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Monday, April 12, 2021

AFL grand final upset: night game at the Gabba

The historic bond between the AFL grand final and the MCG is yet another casualty of 2020, after today’s announcement the event will be played at the Gabba (Brisbane Cricket Ground) in Queensland in October.

AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan addressed media in the Queensland quarantine hub today (Wednesday 2 September), stating this would be the first time the AFL grand final had been played outside of Melbourne.

“Since the outset we said this season would be different. As I stand here today it has been exactly that. In a season like no other, in a year like no other,” he said.

The announcement put a halt to the $500 million contract between the Victorian Government and the Melbourne Cricket Club signed in 2018 for the event to be played at the MCG until 2057.

The announcement of the 2020 grand final relocation will see an extra year added to that agreement, and two extra round games played at the stadium during each of the 2022 and 2023 seasons.

It has also been agreed that Victoria will host the AFL National Draft in both 2021 and 2022.

Queensland were the red-hot favourites to win the race to host the grand final following their willingness to allow the AFL to use their state to continue the season after they were forced to flee the COVID-hit Victoria.

South Australia, Western Australia and New South Wales all presented strong commercial pitches to the AFL but were ultimately knocked back in favour of gratitude to the Sunshine State.

South Australia was announced as the back-up option, should any extraordinary circumstances see the game needing to shift away from Queensland.

McLachlan paid tribute to the Queensland Government for their support and said this was an exciting opportunity for the Queensland community.

“I want to thank the Queensland community and the Queensland Government, led by Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, for their support and for wholeheartedly welcoming our game to the state,” McLachlan said.

“This is an exciting opportunity for our code and we look forward to now working with the Queensland Government to successfully stage the 2020 Toyota AFL grand final – the biggest event on the AFL calendar – and share it with the community right across Queensland.

“The Queensland presentation was world class and, while the 2020 Toyota AFL Grand Final will be the centrepiece, an extensive promotional campaign for the sport of Australian Football, including multiple regional locations throughout Queensland, will bring fans closer to footy in the lead-up to the event and provide a lasting legacy.”

McLachlan also announced there would be a bye weekend between Round 18 and the start of finals, as well as the grand final being played at night-time. 

“In another historic first, the grand final will be scheduled for the night of Saturday 24 October with the exact time to be confirmed,” he said.

“The first ever time we have ever played our GF at night, giving us the opportunity to make it a truly unique event.”

There has often been debate about having a night grand final in recent seasons, but the AFL have been forced into it this season to avoid a clash with the Cox Plate which will be held at Moonee Valley on the same day.

The MCG has hosted the AFL grand final event every year but one since 1946, when it was played at Waverley Park (originally VFL Park) in Mulgrave, Victoria. It will be the first time in 123 years that the AFL grand final has been held outside of Victoria.

It is not yet clear exactly how many spectators will be admitted into the Gabba.

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