MELBOURNE, in partnership with the Melbourne Cricket Club (MCC) and AFL, has today launched the ‘The Welcome Game’, which will be the theme for its match against St Kilda at the MCG on Sunday, July 1 (round 15).

Now in its second year, The Welcome Game is an inclusive event that promotes a message of welcoming everyone to Australian football, the MCG and the Melbourne Football Club.

The inaugural event, held in Round 21 of the 2017 season, was a great success, with close to 7,000 people experiencing AFL for the first time. The Welcome Game is a Melbourne Football Club initiative that celebrates all things great about Melbourne: its diversity, food, culture, art and sport.

Chairman Glen Bartlett said it was a fantastic opportunity to celebrate the city and welcome new audiences to our game.

“The Melbourne Football Club proudly carries the name of the city and The Welcome Game allows us to not only celebrate Melbourne’s diversity and inclusiveness but provide new audiences with the opportunity to experience what is great about our game and our club,” he said.

“The club is in an exciting stage of growth, and we look forward to welcoming all, regardless of heritage, religion, gender or sexuality, to our spiritual home of the MCG.”

Melbourne and the MCC have made up to 20,000 tickets available to a range of schools, organisations and multicultural communities, making it easier for individuals and groups looking to experience AFL and the MCG for the first time.

The club is encouraging further attendance through multilingual communications, while additional Melbourne and MCG staff will be present on match day, to assist the new footy fans.

In an MCG first, the game will also feature open captioning and the provision of Australian Sign Language interpreting on the big-screen.

MCC CEO Stuart Fox said, “We’re thrilled to once again be putting our support behind the Welcome Game, helping new fans experience the magic of the ‘G. Our staff will be out in force on Sunday– offering everything from a friendly hello, to a gold coin-donation sausage sizzle in Yarra Park.”

Existing members are vital to Melbourne’s growth ambitions, with the club also urging members to take part in a new initiative for this year’s game, the ‘Melbourne Scarf Drive’. By donating old membership scarves, Bartlett said the club’s supporters can play a key role in welcoming new audiences to the club.

“The Scarf Drive is a fantastic way to bring everyone together at the game,” he said.

“We are really excited for our existing members and supporters to have the opportunity to contribute to our growth and welcome new people to the club.”

Members and supporters can donate pre-loved scarves to new fans on the day by dropping them in the donation box located in Yarra Park, outside Gate 3.

AFL General Manager Game Development Andrew Dillon said it was great to see the Melbourne Football Club continue to play a leading role in embracing diversity through the annual Welcome Game.

“The Welcome Game is a great initiative and the Melbourne Football Club should be commended for playing a key role in welcoming new fans to our game,” Mr. Dillon said.

The National Sports Museum, located at Gate 3 of the MCG, will be open from 10am, with FREE entry for kids and 50% off for adults attending the game.

While from 10.30am there will be a range of activities on offer, including a hands-on football experience for international students, an MCG sausage sizzle, multicultural music and entertainment, face painting, giveaways and more. In addition, a special international flag parade will take place at half-time.

Adding to its appeal, The Welcome Game is also part of the AFL’s Super Round, meaning free general admission tickets are available to children under the age of 15. There will also be MARVEL superheroes in attendance plus heaps of other family activities.

The AFL, the MCC and the Melbourne Football Club welcomes and celebrates diversity. And The Welcome Game promotes and celebrates the inclusive nature of our game.