The AFL’s hopes of a later-than-usual Grand Final at Marvel Stadium may be impacted by the existing contract between the venue and BBL team Melbourne Renegades.
With the 2020 AFL season currently suspended, the league is hopeful of getting in a 17-round season (down from 23), plus finals, and are prepared to play matches right up until Christmas, with the players already having made themselves available.
The Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) is contracted to host the AFL Grand Final until at least 2057 as part of a deal that saw the Victorian Government invest $225 for the redevelopment of the Docklands stadium. However, this isn’t any ordinary season.
The Grand Final is traditionally held on the last Saturday of September, but further delays may push this date back and the MCG, along with other major Australian stadiums, is set to be handed over to the ICC on 10 for the staging of the T20 World Cup.
The tournament runs from October 18 until mid-November, with the MCG, Adelaide Oval and SCG all due to host games in the latter stages of the tournament. Optus Stadium will also host matches until October 30. The final, is due to take place on November 15 at the MCG, which is the world’s biggest (and arguably most iconic) cricket ground.
Marvel Stadium has been mentioned as a possible finals and Grand Final venue should the MCG be unavailable, which would prevent some 44,000 fans from attending the showpiece event.
While the multi-purpose stadium won’t host any T20 World Cup matches, BBL franchise Melbourne Renegades does call it home.
Cricket doesn’t take control until December 16 however, meaning it’ll only be an issue if the AFL season really is delayed heavily.
In any case, the AFL would likely flex their muscles and seek to delay or even relocate BBL from Marvel Stadium. Last year, the Renegades didn’t play their first game at the venue until December 29 and across its five matches, attracted an average crowd of 17,741 at the 56,000-capacity stadium.
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It remains to be seen if the ICC T20 World Cup will commence as scheduled or be delayed/postponed due to COVID-19, similar to other major worldwide events including the Olympics. That may make life easier for the AFL and allow matches to be played at regular stadiums if the finals were delayed for a month or two.
The AFL owns Marvel Stadium and on Monday, secured a $500 million loan from the NAB and ANZ banks to protect the league’s future. The AFL can essentially borrow against the stadium, which it acquired in October 2016 for approximately $200 million.
It makes Marvel the league’s biggest asset, with some valuing it at more than one billion dollars and puts it well ahead of other major sporting competitions in the country.
There has also been some talk of a best-of-three AFL Grand Final series to determine the 2020 Premiership, however that would appear unlikely given the AFL is attempting to shorten the season.
Following the opening round of the season, which was played behind closed doors, the AFL season has been suspended until at least May 31, however it appears unlikely the season will recommence until several weeks after that date. There’s also a chance the season may be abandoned entirely, however that is worse-case scenario.
The NRL recently told its clubs the season must commence by September 1 at the latest (with a shortened 15-round season running through to Christmas), otherwise the season would be abandoned. The earliest date it would return is June.