McGuire knows the ins and outs of the football landscape better than most, and declared if all goes to plan, a night Grand Final will happen as part of a spectacular sporting weekend.
A night Grand Final is “inevitable” and would be a “better spectacle”, AFL founding father Ross Oakley declared on Tuesday night.
This year’s premiership decider could be played under lights for the first time because of a clash with the Spring Racing Carnival in late October, setting the scene for the league commission to greenlight a permanent move.
It comes as Collingwood president Eddie McGuire said he believes a Grand Final will happen in 2020 if “everything goes according to plan.”
The weekend would stage a blockbuster sporting weekend, including the centenary running of the Cox Plate and AFL Grand Final on the same day, as reported by the News last month.
“If everything goes according to plan I think we’ll have a night Grand Final this year,” McGuire said on Triple M.
“I think we’ll have the Manikato Stakes at Moonee Valley on the Friday night, I think we’ll have the holiday on the Friday, then Saturday will be the Cox Plate and Saturday night will be the Grand Final.
“I think for AFL football, Channel 7 and Fox Footy would be very, very keen to get as much viewership as possible on the Grand Final given the restrictions that have happened so far this year.”
The plan had the support of Western Bulldogs board member Luke Darcy, saying it was a “great idea.”
Oakley believed we were lagging behind other sports in not embracing a night finale.
“Eventually it is inevitable,” Oakley told The News.
“It’s a case of supporters’ views catching up with the whole concept of night sport.
“Most other sports are played at night and ours is too, but a lot of them are playing their grand finals at night.
“I think it is a better spectacle at night. We complained terribly when we went to Friday night football (in the 1980s) but in the end result, people were keen to finish work on Friday, have a quick meal and go down and watch the footy.
“Friday night became an absolute boon and it was easier to make the game look great and to have entertainment in a night environment.”
AFL commission chairman Richard Goyder said last year he wanted to see the shift to a twilight Grand Final made during his time in charge.
“I think it would be sensational to attend and, importantly, the television coverage I think would be incredible,” Goyder said.
An overwhelming 76 per cent of AFL supporters insisted on a traditional 2.30pm Grand Final bounce in the most recent The News footy fans survey.
But Oakley, the league’s chief executive from 1986-1996 and the architect of the national competition, said fans were generally opposed to change.
“At some point in time we are going to see a night Grand Final. Yeah, we talk about the breakfasts and the lunches and that sort of thing, well in future we might have lunches and early dinners,” Oakley said.
“I don’t think those things are a part of the real tradition of the game as such. The traditions of the game are established around the game itself, that’s where the real traditions come from.
“It is inevitable but the supporters will have to catch up with that idea.
“I might remind you that back in 1984 when the research was done on a national competition, 75 per cent of Victorians said, ‘Nup, we don’t want a national competition – it will stuff our game up’.
“Now, if you ask supporters, probably 90-odd per cent, would say, ‘Fantastic. Yeah, we are happy to beat the crap out of Adelaide and West Coast and Sydney’.”
Every Grand Final in VFL/AFL history has started between 2:15pm and 3pm.
What time should the AFL Grand Final be played?
TWILIGHT DECIDER AN OPTION IN NEW AFL FIXTURE
The AFL will be urged to schedule Thursday night football every round and consider a Sunday night timeslot as it prepares to reveal its fixture for the next month.
The league has told clubs and players the new fixture for the 144 games remaining will loosely follow the Thursday-Sunday timeslot.
It remains open to a twilight or night Grand Final but has ruled out an extended finals series or wildcard weekend.
As it prepares to consult with key stakeholders about its fixture, broadcasters attempting to maximise ratings and recoup a $400 million investment this year will be keen to push a TV-friendly fixture.
It means Thursday night football every week is seen as the minimum requirement, with AFL players already warned this weekend to expect some more five-day breaks.
Without the byes that usually accompany the mid-season Thursday clashes, teams playing Saturday contests will have a short turnaround for Thursday clashes.
The AFL’s dossier to clubs specifically detailed those breaks, stating: “Some clubs may have more five-day breaks than you are used to, but generally the average time between games will be about the same as previous seasons. The AFLPA will work with the AFL to ensure as few five-day breaks as possible are put in place”.
The league will also be keen to avoid as much duplication of games as possible to maximise ratings on each game.
The Round 1 Sunday schedule featured a 1.05pm North Melbourne-St Kilda clash, a 3.35pm Hawthorn-Lions game and then a 6.40pm West Coast-Melbourne game.
It meant Channel 7 could lead the middle game into its 6pm Sunday night news without any of the games crossing over.
With no WA teams playing Sunday 4.40pm home games for the foreseeable future the league would need to effectively schedule a Sunday night clash on the eastern seaboard to ensure prime time viewing.
Without fans attempting to get home from Sunday night games before a Monday at school or work there are less restrictions on 6.20pm or 6.40pm games.
The league has officially ruled out a wildcard weekend but the idea of a trial night Grand Final is far from off the table.
The AFL is aware its nominal October 24 Grand Final could intersect with the Cox Plate, which would be a scheduling double-up in Melbourne that day.
A one-off night Grand Final would allow Channel 7 to trial that timeslot and see how many extra viewers the game secured.
Players have been informed the league will attempt to give them at least three days off mid-season instead of a normal four-day break during the bye.
With no byes the league told players: “The AFL will do its best to fixture your Club for an 8 day break between games somewhere around the middle of the season. If they do, you will get a three-day break during that week.”