General Footy Writing: Silence is golden where MCG irritations are concerned

By Andrew Fithall

Footy at the MCG is fantastic. Membership provides the privilege of choosing your perspective. The kids love down low as close to the fence as possible. Helen enjoys the additional benefit of the recently-benched (should that now read “rotated”) players doing their warm-down as they walk up and down the boundary. You can read the fine-print on the arm pictorials. For the football watching, I prefer an elevated view, but not so high that you can’t tell which direction a high-kicked ball is travelling. Live viewing allows you to look ahead of the play and assess a player’s options. The Australian game is best viewed in person.

In contrast, rugby league is a game for television. Years ago I went to the ’G with a then world-record crowd for a league game to watch state of origin. New South Wales won easily. Queensland failed to score. I viewed the game from too-high up and not close enough to the wing. Didn’t enjoy the game at all. When I got home I switched on the television and saw a bit of the delayed coverage. It seemed a different game from what I had just seen, and a much better spectacle.

But live games of football at the MCG do come at a price, and I am not referring to the financial. Game-by-game, week-by-week, the inanities of the on- and off-field competitions broadcast on the scoreboard and via the fleet of loud-speakers proliferate. They happen pre-game and they continue into the game breaks. A couple of examples from last Friday night. A Telstra promotion where you SMS either Magpies or Blues to a given number (and you can’t read the fine-print of what this little exercise is going to cost you). At the conclusion, there is then a pre-recorded and simulated arm wrestle between two representative players with the winner determined by the percentage of text messages received. Totally useless and an insult to all in attendance, except I suppose, to those who actually did participate.

The second example was another promotion, this time Coca-Cola. During one of the breaks, a couple of volunteers (I assume they were not dragooned) are asked to imitate the sound made by people featured in the current round of televisions advertisements. If I write “Brrrr”, you might know what I am referring to. The competition is again loud and irritating – yet strangely, there is a skerrick of care factor that wants your club’s representative to win.

Add to all this the music blasts, the pre-first-bounce MCG theme, the scoreboard advertisements, the evacuation procedure warnings, as well as the occasional ground announcements, and the aural sensibilities are severely tested.

I’ll now let you in on a little secret, but please don’t tell the authorities. On Friday night, while wandering around at half-time, I spied a plug on the wall labelled “sound-system”. There were actually two plugs – one labelled “Southern” and the other “Northern”. Surely not. I gave it a few tests over the next hour or so. Anyone at the ground on Friday will recall the occasional crackly blast coming from the speakers. That was me doing my testing. After the game, when the Collingwood theme had been played a sufficient number of times (although such a number may not exist), and most people had departed, I went back to the plugs and pulled them out. Enough is enough. And just for good measure, on the plug labelled “Northern” I bent the metal prongs so it couldn’t be re-inserted.

I was back at the ’G again on Saturday for the Geelong-Hawthorn clash. Great game, especially for a non-aligned supporter. And the day was made more pleasant by the lack of sound coming from the speakers. No commentary for another ridiculous on-field pre-game completion. I do apologise to the Hawthorn supporters – it was my fault their theme didn’t get played as the Hawthorn players took the field. It must have been about this time that the authorities discovered my handiwork. Geelong entered the arena, still no music, and then the theme song started halfway through. However, it was only through half the speakers. My side of the ground was still at a reduced volume. Those bent prongs couldn’t be fixed in a hurry.

I am going back to the MCG on Saturday night. Everything will probably be back in order by then, and again we will be subjected to a torrent of unwelcome sound. I am going to have to do some further investigation and come up with a solution with a bit more permanency.

Earplugs perhaps?

About Andrew Fithall

Probably the most rational, level-headed Collingwood supporter in existence. Not a lot of competition mind you.


  1. pauldaffey says


    If smothers and shepherds are one percenters, your act of pulling the plug on the MCG sound is a 67 percenter.

    Brave, decisive, inspiring.

    You should win the award for the most selfless, team-oriented act of the week.

  2. I was wondering what the dealio was with the crackling sound in the 3rd quarter…

  3. Merciful Andrew. Hawthorn games feature an appalling comp at half-time.
    I’d wanted to raise this topic often, considering it for crio’s question, but doubted anyone actually likes the blare and wary that i was just a whinger. After all, I’m for race results on the board…what used to be a scoreboard and is now a multi-purpose infotainment package (secretly I’d even go for the first leg of the double live at half-time!).
    Somehow sports managers don’t trust us to respond to our instincts at a game. It is probably even more intrusive at the cricket if you racall the rituals that used to surround incoming and outgoing batsmen and the recognition of a bowler retiring from his spell. This “management” will become self-fulfilling as spactators await guidance at any moment designated worthy.At the footy, we are implored to welcome sides on to the ground, directed as to who had won the toss, updated with feedback during the break (time was you’d talk to the person next to you, but it is so loud) and any nervous silence smothered with music. Its enough to sweep me in to the bar.
    It was really obvious last week at the draw where that eerie silence enveloped the ground and players slumped gloomily. No theme song, hit the music button and switch it up…they went with “Ain’t no second prize”. Barnesy at least cleared the ground.
    The Dome does likewise and the echo is unbearable…I was there during an Olympic event when the announcer wanted to tell us who to cheer for on the big screen!

  4. great piece of writing nicely done
    love the touch of humour

  5. johnharms says


    This is one of the highlights of the footy year. It’s up there with that critical moment in Flying High.

    You are one of the true revolutionaries. Industrial sabotage always requires immense courage, self-sacrifice and commitment to the greater cause.

    This must be mentioned in the essay at the front of the Alamanac this year.


  6. I still can’t believe the whole sound system at the MCG relies on a few small plugs. I thought it would all be in a high security room with machines that hum and go “ding”.

    Try and find the ones at Etihad – they’re worse.

  7. Dips,

    What you’re describing is a microwave.

    Maybe the MCG can have a new nickname.

  8. Mark Wallace says

    God bless you, Andrew! You’ve provided a great service to football.

  9. Steve Healy says


    where is the location of the plug?

    I usually hate music at games. At one game I was at at the G this year they actually kept the music on for the first twenty seconds of the game.

    At Manuka Oval, the ground announcer was actually sitting next to me in the stands and god was he annoying.

  10. Pamela Sherpa says

    Good job Andrew – I hope you get ‘Football Citizen of the year’ and not arrested.

  11. Danielle says

    WOW haha and i thought me wanting to jump the fence and strangle Toovey was a risk.

    what music?
    they never play music when i go.
    hmm looks like im lucky then??

  12. Steve Healy says

    Eddie McGuire pays the operators for complete silence at the ground while a Collingwood game is on so all the Collingwood yobbos can be heard in the crowd. But saying that there was music on Queen’s Birthday I think.

  13. Josh Barnstable says

    I’m going to Etihad on Friday, lets see if i can pull the same stunt :)

  14. Wish I had a plug at Lord’s a weekend or two ago and a socket marked ‘Freddie Flintoff’.

  15. John O'Callaghan says

    Couldn’t agree more with your thoughts on the noise pollution. At Etihad there’s a moron who tells us when to cheer for the Saints. I invariably reserve my loudest yell to tell him to get stuffed. He represents all that’s apalling in sport at the moment- spectators being considered so brain dead they have to be told when and how loud to cheer.
    Jack O’Callaghan

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