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AFL grand final moves to Perth, will be played at Optus Stadium

The September 25 date means there is a bye weekend between the preliminary final and grand final.

“Having an amount of [extra] time to get through quarantine and prepare to do justice to the biggest day in Australian sport,” McLachlan said.

Victorian Sports Minister Martin Pakula said the government took a long time to decide on sending the grand final elsewhere because it wanted to give “every opportunity” for the case numbers in the state to drop.

He said it was “extremely disappointing” but that “it wouldn’t be responsible” to host the game with fans in Melbourne.

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“It’s a decision that is in the best interests of football,” Mr Pakula said.

“I’ve said all along, we would not seek to hold the AFL to an arrangement to play a grand final in front of an empty stadium. That wouldn’t be right for the game. It wouldn’t be right for the fans,” he said.

Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said Victorians had done it tougher than most during COVID-19 and the footy season had brought some much-needed entertainment and relief.

“It’s a great shame that for the second year, the MCG will be empty on grand final day,” he said.

“As that one day in September is, for Victorians, much more than just a game. Let’s hope next year, the grand final can come home to the hallowed turf at the ’G.”

Victorian Liberal MP Cindy McLeish, the shadow minister for tourism, major events and sport, said losing the grand final for a second consecutive year was “a savage blow to the heart and soul of Victoria”.

Former Victorian premier and Geelong fan Denis Napthine said it was “absolutely disappointing” that Melbourne had again lost the grand final.

“It’s a bitter blow for Victorians. We are the home of football and we should host the grand final,” he said.

“It’s even more insulting that the state that has been the most difficult to deal with during the pandemic will get the biggest prize.”

In exchange for the move to Perth this year, an extra year has been added to the MCG’s contract to host the marquee match – until 2059.

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The MCG will also get an extra eight AFL matches over five years from 2022-2026, and four additional AFLW matches will be played in regional Victoria over a three-year period.

“We will be back at the MCG bigger and better in 2022,” McLachlan said. “You have stuck by our game all year, and I know how hard it has been, especially how challenging it has been from a community football sense.”

He said a Perth grand final would deliver the best experience.

“West 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 an amazing spectacle.

AFL chief Gillon McLachlan (pictured), along with Victorian Sports Minister Martin Pakula, announced that this year’s grand final would be held in Perth.

AFL chief Gillon McLachlan (pictured), along with Victorian Sports Minister Martin Pakula, announced that this year’s grand final would be held in Perth.Credit:Justin McManus

“An AFL operations team [of about 25 to 30 people] will soon be based in Perth after completing quarantine and will work with the West Australian government on the upcoming plans with further details to be released in the coming weeks.

“This is the biggest single day of sport in Australia’s calendar and we’re going to do it properly. Perth’s going to do it properly and we’re going to lead in properly and that’s the opportunity by playing in Western Australia.”

Mr McGowan said it was a “happy and historic day” for Western Australia and the grand final had been secured on WA’s own terms with strong COVID-19 protocols.

“They’ve been like acrobats, trying to do the things required, all of the twists and turns to make the season work and we appreciate it’s been difficult, and we worked cooperatively with them, so I’d like to thank them for that,” he said of the AFL.

McLachlan said the logistics of a full grand final parade in Perth were “challenging” but various lead-up events, including lunches, were being considered.

Mr McGowan said there would be a “festival of football”.

“We’re going to do it on a COVID-safe way. We’re going to make sure we have all the protections in place, but it’ll be wonderful for tourism,” he said.

Mr Pakula said he believed Victoria’s grand final public holiday would remain, but Mr McGowan said it was a bit late to organise something similar out west.

“I’m not going to say what Bob Hawke said, which is: ‘any boss who makes an employee show up that day is a bum’ but I’m pretty sure a lot of people in the workplace will be working with their bosses to go and enjoy the event and enjoy the day before,” he said.

with Claire Siracusa and Heather McNeill

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