The hottest topic in WA that isn’t the WA border or Clive Palmer is the AFL grand final.
Irrelevant of where the AFL Grand Final is held this year the AFL needs to start thinking differently when it comes to their biggest day.
First of all, lets take a step back as we have to picture a world where COVID-19 is no longer an issue not just in Australia but also worldwide. We have a working vaccine and herd immunity throughout the world.
Not so easy, but fingers crossed possible in 2021.
Now that COVID-19 is a thing of the past, the AFL need to now more than ever think bigger picture and out from the shadows of their VFL ways.
To hold arguably Australia’s biggest sporting event until the end of time in one venue is primitive thinking. It doesn’t benefit footy and it doesn’t benefit the greater good of Australia.
What would benefit the AFL is to implement a Super Bowl style AFL grand final with a different city playing host each season – irrelevant of who is playing.
The lineup of host cities would include Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide, Perth and Brisbane.
That is not a bad lineup of cities to host the event each year and here is how/why it should happen.
Sorry MCG, not sorry!
Show us it’s a national game
It’s no secret, especially here in Western Australia that the AFL is seen as the VFL. If we are thinking no doubt South Australia, New South Wales and Queensland are thinking the same.
The AFL needs to for the first time show in a significant move that they are in-fact a game for the nation and not just for the state of Victoria.
What this would do by making it a truly national game and moving the grand final around each year is that the AFL would have more of a chance of bringing on new AFL fans – especially with kids being swept up in all the excitement that the grand final is coming to town.
This might then mean significant uptick in Auskick registrations the next season, which ultimately could mean the AFL could steal potential future stars away from other codes (ie rugby and soccer).
It might also result in new fans for possible interstate clubs as clubs would have the chance to win over a state if they are both from outside of the state. Which in turn significantly increase fan engagement across the nation.
States have to meet strict criteria to be able to host the Grand Final
With the Super Bowl cities have to meet a certain criteria in order to be able to host the Super Bowl. For example stadiums have to have a capacity of at least 70,000 and of course the lights, tech and media capabilities to hold such an event extravaganza.
Obviously we don’t have many 70,000 seat stadiums in Australia but what this would mean if the AFL was to set a specific criteria?
With the Super Bowl hosts are chosen years in advance giving cities the chance to prepare. This means we could see a lift in the quality of stadiums around Australia.
If stadium improvements and upgrades are needed in some states, knowing that they will host the grand final in 2 years time and then every subsequent 5 years means states can improve current stadiums as it would be investing in their state’s economy, creating jobs and providing a better product for the fans and the players.
For example, the GABBA is far from a world-class venue like the MCG and Optus Stadium, but I’m sure the Queensland government would invest in upgrades to be able to host the AFL grand final regularly.
This would also have benefits for Australia winning World Cup events and other major sporting events as we would have increase stadium capabilities across the country.
Tourism benefits spread around
AFL grand final weekend is a multi-million dollar boom for Victoria year in year out. Is it fair that they can continue to pencil the event into their state budgets spreadsheet each year?
While Western Australia, South Australia, New South Wales and Queensland all play a pivotal role in promoting the game and generating significant revenue for the AFL, these states miss out on the big day and the big cash bonus that comes with the tourism effect of the grand final weekend.
Imagine a hub of activity around the Optus Stadium precinct in the lead up to the grand final, family zone pop-ups with footy activities, old games playing on the BHP Amphitheatre big screen around the clock.
Legends of the game would coming over to do talks and signings.
Bars and restaurants would go into over-drive to host all the fans.
It would be everything a footy fan could ask for.
Home field advantage
Depending on the season and where the grand final is to be held there might not be any home field advantage, but most importantly Victoria based clubs won’t continue to always have the upper hand come the big day.
It wouldn’t matter anymore if Richmond has had 8 games in a row at the G if they have to then play the grand final in Perth.
The league would actually become more even, but just wait til West Coast or Fremantle make the grand final against a Victorian team and its played in Perth.
You can hear the cries now!
Competitiveness between states
Let’s be honest no state will want to be outdone by the previous grand final holder, this would then results in an event that’s bigger and better each year.
We all know that Perth wouldn’t want Adelaide or Brisbane to out shine them.
The other option is let’s not change anything making sure:
- The game continues to be a slight variation of the VFL
- Fan bases won’t grow significantly in other states
- Venues around Australia won’t improve
- Tourism dollars aren’t being spread around Australia
- Richmond and Collingwood can enjoy their run of games at the MCG
- Melbourne and Victorians will be happy
- The AFL Grand Final will continue to be copy and paste event until the end of time
All of this though is just a pipe dream as the only question and most important question is how does the AFL get out of the ‘AFL Grand Final to be held at the MCG until the end of time’ contract?
If they can figure that out – then maybe we can start to think bigger and make the AFL Grand Final a Super Bowl event – the event it should be.
Feature image: EPA/LARRY W. SMITH
Further Perth news on SoPerth.com.au.