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AFL blasted over ‘disrespectful, cynical’ act
Senior football journalist Caroline Wilson has condemned the AFL for withholding the start time of this year’s grand final.
Speaking on 3AW Football, Wilson argued that footy fans ”have the right to know” the time of the first bounce as the governing body continues to keep its cards close to its chest.
“As we sit here, it’s almost April, this is our greatest showpiece of the competition every year – it’s Christmas day for football, it is the icon of the game,” she said.
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“Why is it almost April and we don’t know what time the grand final is being played this year?
“It is so disrespectful, it is so cynical by the AFL and if it’s not cynical, it’s bloody indecisive.
“I think the public has a right to know when the grand final is going to be played before April.
“It makes me so angry.”
The discussion came about after the lights went out at the Gabba during the final quarter of the Brisbane Lions’ clash against Melbourne on Friday night, prompting pundits to discuss what would happen if a similar situation occurred during a night grand final.
The refusal to disclose the start time adds to speculation that the first bounce could move from the traditional afternoon timeslot.
Earlier this month, more than 70 per cent of fans voiced their desire to see the grand final remain in the afternoon slot, according to the annual AFL Fans Association (AFLFA) survey.
The Age, which exclusively released the findings of the survey, reported that keeping the traditional Saturday afternoon schedule was a priority for viewers.
In contrast, 21 per cent of fans preferred a twilight kick-off.
Geelong’s 81-point win over Sydney at the MCG on Saturday was the lowest rating grand final of all time, with just 2.96m viewers tuning in for the 2.30pm start.
With a build-up including one of the closest finals series on record, a big TV audience was expected, but according to OzTam’s official television ratings, only 2.18m people watched from the five metro markets.
During the COVID-impacted 2020 and 2021 seasons, the deciders were played in primetime, largely as a result of the matches being moved from the MCG to Brisbane and Perth.
With the numbers down close to a million viewers, COVID-19 restrictions could have had an impact with more people going out to watch the game in 2022, or gathering in groups at home, than in previous years.
The NRL preliminary final between Penrith and South Sydney also raked in 414,000 viewers in Sydney compared to the 375,000 that tuned into the AFL’s showpiece event.
There are several benefits to broadcasters and streaming services that plead the case for a twilight grand final.
Pre-game and half-time entertainment are thought to be more striking at night, while a higher advertising price can be argued during primetime slots.
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