The AFL grand final will be played at the Gabba in Brisbane on October 24, as the competition’s showpiece game leaves Victoria for the first time.
The premiership decider will be shifted from its usual afternoon time slot and be played at night, with at least 30,000 fans slated to attend the October 24 spectacle.
AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan says moving the grand final was the “biggest decision of all” in a season disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic.
The AFL Commission ruled on key criteria including safety, integrity of the competition, fan engagement, financial support for the game and long-term legacy.
“In another historic first, the grand final will be scheduled for the night of Saturday 24th of October, with the the exact start time to be confirmed,” McLachlan told reporters on Wednesday.
“The impacts of this pandemic … have meant we’ve had to take the game away from its home, the MCG, for one year.”
Adelaide Oval was on standby to host the grand final, should a COVID-19 outbreak in Queensland impact the planed Gabba game.
McLachlan said the game would be played in front of 30,000 people — however he said that if there were COVID-19 outbreaks that made it impossible to achieve this number, there was an ability to reduce the numbers or to move the game to Adelaide as a backup.
“It [moving the grand final to Adelaide] is not something we’re contemplating — but it’s prudent for us to have a back-up plan,” he said.
The shift was forced by Victoria’s COVID-19 breakout putting that state into lockdown, ruling out the grand final’s traditional venue, the MCG.
The grand final has been played away from the MCG only once in the last 74 years, when Melbourne’s Waverley Park hosted the 1991 game because of MCG construction works.
State governments of Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia and New South Wales bid to host the match.
But Queensland was always in the box seat given the assistance the state has provided to the AFL to help keep the season afloat.
Queensland has hosted numerous clubs in hubs and the majority of home-and-away games have been played in the state.
The time slot will avoid a clash with horse racing’s Cox Plate and appeal to broadcasters, who expect a massive television audience in prime time.
Premiership contenders West Coast (Optus Stadium) and Port Adelaide (Adelaide Oval) are expected to host any home finals at their regular home grounds in the lead-up to the grand final.