The AFL is expected to announce the start time for this year’s Grand Final as early as tomorrow (Friday), with a twilight move tipped.
The AFL Commission has made its decision on the decider, but it was not announced on Thursday as the league instead confirmed the new AFLW pay deal.
The Grand Final began at 7:15pm EST last year while played at Perth’s Optus Stadium, and at 6:30pm EST at Brisbane’s Gabba in 2020.
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A return to the traditional 2:30pm start time appears unlikely with the Herald Sun reporting an expected move at 4:30pm at the MCG, which will see the game end under lights, but not so late that post-match ceremonies and functions can’t be held.
A night Grand Final has already been ruled out.
“It was discussed (at the commission meeting on Wednesday),” AFL CEO Gill McLachlan said on Thursday
“I think today is about (AFLW). Let’s radiate that today and I’m sure we’ll have an update in coming days.”
Footy Classified’s Caroline Wilson and Eddie McGuire fiercely debated the topic on Channel 9’s program on Wednesday night, and whether it was right to move the game.
For the second straight year huge TV ratings endorse such a move from a commercial perspective, with Melbourne’s 2021 premiership win over the Western Bulldogs watched on Channel 7 by 3.006 million metro viewers and 3.910 million nationally — the most watched AFL Grand Final since 2016.
By comparison, the 2019 Grand Final between Richmond and GWS — the last decider played in Victoria and at the traditional 2.30pm slot — yielded 2.197 million metro viewers and 2.90 million nationally.
It also comes in the midst of a 2022 season where AFL crowd attendances are down, drawing an average of 31,005 people compared to 37,250 in 2019 — the last non-Covid impacted campaign.
As such, former Collingwood president and Channel 9 boss McGuire firmly put his support behind the league moving the grand final to a twilight fixture, highlighting it would help pay for the AFL’s CBA agreements for men and women.
Meanwhile Wilson, who’s long campaigned to maintain AFL traditions, was diametrically opposed, leading to an intense square off between the two.
Below is the full exchange from Footy Classified including input from former St Kilda and Fremantle coach Ross Lyon and Essendon legend Matthew Lloyd.
Wilson: “I think it would be nice, given that the grand final hasn’t been at the ‘G’ since 2019, it would be great to see an afternoon grand final and I dispute the fact that the media rights are going to be worth that much more money if the grand finale is played in twilight.”
McGuire: “’Caro’, I just can’t be vehemently more opposed to you. AFLW, AFLM, Covid deficit, possible class actions, Tasmania, half the clubs are still insolvent and you want to go in with half the ratings? They’ll drop two million people if it’s played on a Saturday afternoon.”
Lyons: “What does that equal to in a metric? Because we all say day or twilight — what’s the metric between the two? How many millions of dollars?”
Wilson: “It’s not all about money, Ross.”
McGuire: “Yeah it is, it is!”
Wilson: “No, it’s about the heart of the game. How many traditions do you strip away?”
Lyons: “Do you (Wilson) want gender equity in the suburbs? You can roll your eyes Caroline but someone’s got to pay.”
Wilson: “It’s one game, the game is not going to live or die on an afternoon or twilight grand final. Ed throws up 2019, it was Richmond-GWS, who no one really supports.”
Lyons: “Do you (Wilson) know the metric?”
Wilson: “No, but the broadcasters tell me that the money is not that significantly different. Yes, obviously the ratings are higher.”
McGuire: “That’s the broadcasters who said they weren’t going to put any more money in and who gave everyone a haircut when Covid came in. Suddenly there’s some overseas fair dinkum money coming in, and at $1.68 earlier today, it’s getting cheaper for the overseasers by the second. This is the thing people have got to get past this Cinderella thing that we have. We do live in the real world in the AFL. If the women want to get more money — and so they should — someone’s got to pay for it.”
Wilson: “It’s one game, Ed. It’s not going to change everything.”
Lyons: “I like your (McGuire) perspective because it’s a club president perspective. You understand the cost of a club.”
McGuire: “This is from a business (outlook). I’ll tell you more than that mate, I’ll give you the tip. When Mr. Amazon, Mr. Paramount comes to the table and says, ‘What are the top shows?’, and it’s got Married At First Sight and all the rest of it, because we left 2 million people on the table in Queensland and New South Wales-”
Wilson: “They look at the whole-”
McGuire: “Let me finish. Sorry Caro, I wouldn’t know, I’ve only done the negotiations and ran a footy club for 23 years. I’ll tell you what’s going on: we need to get the money in. If it’s two hours difference and it makes you get two to two and a half million more people in the areas that we’ve spent $100 million to try and get people to watch, why wouldn’t we put it on at night if we’ re trying to get Queensland to build the game? In the No.1 and No.3 markets in Australia, why would we make it as hard as possible? It’s called ‘prime time’ for a reason.”
Wilson: “I don’t think you’ll get another 1000 kids in Greater Western Sydney giving up soccer to play Australian rules footy-”
Lyons: “What do you lose?”
Wilson: “What do you gain? (You lose) another tradition.”
McGuire: “Caro, stop for a second. Caro, Caro! Stop please.”
Wilson: “Ed, there’s no need to shout.”
McGuire: “They play ring tin tin on a Saturday afternoon. It’s not about getting them to play, it’s getting them to watch and see the ads, and if you’re prepared to leave $50 million on the table and have us be behind three State of Origin games and an NRL grand final at a time where we’re fighting for our lives because the ratings are off and people aren’t turning up to games, you’ve got to be off your head. I think the AFL commission are absolutely derelict in their duty if they do not have a good look at this and I don’t want to hear ‘Oh, we’re keeping the bounce’. Three weeks ago they wanted to keep the bounce, now they’ve banned it for women.”
Lyons: “Slow down. Is it $50 million? Is that what you (McGuire) think it is? Because you can’t leave $50 million on the table.”
McGuire: “Mate it could be $100 million.Who knows, it doesn’t matter.”
Matthew Lloyd: “It’s a great argument because there’s a lot of people who would agree with tradition, so I understand the argument. The passion and seeing the side from a money perspective and the tradition, but it’s just a matter of time before it goes in that direction.”
McGuire: “Mate, I love the tradition, but we don’t play six games on a Saturday anymore. Can I just say this? we’ve got 1350 mouths to feed just playing footy, forget about grassroots, forget about all the other stuff we have to do. Where’s the money coming from? Caro didn’t want to put up the Northern Stand at the MCG because of tradition. It was cancer-ridden, there were leather seats that were made out of-”
Wilson: “No I didn’t, that’s not true!”
McGuire: “Hey, don’t make me go and find your column because I’ve got it indelibly marked up here (points to his head).”
Wilson: “That is an absolutely wicked lie, Ed! Stop it.”