State governments will this week present grand final parade alternatives as part of their pitches to lure the biggest game on the AFL calendar.
Crunch time has arrived for the league, who will receive presentations from South Australia, New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia this week ahead of the almost inevitable and historic shift of the grand final away from Melbourne.
Trent Cotchin and Phil Davis with the Premiership Trophy during the 2019 AFL grand final parade in Melbourne.Credit:Getty Images
The grand final drama comes as the AFL braces for a week of pain with the league’s hundreds of staff set to learn the specifics of the organisation’s corporate restructure in which scores of jobs are expected to be lost in the name of cost-cutting.
The Victorian Government remains contracted to host the season decider until 2057 however the state’s 122-year-old hold on the game is set to be relinquished as early as this week, with a renegotiated deal between the AFL and Victoria appearing a formality.
That will open the door for the match to be moved away to the MCG, either to Brisbane’s Gabba, Perth’s Optus Stadium, Adelaide Oval or Sydney’s ANZ Stadium.
The AFL is yet to announce whether it will implement its now traditional bye weekend between the end of the home and away season and the start of the finals. The decision will likely shape whether the grand final is scheduled for Saturday, October 17 (Caulfield Cup Day) or Saturday, October 24 (Cox Plate Day).
While the AFL is saying privately that a decision on the grand final venue will be made separately to when the game is played, industry sources suggest it is highly likely the match will be played as a night game on the Eastern seaboard, meaning a twilight fixture would eventuate should WA win the right to host the match.
This is at least in part to keep the game from clashing with the marquee racing events, which remains jewels in the Victorian sporting crown.
The four states in the running to replace Victoria will present to members of the AFL executive this week before the league’s commission makes a final determination.
As part of the presentations, sources said that states will make cases surrounding several auxiliary elements of the grand final, including matchday live sites and lead-up events.
For decades while the match has been in Melbourne the grand final has been preceded by a motorcade through the city’s CBD in which estimated six-figure crowds have routinely cheered on the participating teams on match eve.
The league is conscious that a traditional grand final parade – even in another city – may not be feasible or responsible given the precarious nature of the coronavirus but other options are set to be tabled.
Queensland has in recent weeks emerged as the favourite to win the grand final hosting rights. Premier Annastacia Palascczuk has done a mountain of work to help the AFL continue its season despite the game's Victorian heartland being gripped by the deadly pandemic.
Despite Queensland’s recent COVID-19 outbreak, 16,000 were allowed into the Gabba for Brisbane’s match with St Kilda on Sunday.
There is a school of thought that should the Gabba win the right to host the grand final, the September 4 Friday night clash between the Lions and Collingwood could be used as a significant building block towards whatever the grand final capacity may be.
Meanwhile, AFL staff are facing nervous waits with meetings scheduled for Monday in which they will be informed how the new structure impacts their job. The league told staff last month that it was hoping to finalise all appointments by September 11.
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