The West Australian Football Commission (WAFC) has declared Perth is in pole position to host the AFL Grand Final, with Victoria’s COVID-19 lockdown set to see the decider moved for the second-straight year.
- The AFL is expected to rule out an MCG Grand Final this week
- Perth Stadium’s capacity is 5,000 greater than Adelaide Oval
- WA Premier Mark McGowan says health protocols will remain tight
The AFL is yet to rule out the game being played at the MCG but that is expected to happen this week, with no realistic prospect of large numbers of fans being allowed at sporting events in Victoria by the September 25 Grand Final date.
WA and South Australia are the main contenders to host the biggest game on the football calendar, with both state governments having made their cases to the AFL.
When hosting events without COVID crowd restrictions, Perth Stadium has a capacity of 60,000, more than 5,000 greater than Adelaide Oval.
But after a recent outbreak in Adelaide that capacity will be reduced to just 15,000 for this weekend’s first round of finals.
Perth should be ‘in pole position’ as replacement
WAFC chairman Wayne Martin said while it made sense for the AFL to give Victoria every chance to get on top of its outbreak in time for the last Saturday in September, Perth is the ideal replacement.
“I think we should be in pole position, and hopefully it’ll all come to pass,” he said.
“I don’t blame the Victorian government, you could understand why they would want to cling to the hope of having the Grand Final at the MCG, and they probably won’t say die until it’s inevitable they can’t hold it there.”
Mr Martin said the list of benefits from holding the game in Perth should make it an easy decision for the AFL.
“You only need to look around now to see what a great advantage we’ve got to offer in Perth, and on a beautiful sunny day like this we can offer weather advantages as well,” he said from Perth Stadium.
“If the health situation remains the same, we can be confident there wouldn’t be crowd restrictions, and hopefully the risk of any crowd restrictions is lower here given the natural geographic advantage we’ve got in terms of being a long distance away from COVID.”
‘We’ve got less time than it might feel’
AFL general manager of clubs and broadcasting, Travis Auld, said a decision was fast approaching.
“I’d like to think in the coming days we’d have a view on where the Grand Final will be played,” he said.
“It’s five weeks away, the Grand Final, but if you think ahead of that, to prepare ourselves for a preliminary final and work backwards, we’ve got less time than it might feel like to make that decision.
“The main decision that needs to be made is can we hold a Grand Final in Victoria at the MCG? If we can’t, the next decision is where about.
“We’ve been in conversations … particularly with the West Australian government and the South Australian government; both have put together very compelling pictures to host a Grand Final.”
Despite advocating for the game to be moved to WA, Premier Mark McGowan continued to stress that the state’s health protocols would remain as strict as ever, and he would not be making any compromises.
“If it comes here we’ll make sure that the rules, and the restrictions, and the protocols are very careful and very tight,” he said.
“That’s what we put to the AFL, I expect they’ll make a decision over the coming week.
“It’s obviously something that will reach a conclusion soon.
“I know that the Victorian Government is keen to keep it there, but it may well be impossible.”
The finals begin this weekend, with two matches each in Adelaide and Launceston, while none of the venues for the remaining three weekends of finals have been decided.
The AFL is set to schedule a bye at some point of the finals series, with its preference for it to take place the week before the Grand Final.