AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan remains confident that the 2021 AFL Grand Final will be played at the MCG despite the most recent Melbourne lockdown.
However, in the event that it turns unlikely and a change of venue is needed on short notice, a contingency plan has been drawn up by the AFL that could see a swift move interstate at the last minute if need-be.
The AFL currently has a contract with the Melbourne Cricket Club that sees the MCG host the Grand Final until 2058.
There was a growing confidence crowds in Melbourne would be back in some capacity before the completion of the season and just in time for finals and the Grand Final.
But the Melbourne lockdown has made that vision blurry, which has prompted a quick move by McLachlan and the AFL to discuss and form other plans.
Perth's Optus Stadium is likely to be the favourite to host the Grand Final should a move be made, with South Australia's Adelaide Oval and The Gabba in Brisbane other potential options.
Optus Stadium has a capacity of 60,000 people and the success of the Dreamtime match earlier in the season between Richmond and Essendon showed the stadium could be ready to host a Grand Final if that was to happen.
Speaking on 3AW, McLachlan said that although the plan is to play the Grand Final at the MCG, contingency plans were needed, particularly with the most recent Melbourne lockdown.
“I just want to be really clear; our view and our expectation is that we are playing the grand final at the MCG,” McLachlan said.
“However, I reckon if you have seen this week, the fact that at 11am yesterday (Thursday) there was a press conference, they (Victorian government) were looking at (a lockdown), and by 4.30pm or something we were in lockdown, things can move very fast.
“It is with the blessing and the understanding of the Victorian government, we are chatting to all states we think it is possible to see if we went into a snap lockdown leading into a grand final, what are the contingencies we need to have in place.
“We are not just chatting to WA, we are chatting to all of the other venues that are relevant – respectfully, not NSW – to say: ‘Listen, if we needed to at very short notice, ie days, how would the logistics work?’”
McLachlan added the integrity of the finals series is what will be first preference and a decision will be left as late as possible in order to have the potential of crowds.
“What I know and can say … is that the integrity of the finals is our priority and getting crowds there is a close second, having the energy and the finish this season deserves. We will leave all decisions as late as we can,” he said.
“The health of our communities and our supporters is clearly going to be our priority and we will work with health, but then we will explore the options to have crowds within that envelope.”
The AFL has three rounds remaining before a pre-finals bye and then the beginning of the finals series, with the Grand Final set to be played on the 25th of September.