Return to Day Grand Final, the fans say…as reported in The Age!


Published on 26th September 2021 in The Age, Damien Ractliffe reported that on the whole, fans want the Grand Final to remain as a daytime slot, even if the twilight game for this year's Grand Final was a rating success.

See the article below, as detailed in The Age, 26 September 2021.

AFL fans to advocate for return to day grand final, despite bumper TV ratings

By Damien Ractliffe

Updated September 26, 2021 — 5.58pm, first published at 1.09pm

The AFL Fans Association is set to advocate for a return to a day-time grand final from next season as part of its post-season correspondence with the game’s chief executive, Gillon McLachlan.

That’s despite Saturday night’s AFL grand final out-rating this year’s Olympic Games opening ceremony, recording 3.9 million viewers to make it the most watched television program so far in 2021.

For just the second time, the AFL grand final – won on Saturday night by the Melbourne

 Demons – was held outside Victoria and at night time in the eastern states, and the television event outstripped last year’s decider in Brisbane between Richmond and Geelong by two per cent, and was up 33 per cent on the 2019 decider.

It was the fifth biggest television audience for an AFL grand final and the biggest since the 2016 day-time decider between the Bulldogs and Sydney.

However, recent polls run by the AFL Fans Association (AFLFA) reveal football lovers feel stronger than ever about the grand final returning to its traditional timeslot.

Former Bulldogs vice-president Susan Alberti, who is a patron of the AFLFA, said the overwhelming feedback in favour of a day grand final, in a Twitter poll run by the AFLFA, did not surprise her.

“I travel [in] a lot of football circles and that’s the feedback I’ve been getting from people,” Ms Alberti said.

“For families and bed time and all of the above, it doesn’t surprise me whatsoever [that the fans prefer a day grand final]. I support a day grand final, 100 per cent.”

Cheryl Critchley, president of the AFLFA, said she would send the poll results to McLachlan with a number of questions the fans wanted answers to as part of the association’s annual post-season correspondence with the league.

“Up until last year, the breakdown was about 65-70 per cent day, 15 per cent twilight, and about 10 per cent night,” she said.

“It’s actually got even stronger towards the day after having the two night grand finals. The entertainment has been really fantastic and people have enjoyed that side of it, but when you consider the whole package, most prefer the day game because all that’s associated with that.

“I think people like the tradition of it and the ritual of it. Some people argue it takes away from [the game] having to wait all day, whereas when it’s in the middle of the day, you’ve got before the game and after, almost in equal proportions.”

Also part of the criticism was the argument there was little to watch during the day, despite Victorian racing taking advantage of the late start in hosting the Underwood Stakes on Saturday, rather than on Sunday, and the NRL shifting Melbourne Storm’s preliminary final with the Penrith Panthers to a 4pm AEST slot.

But Lewis Martin, managing director of Seven Melbourne and head of network sport, said the event delivered in spades from a television perspective.

“The historic 2021 AFL grand final lived up to the hype and delivered extraordinary audiences on Seven,” Martin said.

“The AFL is a vital part of Seven’s unrivalled sporting content and once again Australia’s No.1 winter sport has gripped the nation with another unmissable premiership decider.”

By comparison, the Tokyo Olympic Games opening ceremony attracted a peak audience of 3.81 million viewers, and last year’s grand final was watched by 3.812 million viewers nationally.

In 2016, 4.121 million viewers watched the Dogs’ historic premiership win over the Swans.

Incredibly, 900,000 regional viewers watched Saturday night’s grand final, smashing all three State of Origin matches televised this year, where regional NSW and Queensland have a large number of rugby league followers.

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