Gillon McLachlan 2021 AFL Grand Final

Gillon McLachlan has formally announced Optus Stadium in Perth to host the 2021 AFL Grand Final. (Photo: AFL Photos)

Optus Stadium in Perth has been officially announced as the venue for the 2021 AFL Grand Final, with Victoria set to gain extra benefits as a result.

The 2021 AFL Grand Final has officially been relocated from the Melbourne Cricket Ground to Perth’s Optus Stadium, slated for Saturday, September 25 at a time yet to be determined.

AFL Chief Executive Officer Gillon McLachlan and Victorian Government Minister for Tourism, Sport and Major Events Martin Pakula announced the decision to media at a press conference earlier this afternoon.

Having worked on contingency plans throughout the last few weeks, the collaboration between the AFL and the Victorian Government ultimately reached a decision based on the ongoing limitations in Melbourne that the showpiece event be moved to Perth.

“It’s 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,” McLachlan announced.

“It is now meant that for season 2021, the Toyota AFL Grand Final will be played in Perth at Optus Stadium. The match will be held on Saturday, 25th of September at a time to be advised.

“The announcement today gives us the clarity and time needed to deliver competing clubs and fans the best Grand Final experience possible whether that is the stadium in Western Australia, or through the Channel 7 broadcast millions of fans around the country and indeed the world [will watch].

“West Australians 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.

The looming prospect of a Grand Final without crowds in Melbourne played a big part of the decision, the event being three and a half weeks away, it was evident a call needed to be made.

While the MCG hosted 78,000 people for the annual ANZAC Day clash between Collingwood and Essendon back in April, since then, as Minister Pakula indicated, rising case numbers and low vaccination rates each contributed and played a part in making an unfortunate decision.

“We held on for as long as we possibly could but we had to get to a decision this morning and unfortunately this is that decision,” Minister Pakula said.

“It is a decision that is in the best interest in football. I said it all along, we did not seek to hold the AFL to an arrangement to play a Grand Final in front of an empty stadium, it wouldn’t be right for the game, it wouldn’t be right for the fans and it wasn’t something we were ever inclined to do.

As a result of this decision, and after last year reaching an agreement to hold the AFL Grand Final at the MCG until 2058 due to the relocation of 2020’s event to Brisbane, an extra year has been added to take the agreement to the end of 2059.

“This morning we finalised an agreement for the relocation of the AFL Grand Final from the MCG later this month due to the ongoing impact of the pandemic,” Minister Pakula stated.

“The Grand Final should be played in front of supporters if it can be and I want Victorian footy fans to know that we will be compensated for the agreement that’s been reached today. We’ve added a year to the MCG Grand Final contract that now takes us out to 2059.”

In addition to the new Grand Final contract, Victorian football fans will be treated to extra matches – both AFL and AFLW – across the coming seasons with a focus on regional parts of the state also.

“The Melbourne Cricket Ground’s been guaranteed an extra eight AFL Premiership matches over the next five seasons from 2022 to 2026,” Minster Pakula said.

“More football will be taken to regional Victoria. There’ll be a guaranteed four AFLW Premiership matches to be played at regional Victorian venues over a three-year period starting with the 2022 season.

Minister Pakula also announced the 2022 and 2023 National Draft will take place in Victoria though conceded this year it might have to be done virtually.

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The AFL CEO sent a message out towards members of the Victorian football community, insisting the sport, and the Grand Final would return to the state in 2022.

“To all Victorians, we will be back at the MCG bigger and better in 2022. We’ve stuck by our game all year and I know how hard it has been,” McLachlan said.

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

McLachlan is looking forward to the community of Western Australia welcoming the Grand Final to the state and knows there will be unheralded support for the game.

“As we look forward to Perth, I would like to thank Premier Mark McGowan and the West Australian Government for their partnership, not only for the Grand Final but across the whole season,” McLachlan said.

“Season 2021 has proved to be really challenging on many and we wouldn’t have reached this point without the support of all state and territory governments across the year.

“This is the biggest single day of sport in Australia’s calendar and we’re going to do it properly and 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.”

McLachlan revealed plans were still in place to hold a Grand Final Parade during the week leading up to the event, and that the Brownlow Medal count is scheduled for Sunday, September 19 in Perth.

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