Merv Wood carried the Australian flag.

The Melbourne Games also saw the high point of Australian female sprinting with Betty Cuthbert winning three gold medals at the MCG. She won the 100 m and 200 m and anchored the winning 4 x 100 m team. Born in Merrylands in Sydney's west she was a champion schoolgirl athlete and had already broken the world record for the 200 m just before the 1956 Games. She was to be overshadowed by her Western Suburbs club member, the Marlene Matthews. When they got to the Games, Matthews was the overwhelming favourite especially for the 100 m a distance over which Cuthbert had beaten her just once.

Both Matthews and Cuthbert won their heats with Matthews setting an Olympic record of 11.5 seconds in hers. Cuthbert broke that record in the following heat with a time of 11.4 seconds. The world record of 11.3 was held by another Australian, Shirley Strickland who was eliminated in her heat. In the final Matthews felt she got a bad start and was last at the 50 metre mark. Cuthbert sensed Isabella Daniels from the USA close behind her and pulled out a little extra to win Australia's first gold at the Games in a time of 11.5 seconds, Matthews was third. The result was repeated in the 200 m final. Cuthbert won her second gold breaking Marjorie Jackson's Olympic record. Mathews was third again.

By the time the 1956 Olympics came around, Shirley Strickland was a mother of 31 years of age but managed to defend her 80 m title, which she had won in Helsinki four years before, winning gold and setting a new Olympic record.

The sensational incident of the track events was the non-selection of Marlene Matthews in the 4 x 100 m relay. Matthews trained with the relay team up until the selection was made but Cuthbert, Strickland, Fleur Mellor and Norma Croker were picked for the team. There was outrage at the selection which increased when Matthews went on to run third in both the 100 m and 200 m finals. Personally she was devastated and felt that she had been overlooked for her poor baton change. Strickland was disappointed with the way Matthews was treated and maintained it was an opinion held in New South Wales that she had baton problems. One of the selectors, Doris Magee from NSW, said that selecting Matthews increased the risk of disqualification at the change. But Cuthbert maintained that the selectors made the right choice saying that Fleur Mellor was fresh, a specialist relay runner and was better around the curves than Matthews.

The men did not fare so well. The 4 x 400 m relay team, including later IOC Committee member Kevan Gosper, won silver. Charles Porter also won silver in the high jump. Hec Hogan won bronze in the 100 m to become the first Australian man to win a medal in a sprint since the turn of the century and despite injury John Landy won bronze in the 1500 m. Allan Lawrence won bronze in the 10,000 m event.

Apart from athletics, the stadium was also used for the soccer finals, the hockey finals, the Opening and Closing Ceremonies, and an exhibition game of baseball between the Australian National Team and a US armed services team at which an estimated crowd of 114,000 attended. This was the Guinness World Record for the largest attendance for any baseball game, which stood until a 29 March 2008 exhibition game between the Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers at the Los Angeles Coliseum (also a former Olympic venue in 1932 and 1984) drawing 115,300.

The MCG was also used for another demonstration sport, Australian Rules. The Olympics being an amateur competition meant that only amateurs could play in the demonstration game. A combined team of amateurs from the VFL and VFA were selected to play a state team from the Victorian Amateur Football Association (VAFA). The game was played 7 December 1956 with the VAFA side, wearing white jumpers, green collars and the Olympic rings on their chests, winning easily 81 to 55. One of the players chosen for the VFA side was Lindsay Gaze (although he never got off the bench) who would go on to make his mark in another sport, basketball, rather than Australian Rules.

The MCG's link with its Olympic past continues to this day. Within its walls is the IOC-endorsed Australian Gallery of Sport and Olympic Museum.

Forty-four years later at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, the ground hosted several soccer preliminaries, making it one of a few venues ever used for more than one Olympics.

