The AFL has long resisted the temptation to play the grand final at night despite the broadcaster being keen to move the match into prime time, with the debate on when to play the grand final becoming an annual event in recent years.
However with broadcast dollars harder to earn the league will give the evening timeslot serious consideration beyond 2020, with most other finals played at night.
The AFL is yet to commit to a starting time for the 2020 decider however McLachlan said the match would not start earlier than 6.30pm Victorian time, which will be 5.30pm in Queensland, which does not have daylight saving.
McLachlan gave an indication as to the depth of detail he considered before making the decision on where to play the grand final saying he had discussed the potential effect of dew on the contest.
The league has also been keen to explore how the grand final entertainment could work at night with McLachlan confirming music industry icon Michael Gudinski was consulting with Australian artists to determine the pre-match and half-time entertainment.
“We’ll get the chance to have a look at some stuff, for sure,” McLachlan said.
The AFL’s decision to award the match to the Gabba was based on them fulfilling criteria established by the AFL which included safety, integrity, finances and the legacy with Brisbane just beating Adelaide for the right.
The AFL is expecting a crowd of 30,000 to attend the event with the Adelaide Oval a back-up for the match if COVID-19 forces the match to be moved at late notice.
Western Australia’s border restrictions made it difficult for the AFL to contemplate playing the grand final there, with the league determining that a seven-day quarantine made it impossible for clubs to prepare for the biggest game of the year. NSW was the other unsuccessful bidder.
In relinquishing the grand final – which will be played outside Victoria for the first time in the game’s history – the Victorian government and the MCG executive had their agreement to host the match extended by one season until 2058. They will also host two more premiership matches in 2022 and 2023 while Victoria will host the AFL national draft in 2021 and 2022.
The AFL had also been in talks with the state government to ensure the timing of the grand final did not clash with the 100th running of the Cox Plate at Moonee Valley.
The grand final eve public holiday in Victoria will also be retained, on Friday, October 23.
McLachlan said arrangements for the other finals would be announced soon but it was unlikely West Coast would be able to host a preliminary final if they won that right because of the border restrictions. He said there was a chance they could host a home final at Optus Stadium in week one of the finals because of the flexibility of a pre-finals bye.
If Port Adelaide qualified for home finals, they would host those games at Adelaide Oval while teams from Victoria or the Giants or the Eagles (in finals beyond week one) who earn the right to a home final might be able to choose whether the match was played at Adelaide Oval or the Gabba or Metricon Stadium.
Peter Ryan is a sports reporter with The Age covering AFL, horse racing and other sports.