THE AFL has again left the door ajar to a twilight grand final, with chief executive Andrew Demetriou hinting yesterday that the prospect could return to the negotiating table, but suggesting the move would come at a price in terms of Channel Seven's current five-year contract.
Demetriou confirmed last night the prospect of a twilight grand final had been raised again by club presidents on Monday, with no significant opposition and plenty of support.
He playfully told Collingwood president Eddie McGuire, who again raised the topic at yesterday's traditional grand final week Carbine Club function: ''You never know your luck in a big city.''
Demetriou pointed out that Saturday's twilight preliminary final between Hawthorn and Adelaide had increased Seven's audience by an estimated one million viewers and agreed the timeslot had been well received by the community and, specifically, families.
His comments at yesterday's function were made in the presence of AFL Commission chairman Mike Fitzpatrick, who is not a traditionalist in this area, and followed an informal conversation on the topic at the Brownlow Medal count with the Seven Network's Victorian chief and football lieutenant Lewis Martin.
The grand final is exclusive to Seven until 2016 and in the current contract is specified as an afternoon broadcast. A move to an NRL-style 5pm start would require a renegotiation.
When asked whether a day-night grand final would come at an extra financial cost to the network, Demetriou told The Age: ''I would think so.'' But added: ''We have not agreed to anything.''
AFL broadcasters have never made a secret of their preference for a night or twilight game.
''We have never had a serious conversation about it,'' Martin said last night. ''It is true what we focus on as a network is our viewing audience and we would love to take the game to more people.''
The Hawthorn-Sydney grand final will start at 2.30pm, with Sunday's NRL grand final between Melbourne Storm and the Canterbury Bulldogs kicking off in the twilight timeslot of 5pm.
The NRL final, televised by the Nine Network, should provide an intriguing ratings comparison between the two codes. The NRL's contract with Nine is more flexible on the subject of its grand final kick-off time.
The prospect of an AFL twilight grand final was first put to the AFL Commission in 2007 following a submission from then broadcast partner Channel Ten, which Demetriou described at the time as ''an impressive, well-argued document … very respectful towards the grand final and all it stands for''.
A steadfast opponent of a night grand final, Demetriou has never ruled out moving the last game of the year to a post-5pm start.
In 2007, Ten pushed for a 5pm start and proposed shifting the traditional North Melbourne breakfast to a lunch, with grand final replays starting at 8am or 9am, and including a more detailed post-mortem of the game, along with crosses to the winner's and loser's dinners.
The commission rejected the proposal.