The Melbourne Cricket Club (MCC) unveiled a new multi-faith prayer room at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) on Tuesday ahead of Round 1 of the 2022 AFL Premiership Season.
Members of various organisations were present at the launch, including three-time AFL Premiership winner Bachar Houli, who was consulted on the project.
“It’s definitely a warm feeling, that’s for sure,” Houli said on the new multi-faith prayer room.
“The way it’s been designed is quite special and quite unique, it’s very warming for people of all different faiths,” he said.
Situated on Level B1 of the Great Southern Stand, the purpose-built space commenced works in November 2021 following feasibility and usage studies conducted during in early 2021, as per the MCC.
The brand-new multi-faith prayer room replaces a much smaller dedicated space that was in a less practical location in the Ponsford Stand.
TV Presenter and avid Richmond fan Waleed Aly hosted a panel discussion at the launch of the new prayer room, and he recalled his struggles with finding somewhere to pray at the footy in the past.
“I remember growing up as a supporter, before anyone even thought about putting prayer rooms in ground,” Aly recalled.
“I used to go to a place that was like three blocks away, I’d have to sprint from the Olympic Stand way out there, and it was really hard to make it back by the start of the third quarter.”
Aly was also struck by the inclusivity of the new multi-faith prayer room while interacting with members of other communities at the launch event.
“I think the fact that it’s multi-faith is symbolically important, the fact that it’s not exclusive, it’s inclusive, which is the whole point of it really being here,” he said.
“As a Muslim I know the way in which we would use it… but talking to some of the members of the Jewish community today, I didn’t realise what it would mean for them.
“The consultation process in building it was a really important part of it, so they’ve come up with something that I think suits a lot of people.”
Similarly, Bachar Houli recalled how in years gone by people in his Muslim community did not attend games of football because of a lack of prayer facilities.
“The fact that there’s going to be a place of prayer for people who wish to pray during a game of football or cricket is incredible, so absolutely no excuses for anyone now who decided to stay at home because they’ve got no place to pray, the MCG does that,” he said.
“Hopefully this leads the way for other venues around the world to implement the exact same thing.”