Other uses

  • Queen Elizabeth II visited the MCG in 1954 twice for an assembly and display. She attended a Richmond versus Fitzroy match on 5 April 1970, and also attended the Commonwealth Games Opening Ceremony at the ground on 15 March 2006.
  • A record for attendance at the grounds was set by religious leader Billy Graham whose event in 1959 was attended by at least 143,000 people.
  • The first rock concert to be held at the ground was one by David Cassidy in 1974. In 1978 David Bowie held a concert there. In 1993, Paul McCartney, U2 and Madonna held three concerts, with the highest attendances for a music concert at MCG, with 147,241 tickets sold. The Rolling Stones held concerts in 1995, Michael Jackson in 1996, the Three Tenors in 1997, Elton John and Billy Joel in 1998.
  • Pope John Paul II held a service at the MCG on 27 November 1986, and a celebration there of the Polish community the next day.
  • The MCG hosted The Police with Special Guests Fergie & Fiction Plane on Australia Day 2008; the first MCG concert in 10 years.
  • The MCG hosted Sound Relief, a concert donating all revenues to the Red Cross Victorian Bushfire Appeal with performances from Kings of Leon, Midnight Oil, Split Enz, Paul Kelly, Hunters & Collectors, Wolfmother, Jet and Bliss N Eso, among others. It was held on 14 March 2009.
  • On 5 November 2010, the MCG hosted the Starting Line and opening challenge for The Amazing Race Australia 1. This episode aired on 16 May 2011.
  • The MCG held a Guns N' Roses concert on 14 February 2017.
  • The MCG held a free The Killers concert on 30 September 2017, after the 2017 AFL Grand Final.
  • On 6 October 2018, The MCG hosted WWE Super Show-Down.
  • The MCG held an Eminem concert on 24 February 2019 with the highest attendance for a single concert at the MCG with 80,708 tickets sold.
  • On 30 March 2022, the MCG hosted the state memorial service for Shane Warne.
  • The MCG will hold a Guns N' Roses concert on 3 December 2022.
  • The MCG will hold two Ed Sheeran concerts on 2 and 3 March 2023 as part of the +-=÷x Tour.

General records

Melbourne Cricket Ground from city
MCG from a city building.

Sporting records

  • First ever Test Cricket match (Australia v England) – 1877
  • First ever One day international Cricket match – 1971
  • Highest first class cricket score – 1107 (Victoria v NSW, 1926)
  • Australia's first international Lacrosse match (Australia v Canada, 1907, 30,000)
  • Fastest ball bowled in a Cricket match in Australia, 3rd fastest in the world – 160.7 km/h (Shaun Tait, Australia v Pakistan, 5 February 2010)

Attendance records

All-time highest attendance records at the MCG
Number Attendance Event Date
1 143,000 Billy Graham, Crusade 15 March 1959
2 121,696 VFL Grand Final, Carlton v Collingwood 26 September 1970
3 120,000 40th Eucharistic Congress 25 February 1973
4 119,195 VFL Grand Final, Carlton v Richmond 27 September 1969
5 118,192 VFL Grand Final, Hawthorn v St Kilda 25 September 1971
  • Highest Australian religious event attendance – 143,750 (Billy Graham crusade, 1959)
  • Highest VFL/AFL attendance at a home-and-away match – 99,256 (Melbourne v Collingwood, 1958).
  • Highest VFL/AFL attendance at a final and highest2022
  • Australian sporting event attendance – 121,696 (Collingwood v Carlton, 1970)
  • Highest soccer crowd at MCG (Clubs International Friendly) – 99,382 (International Champions Cup, Manchester City v Real Madrid, 24 July 2015)
  • Highest soccer crowd at MCG (National Team vs National Team) – 97,103 (Australia v Greece, 2006)
  • Highest single-day attendance in Test Cricket history – 91,092 (2013 Boxing Day Test, Day 1 – Australia v England)
  • Highest One Day International Cricket crowd – 93,013 (2015 Cricket World Cup Final Australia v New Zealand)
  • Highest Twenty20 International Cricket crowd – 84,041 (Australia v India, 2008)
  • Highest Twenty20 Domestic Cricket crowd – 80,883 (Melbourne Stars v Melbourne Renegades, 2015–16 Big Bash League season)
  • Highest women's cricket crowd - 86,174 (2020 ICC Women's T20 World Cup Final Australia Women v India Women)
  • Highest State of Origin rugby league crowd – 91,513 (Game II, 17 June 2015)

Stadium records

  • World's first all colour cricket scoreboard with instant replays
  • World's first electronic sight screens
  • World's first super sopper
  • World's first scrolling signage at an oval-shaped ground
  • First time an international Cricket match was played on a one-piece portable pitch, Boxing Day Test, 2000
  • World's tallest floodlights

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