The 2021 AFL Grand Final Will Be Held in Perth If the MCG Isn't Permitted to Host a Crowd
If Melbourne remains under lockdown or venue restrictions preclude the MCG from hosting spectators, Perth's Optus Stadium will host AFL's biggest game of the year.
For the second year in a row — and only the second time in the more than three decades that the country's professional Aussie Rules competition has called itself the Australian Football League — the AFL grand final might be hosted outside of Melbourne. AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan has announced that the code will shift the biggest game of the 2021 season to Perth's Optus Stadium if the Victorian capital is still under lockdown, or if the Melbourne Cricket Ground is unable to welcome in spectators.
In 2020, the AFL made the move to the Brisbane Cricket Ground, aka the Gabba, due to Melbourne's lengthy stint of stay-at-home conditions. Now, a year later, the city is currently under lockdown for the sixth time during the pandemic, which is set to remain in place at this stage until Thursday, September 2. Whether the stay-at-home rules will ease then as planned is yet to be seen, with Victoria's new locally acquired COVID-19 case numbers hovering between 40–71 since Thursday, August 19. And, if lockdown does end before the scheduled grand final date on Saturday, September 25, whether Melbourne's stadiums will be permitted to host crowds under post-lockdown restrictions is similarly unknown.
Announcing the news on Wednesday, August 25, AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan said that "if we're unable to play at the MCG, the Grand Final will be at Optus Stadium... The capacity available at Optus Stadium is 100 percent and that's pretty compelling to have as many people as we can see the biggest and best sporting event in the country," he continued.
Optus Stadium can 60,000 people, and the AFL is expected to make a final decision sometime during the week beginning Monday, August 30. That's the same week that the lockdown not just in Melbourne but also in all of Victoria is currently set to end — and that the city's and state's residents will learn if it's being extended.
Perth will host the 2021 Toyota AFL Grand Final, if the MCG cannot hold the event in front of crowds.
— AFL (@AFL) August 25, 2021
In 2020, the AFL also nominated a backup stadium in the event that cases surged in Brisbane. If the game is held in Perth, it's likely either Adelaide Oval or the Gabba could be named as backups.
Moving the game to Perth also means that 2020's night grand final won't be repeated due to the time difference between Australia's west and east coasts. McLachlan said that the AFL would be looking at an afternoon or twilight time slot.
A Perth grand final won't feature any Western Australian AFL teams, however, with both the West Coast Eagles and the Fremantle Dockers failing to make the code's finals season.
Just like last year, it really shouldn't have taken three decades for a competition that's not only named after the entire country, but that changed its moniker in 1990 to reflect the fact that it was no longer just about Victoria, to host its deciders in other cities. Before 2020, the grand final had actually been played at venues other than the MCG before — but still in Melbourne.
The MCG remains contracted to host the grand final for a significant period moving forward, however, with its contact originally running through until 2057, then extended until 2058 as part of the agreement to allow the game to be played at the Gabba in 2020. If the move to Perth happens this year, it wouldn't be surprising if the arrangement with the MCG will be extended again.
If you're a Victorian — whether you've been missing the footy over the past month, or you're not fussed about the sport at all — you might be wondering about the usual pre-grand final public holiday. Last year, even with the game being played in Brisbane, the holiday still went ahead. What'll happen this year hasn't been revealed as yet.
The 2021 AFL Grand Final will take place on Saturday, September 25 — at the MCG if it is able to host a crowd, or at Optus Stadium in Perth otherwise. A final decision is expected during the week beginning Monday, August 30, and you can read more about the current details on the AFL website.
Top image: Optus Stadium, Government of Western Australia.
Published on August 26, 2021 by Sarah Ward