The Australian Football League (AFL) will stage its Grand Final outside the state of Victoria for the first time this year, with Brisbane’s Gabba stadium awarded the hosting rights to reward Queensland’s assistance to the League during COVID-19.

The 2020 Grand Final had been scheduled for October 24 at Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG), its traditional home, but the COVID-19 situation in the state of Victoria had necessitated a different venue.

In July, an agreement was reached for Queensland to become the temporary home of the AFL with the state targeting hosting rights to the Grand Final in return, as the Aussie rules competition exited its heartland of Victoria amid the escalating COVID-19 situation.

The AFL resumed its 2020 season on June 11, 81 days after it was suspended due to the pandemic, but had to deal with how its Victorian teams play their games, with concerns about the situation in New South Wales as well.

The 2020 Grand Final will retain its original date, with the Gabba to host a night game with the start time to be confirmed in the coming weeks. Under the arrangement, and pending health authority approval, the AFL said the Grand Final will be played before a crowd of approximately 30,000 at the 42,000-capacity venue.

The Grand Final has never been played outside of Victoria and, as part of the historic decision, the AFL said Queensland will host a “festival of football”, which will include a Premiership Cup tour across the state.

AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan said: “This is an exciting opportunity for our code and we look forward to now working with the Queensland Government to successfully stage the 2020 Toyota AFL Grand Final – the biggest event on the AFL calendar – and share it with the community right across Queensland.

“The Queensland presentation was world class and, while the 2020 Toyota AFL Grand Final will be the centrepiece, an extensive promotional campaign for the sport of Australian football, including multiple regional locations throughout Queensland, will bring fans closer to footy in the lead-up to the event and provide a lasting legacy.”

Queensland defeated rival offers from New South Wales, South Australia and Western Australia to land the Grand Final. As part of the arrangement to relinquish the match in 2020, the AFL has agreed to extend the current contract with the Victorian government and the MCG for an additional year to 2058, including the right to host the Grand Final.

Amid the evolving COVID situation nationally, the AFL has also announced a contingency plan if the health and safety of the Queensland community is compromised and affects the ability to host a crowd at the Grand Final. Should that occur, the Adelaide Oval in South Australia would be the back-up venue.

Commenting on the award of the hosting rights, Queensland’s Tourism Minister, Kate Jones, said: “Very few industries have been as hard hit by COVID-19 as our tourism and events businesses, so to be able to host the AFL Grand Final in Queensland for the first time ever is a huge confidence boost.

“This is so much more than a game of footy, this is a chance to show Australia exactly what Queensland offers when it comes to being not only an events destination, but a tourist destination.

“While the successful staging of the Grand Final and the Brownlow Medal will be our focus, we will also use this opportunity to highlight Queensland’s tourism offering to encourage those who can travel to visit, and to help those who currently can’t come to start dreaming about their next holiday when restrictions ease.”

Image: The Gabba