Official: Optus Stadium to host 2021 AFL Grand Final
The AFL Grand Final will be held away from Victoria for the second consecutive year, with Perth’s Optus Stadium to host the showpiece fixture on September 25.
AFL Chief Executive Gillon McLachlan made the official announcement at a press conference on Tuesday afternoon, after revealing last Wednesday that Perth would host the game if the MCG was unable to.
The league had been waiting for the Victorian Government to confirm it is unable to host the event due to its ongoing lockdown and Covid restrictions.
The AFL had previously committed to playing all finals matches in front of crowds, with the first weekend of the finals played at Adelaide Oval and UTAS Stadium in Launceston. Semi Finals will be played at Optus Stadium and the Gabba this weekend.
The AFL is keen to maximise the crowd attendance for the Grand Final, boosting commercial returns for the league that has suffered huge losses over the past two seasons.
Last year was the first time the Grand Final had been held outside the state, played at the Gabba instead of the MCG, in front of 29,707 spectators, with the stadium able to be filled to 70% of its capacity.
The Victorian Government agreed to relocating the game to Brisbane last year, on the condition another year was added to the existing contract, ensuring it would be played at the MCG until at least 2058, while the ground was guaranteed an extra two contracted games in each of the 2022 and 2023 seasons, taking the minimum number of AFL games at the ‘G in each year to 45.
Another year will be added to the existing contract again, extending it to 2059, while an additional eight matches will be played at the MCG over the next five seasons, and four AFLW matches will be played in regional Victoria over the next three seasons.
Optus Stadium will become the eighth venue to host the AFL Grand Final. As well as the MCG, it has also been played at the Gabba (2020), Waverley Park (1991), Princes Park (1942-43, 1945), Junction Oval (1898-99, 1944), Lakeside Oval (1901) and the East Melbourne Cricket Ground (1900).
A start time for this year's Grand Final has yet to be announced. Last year's game at the Gabba was the first played at night and it's believed a kick-off time of between 5-5:30pm is being considered for Perth, due to the two-hour time difference.
The 60,000-capacity Optus Stadium was considered the frontrunner to host the 2021 Grand Final, with the Adelaide Oval also pushing to host it.
Both Victoria and New South Wales remain in lockdown, with crowds not permitted to attend sport, while Queensland’s stadiums are now at 75% of capacity. View the latest Covid updates >
Optus Stadium is currently able to be filled to 100% of its 60,000 capacity, however there is a risk WA Premier Mark McGowan could block any crowd at all should Covid cases pop up in the week leading up to the game.
The AFL will not hesitate to push back its season decider into October and force a three-week break upon competing grand final teams if Perth is locked down with a last-minute Covid outbreak.
Last week, the AFL said presentations for each option considered five key criteria - Safety, Integrity, Fans, Financial and Legacy, all in the lead up to the code’s biggest game.
Optus Stadium in Perth ultimately was chosen as the preferred contingency based on the combination of the five key criteria and the ability to accommodate the greatest number of supporters.
Adelaide Oval was said to be a strong backup and the Queensland Government, which did not provide a formal presentation, had also offered their support if required after hosting the Grand Final and most of the competition last year.
Optus Stadium hosted the ‘Dreamtime in the West’ fixture between Essendon and Richmond earlier in the season after it was relocated from the MCG, with a crowd of 55,656 in attendance. The preliminary final featuring Melbourne is already locked in for the Perth venue on September 10.
The AFL scrapped the pre-finals bye this year, with the finals kicking-off last weekend after the home & away season wrapped up the previous Sunday.
Instead, there will be a weekend off before the Grand Final, allowing players to quarantine in Perth and participate in lead-up events including the Grand Final Parade and the Brownlow Medal which will be held on the Sunday prior.