AFL Chief Executive Officer Gillon McLachlan has now made it almost certain that all 10 Victorian-based sides will not be returning to their home state for the rest of the home and away season, being primarily based out of Queensland. The question remains on the location of the Grand Final.
Melbourne Cricket Club Chief Executive Stuart Fox is staunch on the Grand Final being played at the MCG. ‘The AFL grand final is many weeks away and as both the Victorian sports minister and AFL CEO have said this afternoon, there is every intention for the match to be played at the MCG’, Fox said in an interview with The Age on Wednesday.
McLachlan and Victorian sports minister Martin Pakula seem to agree, being keen to uphold a $500 million contract with the MCC which locks the AFL Grand Final at the iconic Melbourne Cricket Ground until 2057.
The circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 spikes in Victoria and the further enforcement of Stage 3 restrictions could result in the Grand Final finding a new home in one of the sunnier states of Australia. Which grounds are most likely to become host to the ultimate game of the 2020 season if Victoria continues to remain in lockdown?
Metricon Stadium has many factors in its favour. Being located in Queensland, where the majority of the AFL season is now set to be played, it is one of the safest and most convenient grounds for the AFL to consider if Victoria remains unavailable.
The whole state has only reported three new cases of COVID-19 in the past week, with only 13 active cases total. If all the teams based in Queensland stay isolated in their hotels all the way through to the finals series, the chances of the 2020 season reaching completion in the AFL’s expected timeframe, estimated to be mid-to-late October, is quite high.
The only downside to Metricon is the capacity of 25,000, significantly less than its own neighbour in the Gabba, or Optus Stadium in Perth. In terms of safety and risks to player’s health, Metricon seems the most likely.
The Gabba is another likely host for very similar reasons to Metricon, but with the added benefit of a capacity of 42,000 people. With Queensland’s case numbers dwindling, a full house being allowed in is not out of the question, and would serve as a huge financial boon to the AFL and the competing teams.
However, the Gabba is expected to host games for the ICC T20 World Cup as early as the 31st of October. If the Grand Final is played in late October, Cricket Australia and the ICC are sure to take issue with Gil and the AFL, and force the game elsewhere. Question marks still remain over international travel for the remainder of 2020, and if the World Cup is delayed, expect the Gabba to be at the forefront for the hosting role.
The biggest draw to get the Grand Final at Optus is the amount of bums the AFL could place on seats. A capacity of 60,000 and an often compared MCG-like atmosphere draws the attention of many AFL purists as one of the best stadiums in Australia.
West Australian Premier Marc McGowan has been notably unwilling to accommodate the Victorian teams, reluctantly allowing even two sides in Geelong and Collingwood to put up a hub there in order to play against West Coast and Fremantle. McGowan even threatened the WA teams to have to isolate away from their families for two weeks upon return from Queensland.
The headlines speak for themselves in the state’s reaction to the grand final relocation discussion.
Another ground being used for the Cricket World Cup, but not until the start of November, Adelaide Oval is a possible option. South Australia is one of the only states not still under COVID-19 restrictions that is allowing people from other states in, allowing Australians from Western Australia, Tasmania and the Northern Territory. This could allow for a wider variety of fans to attend the Grand Final, being able to travel from interstate.
ANZ Stadium is the second largest capacity stadium in Australia, behind the MCG, at 83,000 seats. With New South Wales set to suffer from a potential second wave, the state could also be put back into strict lockdown much like Victoria. The stadium was planned to be redeveloped at the start of July, but the NSW Government has cancelled the project, allowing for it to be used for AFL matches. The stadium is only hosting one NRL game for the rest of the year, leaving it open.
The SCG will similarly suffer from lockdown laws if New South Wales is forced to reinforce them. However, the ground is much less likely to be considered or cleared to be used by the ICC as it will be hosting seven matches for the Cricket World Cup.