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Friday’s announcement of a new 40-year to keep the Australian Football League grand final at the Melbourne Cricket Ground is a slap in the face, and a step back towards the old days of the VFL.
I wonder if Gillon McLachlan and the rest of the AFL board understand that by hosting the grand final in the same city continuously, they are actually preventing people that live in Adelaide, Brisbane, Perth and Sydney – the four cities that host 45 per cent of the competition’s clubs – from attending the biggest game of the year.
Let’s say Bill, 44 years old, is a Tigers supporter from Richmond who decides in 2016 he’s had enough of not seeing his team make a grand final, and purchases one ticket to the 2016 grand final to see the Western Bulldogs defeat the Sydney Swans for $190 (approximately).
Then, in 2017, his beloved Tigers make the grand final and Bill once again is lucky enough to secure a ticket for $190 (cheapest again, approximately). He’s spent $380 and seen two grand finals in two years, pretty happy!
Geoff, on the other hand, is a Crows supporter, who lives in Adelaide. He was only five years old when the Crows won their second flag, in 1998, and in he snags one of the cheap tickets to the big dance for $190.
Now Geoff needs to get to Melbourne to see the game. The cheapest flights he can find is $500 each way, as the airlines increase prices when interstate supporters are looking for seats, and he has to take the Friday off work. Accommodation in Melbourne for Friday and Saturday night is split with a mate at $150 a night.
Geoff watches his beloved Adelaide go down to Richmond for the cost of $1340, plus loses a day’s salary.
$380 and two grand finals for Bill, who lives in Melbourne, $1340 for one grand final for Geoff, who lives in Adelaide. Hardly seems fair, and hardly seems like the AFL wants as many people as possible to go to the grand final.
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The AFL preaches equalisation, has a draft to allow weaker clubs access to quality players, has a salary cap on player payments, a salary cap on football department spending, subsidises weaker financial clubs with funds from stronger clubs, yet forces teams from outside Victoria to travel ten times a season (more if they make finals) and now has removed any chance of a non-Victorian club playing a grand final at home until at least 2058.
Hardly equal – and I haven’t even mentioned the father-son-rule!
But rather than just slamming the AFL for its grand final decision, here are two ideas that would’ve been worth considering.
Last year’s minor premiers have the right to host
The club must pay an amount to activate hosting rights, and has the right to refuse to host, at which point the MCG shall become host.
So the Crows were 2017’s minor premiers, meaning in August 2017 they have earned the right to host the 2018 grand final. They pay the AFL $5 million (rough number) to activate hosting rights, or turn the opportunity down and it’s held at the MCG.
Host stadium allocated based on percentage of clubs in each state
Victoria have ten of the 18 clubs, which is 55 per cent, while NSW, Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia have eight, for 45 per cent.
Let’s make that five out of nine at the MCG, with therefore the other four held interstate. As per the previous suggestion, a stadium must pay $X to activate hosting rights, with the right to refuse, at which point the MCG shall become host.
Here’s hoping that someone can come up with a more equitable grand final arrangement – the AFL took five years to grant a non-Victorian club finals hosting rights, surely it won’t take another 40 years to work out that 45 per cent of their clubs and supporters exist outside Victoria.