AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan remains confident the 2021 grand final will be played at the MCG, but says the league has drawn up contingency plans to move it interstate even if it’s just days before the showpiece event.
Victoria’s seven-day lockdown has cast doubt on whether Melbourne will be in a position to host finals games in 2021.
AFL crowds in Melbourne were due to return next week, but those plans have been shelved while the state awaits to see how long it will take to quash its latest outbreak.
With just three more rounds and a bye remaining before finals, the AFL has approached several states to see whether they would be able to host the grand final at short notice.
Western Australia, home of the 60,000-seat Optus Stadium, would be the frontrunner if the AFL couldn’t host the grand final at the MCG.
Venues in Queensland and Adelaide Oval in South Australia are other major options up the AFL’s sleeve.
NSW has already been ruled out due to its chaotic COVID-19 outbreak.
McLachlan stressed he still expected the grand final to be played at the MCG, even saying the integrity of the finals would have a higher priority than the number of fans who will be able to attend games.
But if the grand final – or any finals for that matter – need to be moved, the AFL has come up with a plan B, C and D.
“Our view and our expectation is we’ll be playing the grand final at the MCG,” McLachlan told 3AW on Friday.
However … things can move very fast.
“It is with the blessing and the understanding of the Victorian government that we are chatting to all states … to see that if we went into a snap lockdown leading into the grand final, what are the contingencies we need to have in place?
“We’re not just chatting to WA, we are chatting to all our other venues … to say that if we needed to [move the grand final] at very short notice, that is days, how would the logistics work?”
WA Premier Mark McGowan confirmed the AFL had contacted his office on Thursday about the prospect of the grand final coming to Perth as a contingency plan.
“I know other states would crawl over broken glass for it,” Mr McGowan said.
“Obviously we’re a football state … it would be a wonderful event, historic and we’d like to see it, but it can only happen if it’s done in a safe way.
“Obviously we want to see Victoria and Melbourne recover. They’re doing a great job, they’re doing what is required.
“I’m confident they’ll get it under control but obviously there’s contingency planning going on.”
McLachlan said he would leave a decision on where finals games would be played as late as possible.