The organisers of the upcoming Australian Grand Prix have been forced to curtail attendance numbers due to labor shortages in the hospitality sector.
Ticket sales for the first complete Australian Grand Prix since 2019 have been brisk, with general admission tickets sold out on both Saturday and Sunday.
The practice sessions on Thursday and Friday have also been selling out as fans eagerly anticipate the return of Formula 1 to Melbourne and the first appearance of a revamped Albert Park circuit.
Despite the high demand for tickets, the Australian Grand Prix Corporation has said that a record race day crowd is unlikely. While an overall record over the four days is possible, the race day standard of 154,000 set in 1996 for the first Melbourne race will not be met.
This is as a result of the Australian Grand Prix Corporation setting a capacity restriction of roughly 130,000 to guarantee the event’s quality isn’t harmed by nationwide labor shortages.
“We expect that we’re going to have one of the biggest aggregate crowds in the history of the event,” said Australian Grand Prix Corporation boss, Andrew Westacott.
“We won’t surpass the opening round numbers in 1996 of 154,000, but we expect to have about the second or third highest attendance on a Sunday, possibly the highest attendance on a Saturday and a Friday.”
“Maybe that also moves into Thursday as well as we move closer to the event,” he added.
With Westacott acknowledging that Saturday general admission tickets had sold out, with the day allotment sold out in February, he also warned that attendance had been capped due to a scarcity of hospitality workers, which means only a limited number of people could be accommodated.
“One of the things, in recent discussions with our three hospitality providers, is that we’re okay at the moment,” said Westacott, referring to staff numbers.
“But as the (crowd) numbers are going up, normally we’d have the recruitment of the workforce completed by now, 16 to 20 days out.
“What we’re finding now is the recruitment is going all the way up to the event. Hence the reason why we’re capping the attendances at 125-130,000 level so that the experiences we’ve got are going to be first class.”
“We want to make sure the service deliveries are to the world class standards expected of Formula 1 and expected by every Melburnian,” he added.
Throughout the pandemic, labor shortages have been a problem at sporting events, and they were brought to the forefront again last weekend during the Australian Football League’s season opener.
The Melbourne Cricket Ground was particularly heavily struck, with fans forced to wait in long lines for food and drink during games.
Martin Pakula, Victoria’s Minister for Sport, Tourism and Major Events, expressed confidence in the AGP’s ability to avoid the MCG scenario, but invited any interested workers to contact the AGPC.
“What we’ve learned is that there are labour shortages all over the economy, and we’re doing whatever we can to try and ensure that we have enough staff,” said Martin Pakula, “but the fact is that lack of international students, lack of skilled visa holders, it is making labour shortages across the economy something that we have to contend with.”
“What I’d say to people who might be looking for some additional hours, you won’t get a more exciting place to work than down here over that week.”
“Labour shortages are a real issue,” he admitted. “We wouldn’t expect anything like what happened at the footy. But there’s no doubt that it is tight.”
The Australian Grand Prix in 2022 will be held from April 7 to 10.