‘6 million’ would watch first AFL night Grand Final
A Queensland 2020 Grand Final would include a historic 7pm first bounce that could provide the greatest ratings spectacle in Australian sport.
The AFL is expected to decide which state will hold the Grand Final early next week after hearing submissions that included a proposal from the South Australian Government on Thursday.
But the league seems certain to stage a night Grand Final with strong support from broadcast partner Channel 7 and AFL boss Gillon McLachlan, who has said a twilight or night trial is "inevitable".
The exhaustive 80-page bid handed to the AFL on Tuesday proposes a range of twilight activities at the Gabba before a 7pm bounce that would put the game smack-bang in prime time.
The league is also working with Moonee Valley Racing Club towards a joint plan that would see the $5m Cox Plate run at 3pm-3.30pm at the Valley, before the first bounce.
The league would have to rule whether the Grand Final had halftime entertainment that would take as much as half an hour, or pre-match entertainment as dusk settled.
The annual Grand Final parade appears to be dead for 2020, with the Queensland bid unable to come up with a solution to contract-trace thousands of fans in Brisbane in crowds six deep along a parade route.
As the Herald Sun revealed on Monday, a bye after Round 18 is certain, which puts the league on track for an October 24 night Grand Final.
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The Queensland bid accepts its financial component might be less than the $35-36 million offered by West Australia.
But it has offered a "turn-key" package featuring corporate suites, Grand Final entertainment and a pitch to house the Brownlow Medal, Rising Star and All-Australian night at the Gold Coast convention centre.
Gold Coast chairman Tony Cochrane, chairman of the bid, said: "I think Channel 7 will absolutely have the biggest TV ratings of any sporting event in Australia. I think we'll get six million eyeballs that night if it's a night-time game on the east coast of Australia.
"The most significant impact for the first time that I can recall, is that we've dominated TV sports viewing on Thursday and Friday nights in Queensland. Our ratings in Queensland are up 30 per cent so there's no question that we've had a huge impact right across the state and we want to build on that.
"We want to use the Grand Final to really build on that and keep progressing forward. We've got an enormous base of people taking up the game. We want to make it the game of choice in Queensland."
The league has told clubs it will alert clubs next week about the successful bidder.
"We spoke to Richard Goyder as chairman of the AFL Commission, Gill McLachlan as the CEO and then a number of his key executives," Cochrane said.
"We ran with the slogan that we're good to go. Brisbane and the Gold Coast and all of Queensland is good to go. That was the premise around which we pushed our case and we think it's a very strong premise. We are in a unique position but most of Queensland, it's business as usual. That was a big part of our pitch."
South Australian premier Steven Marshall on Tuesday pitched the state's case to league officials - including chief executive Gillon McLachlan and chairman Richard Goyder in what he believes is a strong case.
And Phillips will be part of the endeavour.
"We have engaged some high-profile South Australians including the fabulous Erin Phillips to help us with the pitch to the AFL today," Marshall revealed on Thursday.
"We're going to put our best foot forward. You've got to be in it to win it - we're absolutely in it. I think Adelaide Oval has proven itself to be such a great stadium and I know that's going to be absolutely crucial to the AFL when they make their decision.
"We understand the AFL will need to make a decision hopefully this week or early next week, so we'll have some real clarity on where this is going."
NSW BID: IS SYDNEY WASTING ITS BREATH?
- Ben Horne
Sydney's chances of winning the AFL Grand Final may come down to whether the AFL is prepared to serve as a curtain raiser for the NRL.
NSW Government officials were pleased with their Grand Final pitch to the AFL on Thursday afternoon, but the question remains, were they wasting their breath?
Reports claim the AFL already has its heart set on an October 24 decider, a date which would effectively rule Sydney out.
That is unless Gillon McLachlan is prepared to risk playing second fiddle and tackle the NRL's own spectacular head-on, in the same city, on the same weekend.
The rugby league grand final is already locked in for October 25, and aside from the near logistical impossibility of trying to reconfigure ANZ Stadium from an oval to a rectangle inside 16 hours, the two events would cannibalise each other and largely defeat the purpose of NSW securing the AFL coup in the first place.
AFL officials insist the Grand Final date is not locked in, but an October 17 decider in Sydney would mean telling exhausted clubs and players they are not allowed the bye week they so crave before the finals, following the most helter-skelter season on record.
The AFL knows there would be enormous upside to hosting a Grand Final in NSW, but the whole point of going to a rugby league market would be to gain maximum exposure, and that wouldn't be possible in NRL Grand Final week, even for the national juggernaut that is Aussie Rules.
NSW Government officials have gone to ground this week and refused to return calls on their AFL Grand Final bid.
Sources said on Thursday night that those in the room - including Tourism Minister Stuart Ayres - were pleased with how their presentation went, but details of the bid remain shrouded in mystery.
Hurting NSW's claims is the current COVID-19 situation in the state which prevents them from providing a confident prediction on what crowd ANZ Stadium might be able to accommodate for an AFL Grand Final.
The hope is that NSW health authorities would permit up to 50,000 by the end of October, but Premier Gladys Berejiklian is not keen on spruiking hypothetical football crowds in the middle of a health crisis.
The most risk-free case for an AFL Grand Final would appear to be presented by Western Australia, which can guarantee a minimum of 30,000 fans in a State that hasn't recorded a live case in 135 days.
It's highly likely the WA Premier would allow a capacity 60,000 crowd at Perth's new state of the art stadium by Grand Final day - meaning it's really the AFL's only option if it's top priority is to safeguard the enormity and atmosphere of a normal Grand Final.
Originally published as '6 million' would watch first AFL night Grand Final