AFL comes clean on grand final decision
THE AFL has decided against staging a contentious twilight grand final this year, sticking with a 2.30pm start time.
League chief executive Gillon McLachlan made the announcement at Thursday night's AFL season launch.
The league had to withstand a strong fan backlash over the weekend after AFL commission boss Richard Goyder seemed to indicate change was coming.
McLachlan said on Thursday night: "The grand final is the high point of the Australian sporting calendar. A magical day for the competing clubs, footy fans and our industry as a whole.
"While we will continue to explore the possibility of a later start time in the future, it was recommended and ratified today (at the AFL Commission meeting) that the traditional 2.30pm start time will remain for 2019."
Collingwood president Eddie McGuire disputed the decision, saying the league was wasting money investing into the northern states if it would not maximise its TV ratings for the AFL's flagship game.
"If you want to have any entertainment you need to have the twilight grand final," McGuire said.
"If you want to be the number one rating show in Australia, you have got to have it on in prime time. It's the whole idea of prime time. It means more people see it.
"No point trying to spending $200m into the northern states trying to establish a beachhead if people can't see the biggest event of the year.
"It is a no-brainer to me, the sooner we do it the better."
Fans had become increasingly nervous about the AFL pulling the trigger after Goyder said on Saturday that a twilight contest which hit dark by half-time would allow the AFL to "really put on a show".
"While we're all traditionalists, a twilight Grand Final with the right entertainment would be amazing,'' Goyer said.
Introducing a twilight grand final in 2020 - the fourth year of a six-season TV broadcast deal - would be ideal timing considering the league would soon begin negotiating its next TV deal.
The last TV deal was worth $1.25 billion.
McLachlan said as recently as last season that he believed a twilight Grand Final was likely in the life of the 2017-2022 broadcast deal.
"I feel it's inevitable at some point … one day we'll do it and I don't know when that will be."
It was reported last year an AFL grand final with mid-game entertainment would require a 28-minute break at half-time.
It would provide a challenge for AFL sports scientists to ensure the players kept warm in one of the most bruising AFL contests of the season.
AFL legend Jonathan Brown on Thursday urged the league to abandon tradition and try the twilight format.
"Just do it. To be honest if we want to keep growing the game and make it more popular for people who aren't AFL fans or want the reach, the whole package is not only the game but the entertainment around it."
But Sydney premiership coach Paul Roos believes tradition remains critical in the AFL world.
"Don't change it,'' Roos said. "We already have a great event and if it's not broken don't try to fix it. You don't change for change sake.
"It's an amazing day, a great event with a great game, so I am a massive proponent of the 2.30pm start. I love it.''