AFL 2021 grand final to be played in Perth after MCG ruled out due to Covid-19

  • Optus Stadium confirmed to host premiership decider
  • Showpiece game moved for second straight year

The 2021 grand final will be played in Perth for the first time in AFL history after the game’s spiritual home, the MCG, was ruled out of hosting the showpiece game due to the ongoing Covid-19 lockdown in Victoria.

The AFL chief executive, Gillon McLachlan, and the Victorian sports minister, Martin Pakula, confirmed the switch at a press conference on Tuesday, after Optus Stadium had been officially named standby venue last week.

The league had made it clear it wanted to hold the premiership decider in front of fans, but with the lockdown in Melbourne extending beyond the initial 2 September deadline – and as Victoria recorded another 76 local cases on Tuesday – the MCG was no longer a viable option.

“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 this year in front of a crowd,” McLachlan said.

The match in Perth will be held on Saturday 25 September, at a time still to be determined.

Pakula said the Victorian government had held off on making a decision as long as possible, to give Melbourne the best possible chance of hosting the grand final, but with the match now just three and a half weeks away, the AFL had reached a point where clarity and certainty on plans were required.

“It wouldn’t be responsible for us to risk the health of Victorians by rushing back to crowds at a point where it is not safe to do so,” Pakula said.

“It is a decision that is in the best interests of football. We would not seek to hold the AFL to the arrangement of holding a grand final to an empty stadium. It wouldn’t be right for the game, for the fans, and it isn’t something we were ever inclined to do.”

It is the second time in as many years the grand final has been moved from the MCG due to the pandemic after last season’s premiership decider was played at the Gabba in Queensland – the first time the game had been played outside the sport’s traditional home of Victoria and just the second time in the past 75 years a VFL/AFL grand final had been held anywhere but the MCG.

Before the official confirmation came, Victoria’s premier, Daniel Andrews, indicated he was reluctant to let the showpiece game leave its traditional home, but was willing for health experts to make the call.

“I know that finals footy and the grand final is a spiritual thing. It’s part of our soul as a city and state, but no football match is worth putting people in hospital, it just isn’t,” said Andrews.

“This is a global pandemic and we have to make decisions that are based on the very best evidence. I will leave it to others to make announcements about that event.”

Victorian AFL fans can expect some sort of compensation for missing out on the grand final for a second straight season – a year has been added to the agreement with the MCC, the guardians of the MCG, to extend the current deal to 2059.

McLachlan had a message to any Victorian AFL fans left disappointed by the decision.

“To all Victorians, we will be back at the MCG bigger and better in 2022,” he said. “You have stuck by our game all year, and I know how hard it has been, especially how challenging it has been for the community of football. It has been a tricky season, not only for the AFL, but for all your leagues.

“I want you to know that priority of the AFL to have you back up and running for next season as you have our support.”

But Victoria’s loss is Western Australia’s gain, and McLachlan thanked the state’s premier, Mark McGowan, and his government for stepping into the breach to play host.

“Western Australian footy fans are as passionate as any in the country and the stadium in Perth, with a capacity crowd of 60,000 in attendance, will be a great spectacle, not only for the city of Perth but for all footy fans around the world.”

Contributor

Mike Hytner

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
AFL grand final to be played outside Melbourne for first time in history, Daniel Andrews confirms
Victoria’s premier confirms that the coronavirus outbreak will force the game’s relocation interstate

Guardian sport

24, Aug, 2020 @5:47 AM

Article image
‘So full of life and love, so sad inside’: how Jacinda Barclay’s death could help us understand concussion in sport
When the fearless, open-hearted athlete took her own life in October, the shock was immense. Now her family is determined to find out why

Stephanie Convery in Perth

30, Apr, 2021 @2:57 AM

Article image
AFL accused of exploitation after dancers asked to perform for free at grand final
Arts industry, which has been hard-hit by pandemic, says incident is ‘a real representation of what we do and don’t value in this country’

Mike Hytner and Stephanie Convery

28, Sep, 2020 @1:53 AM

Article image
AFL fans play the waiting game before all-Melbourne grand final in Perth
Big wins from the Melbourne Demons and Western Bulldogs in their preliminary finals have set up a tantalising grand final

Jonathan Horn

12, Sep, 2021 @5:30 PM

Article image
My favourite game: North Adelaide v Glenelg, 1987 SANFL grand final | Scott Heinrich
A crowd of 50,617 were present at Football Park to witness a masterclass by the Roosters

Scott Heinrich

28, Mar, 2020 @7:00 PM

Article image
Tigers' Trent Cotchin cleared by match review panel to play AFL grand final
Richmond have been given a huge boost ahead of their first AFL grand final appearance for 35 years after the match review panel cleared their influential captain, Trent Cotchin

Guardian sport

25, Sep, 2017 @1:31 AM

Article image
If there was an AFL grand final Melbourne deserved, it’s this one. Wish I was there | Paul Daley
I’m imagining an empty G. I’ll try to be happy for mates in Perth but I’ve got serious Melbourne fomo

Paul Daley

24, Sep, 2021 @5:03 AM

Article image
Former AFL player Ben Cousins arrested after police pursuit in Perth
Police confirm they arrested a 36-year-old Bicton man and charged him with reckless driving, failing to stop and failure to comply with a breath test request

Calla Wahlquist

12, Mar, 2015 @12:12 AM

Article image
Tigers into grand final with Adelaide after disposing of Giants: AFL preliminary final – as it happened
Goal-by-goal report: Adelaide and Richmond will play off in the AFL grand final next week after the Tigers’ big win over GWS

Kate O'Halloran

23, Sep, 2017 @9:51 AM

Article image
Why Optus Stadium is the right fit for Nicky Winmar statue | Sean Gorman
What needs to be understood is the deep connection to country that Aboriginal identity has

Sean Gorman

13, Jun, 2018 @6:00 PM