2019 AFL Grand Final Picture: mcc.org.au

The AFL Fans Association is pushing the AFL to listen to the fans with the competition yet to commit to a time slot for the 2021 Grand Final.

Despite fans backlash following the night Grand Final, the AFL has refused to commit to a start time for the 2021 Grand Final.

Pending a review on the 2020 season, the AFL is signalling that a decision won’t be made until as late as April 2021 following the start of the new season, leaving fans dismayed that they won’t see a return of the day Grand Final.

The AFL has indicated that it is taking supporters’ opinions into account alongside industry figures. 

However, how they weigh those opinions could heavily influence the decision.

With people commenting at the time of the Grand Final that the most vocal praise was coming from those affiliated with broadcasters rather than the fans.

Comparing the past 20 years, the 2020 Grand Final ranked fourth in metropolitan audience viewers, being beaten out by the 2005, 2006 and 2016 Grand Finals.

However, it saw a significant increase from the 2019 Grand Final by just under 800,000 viewers.

That increase was to be expected with various COVID restrictions, in particular in Melbourne preventing people from hosting parties or going to venues to watch the Grand Final.

This year’s audience numbers will be difficult to maintain as the previous three grand finals had steadily been dropping.

Under ordinary Grand Final conditions, there is no telling if the audience drop would have continued regardless of the start time.

The time slot of the Grand Final also impacts international viewers. With the day time slot being more convenient for an American audience, whilst the night time slot is better for European viewers.

The Inner Sanctum spoke with AFL Fans Association president, Cheryl Critchley for a comment regarding the indecision regarding the Grand Final.

“Fans understood that 2020 was by necessity a COVID-impacted season and accepted the need to hold the Grand Final at the Gabba,” she said.

“Many also accepted the AFL’s decision to hold the Grand Final at night as a one-off in this unusual season.

“However, polling has consistently shown that a clear majority of AFL fans prefer the day Grand Final slot overnight or twilight. Polls taken after this year’s night Grand Final confirmed this. 

“An AFLFA Twitter poll found 92 per cent of fans preferred a return to the traditional day time slot over a night game next year.”

“Given the incredible loyalty displayed by fans in 2020, many of whom paid for memberships despite seeing no games, the AFL should take their views into account when making decisions that affect them moving forward.”

“If polls continue to show that most fans prefer a day Grand Final, the AFL should listen to their views and reward their loyalty by returning to the traditional time slot.”

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