Perth to hold 2021 AFL grand final as locked-down Victoria loses event

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Perth’s Optus Stadium will hold the AFL grand final for the first time after an MCG decider was officially ruled out.

On Tuesday, the Victorian government conceded the state’s latest coronavirus outbreak and lockdown would result in the grand final being moved away from the MCG for the second successive year.

The showpiece game is scheduled for September 25, which will allow for a pre-grand final bye.

A time slot has not yet been confirmed, however, the grand final appears likely to be a twilight fixture in Perth to allow it to be broadcast in prime time on the east coast of Australia.

“It has become clear as we continue to navigate through these challenges that it wouldn’t be in the best interests of the community to host a grand final at the MCG in front of no crowd,” AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan said Tuesday.

As part of the decision to move this year’s grand final, the long-term contract in place that grants the MCG hosting rights for the annual season decider has been extended to 2059.

The MCG will also host an extra eight games over the next five AFL seasons, while four AFLW matches will be taken to regional Victoria over the coming three seasons.

Victoria will also host the AFL draft until 2023, with this year’s edition expected to be held as a virtual event.

“This is a decision made in the best interests of the health and safety of Victorians as we continue to drive down the current outbreak,” Victorian Sports Minister Martin Pakula said.

“It’s also in the best interests of football – if the grand final can be played in front of supporters, then it should be.

“We look forward to the grand final returning to its traditional home at the MCG in 2022 and for decades beyond.”

Victorian remains in a strict lockdown as 76 local virus cases were confirmed Tuesday.

Premier Daniel Andrews said the state could only expect “modest changes” to its restrictions in the near future, as Victoria’s COVID infections remained stubbornly high.

His government and health authorities will spend much of the remainder of Tuesday thrashing out the details, which will include thresholds for rule changes.

This year will be the second successive grand final to be held outside of Victoria, after Brisbane’s Gabba ground hosted the 2020 event.

The state governments of Western Australia and South Australia put cases forward to host last year’s final.

-AAP

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