A twilight AFL grand final seems increasingly certain for 2017, with an announcement to be made within days of next weekend’s opening round.
AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan said there was now “broad acceptance” from fans for the move, with several AFL captains including Scott Pendlebury, Nat Fyfe and Joel Selwood also offering support.
“There are still traditionalists that would always like to see the game stay the same but there are an increasing number of people who can see the opportunity in looking at a twilight grand final,” he told reporters on Thursday.
“The commission have (asked) management to come back with them with a recommendation.
“I said that it would be prior to the start of the season, but whether it will be a week later or not, there needs to be a level of certainty and we’ll deal with that in the next week or so.
“I feel confident with where we go.”
The AFL believes a later opening bounce could grow the audience, and therefore sponsorship, for the marquee match.
A stumbling block to McLachlan’s ambitions had been AFL chairman Mike Fitzpatrick, a self-described traditionalist who favoured a first bounce at 2:30pm.
His departure as commission boss, with former Wesfarmers boss Richard Goyder taking over the role, opens the door for the shift.
Speaking alongside McLachlan on Thursday, Goyder refused to outline his own personal position.
“I’ll wait until we get a recommendation from the executive and we’ll come up with an answer,” he said.
That answer might have been sooner if not for a rare slip-up from the league supremo.
McLachlan confessed to a goof that set back the timetable for an announcement.
“I intended to speak to the commission yesterday about that and I forgot. That’s the truth. That’s maybe potentially hard to believe,” he said.
“We need to address it. It is of huge interest to a lot of people but we’ve been doing a lot of stuff.”
McLachlan compared the time-shift to the long-running debate around Good Friday football, which will take place for the first time this year.
“It’s a bit like Good Friday. People have been talking about it for a while and the challenge in our roles is to make progress in our game but preserve the tradition and the history.
“Part of doing that is to bring people with you.
“There is broad acceptance (for a twlight grand final) but not universal. The quantity of stuff suggests the majority (of fans) support it.”