AFL prepares for shock 29-year first
AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan has conceded the 2020 grand final may not take place at the MCG as per tradition.
McLachlan revealed on Friday the AFL would return on June 11, meaning a 17-round season without byes and a four-week finals series would conclude in late October.
However, the MCG is booked for most of October and November, with the Men's T20 Cricket World Cup, which is scheduled to take place in that period.
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The most recent AFL grand fFinal to not be played at the MCG was 29 years ago, when the Waverley Park hosted Hawthorn and West Coast in 1991. Before that, you have to go right back to World World II.
The Cricket World Cup features 16 squads from nations across six continents, and considering the strict travel restrictions in place due to the coronavirus epidemic, it seems increasingly unlikely the T20 tournament will go ahead as planned.
But this lingering uncertainty does not guarantee the MCG will be available for footy in October. Melbourne Cricket Club chief Stuart Fox recently confirmed only 14 days are needed to prepare pitches on the MCG.
"Whether there's a World Cup will determine if the MCG is available," McLachlan said.
"It will depend on if we compress seasons or if we give players a break because they need it at some point.
"We'll have other venues available."
On Friday, McLachlan said Melbourne's Marvel Stadium is a contender to host the highly-anticipated AFL final.
"We will have to be flexible … If we need to compress the season, we have the ability with our players and our clubs later," McLachlan said.
"If you take a linear view through it, the grand final plays out in mid-to-late October.
"Clearly if it goes later than that, then (Docklands) is an option.
"We have got a commitment to play the grand final in this state, and at the moment, we haven't thought past that."
Spectators were not permitted to attend round one of the AFL premiership back in March before the lockdown, and McLachlan does not anticipate crowds will be allowed for a while longer.
"That one is entirely in the court of the governments and the health officials, and I think it's a bit then on the community," McLachlan said.
"I think we all accept there's going to be a level in the community we're going to have to work with.
"I don't know after that. I think I said yesterday it's less likely than likely, but right now in the Northern Territory it's a possibility in the next few weeks I think. It'll depend on how we go as a community I think, and that's one decision I won't be making."
In March, McLachlan revealed 80 per cent of the AFL's full-time staff were stood down until May 31st to help the company's financial situation amid the coronavirus epidemic, a decision which was "very difficult" for the AFL boss.
"It's frankly devastating," McLachlan said.
"It's clearly daylight second in terms of how hard that is to any other decisions we've had to make over the last couple of months.
"All I know is to be transparent and direct and layout where we're at and we have an industry that's had a huge hit.
"It's a game that's important to so many, we've got an obligation to everyone, all our supporters, our clubs, every community club and every elite club to get through to the other side so we have to make the tough decisions.
"I just feel the right thing for all of our staff is to give them the honest assessment at every point about where it's at … I know that anyone who's been in that situation on the receiving or the giving of those tough conversations there's just no joy in it.
"It was frankly a very difficult thing."