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More Saturday afternoon football at the MCG next year

AFL is set to return to the MCG on Saturday afternoons in season 2015.

AFL is set to return to the MCG on Saturday afternoons in season 2015. Photo: Wayne Taylor

Saturday afternoon football at the MCG, the once-traditional punctuation mark of winters in Melbourne, will creep back into the AFL calendar next season.

League bosses formulating the 2015 calendar in a bid to attract better crowds in Melbourne are working to restore more Saturday matches at the game's traditional home as the MCG pledges to roll out its multi-million-dollar technology overhaul.

In a 2014 season beset by messy extended byes, the early unavailability of the MCG and irregular Thursday and Sunday night games, the MCG sat empty over more than two-thirds of the available Saturday afternoons. In 2013, only six Saturday afternoon games were fixtured there.

Not only will the stadium host more Saturday afternoon games but it will also host more blockbusters, expected to generally kick off at 1.45pm, in line with the AFL's broadcasting contracts. But next year the AFL has pledged to put its fans ahead of the broadcasters despite starting negotiations for a new media deal within the next six months.

This season, of the AFL's 25 available Saturday afternoons, eight were played at the MCG with just one at the traditional 2.10pm start – a Hawthorn-Collingwood game which attracted more than 74,000 fans. Big Saturday afternoon games have been phased out over the years due to television demands despite consistently attracting big crowds.

As AFL clubs put the finishing touches to their requests for 2015, which are due in next week, a Carlton-Richmond season-opener at the MCG is virtually locked in for Thursday, April 2, with a Good Friday fixture remaining uncertain. One bye is expected to be structured over three weeks of six games each.

The back-to-the-future attempt to bring quality Saturday afternoon games back to the MCG will come as good news for Melbourne's radio networks, whose extensive weekend AFL coverage has been hurt by the large number of relatively unappealing games scheduled in the once-key timeslots.

MCG boss Stephen Gough told Fairfax Media this week that his stadium had been heartened by league chief Gillon McLachlan's undertaking to revamp next year's fixture in favour of live crowds. That stadium's long-term deal with the AFL demands 10 of the best 12 home-and-away games each season and a contracted minimum annual attendance of 1.7 million, not including finals. Last year a total of 2.7 million fans attended AFL games at the MCG with 2.34 million of those during home-and-away rounds.

Geelong also will push for more more day games at its home ground. Club chief Brian Cook said the Cats' attendances had been hurt by the league's move to schedule six night games at Simonds this year and that the club would struggle to make a profit in 2014. Geelong is lobbying the AFL for an eighth home game at Kardinia Park.

The AFL is also understood to have stopped short of any radical overhaul of the Tasmanian schedule with Hawthorn's contract to host four games in Launceston until the end of 2016 and North to extend its agreement in Hobart for a two-to-three-game two-year deal. This is despite McLachlan's stated preference for a one-team model playing games in both Tasmanian cities.

Etihad Stadium remains the AFL's preferred night venue in Melbourne, with that ground still guaranteed an extra 10 remaining games over the next decade as part of its most recent agreement with the league. Etihad, which lost its chance to host a final last season when the AFL moved the Geelong-Fremantle clash to Geelong, remains hopeful of a week-one final fixture in September this season, particularly if home club North Melbourne wins the right to host a final.

36 comments so far

  • a drovers dog could have worked this out. How much do these people get paid?! Makes us furious. Ofcourse Saturday afternoon games are the answer.

    Date and time
    August 01, 2014, 9:01PM
    • who ever organised this years draft should be stripped of their salary. anyone with half a brain could have worked out this was never going to benefit the fans. Collingwood last four matches, including tomorrows Sunday start 4.30 pm. pathetic! and not a single game being played in Melbourne this Saturday afternoon

      Date and time
      August 02, 2014, 11:22AM
    • While it's all about Melbourne it appears other cities in the national comp are going to get more of the undesired slots to suit TV. I am going to wait until the fixture is released for next season before renewing my $600 per year seated membership and if Fremantle get a bunch more Sunday games I will stick with Foxtel and just buy tickets to 2 or 3 games throughout the year (while always remaining an unseated member). I HATE going to the footy on Sunday afternoons so usually don't attend. Anyway, we'll probably be talking about the dismal attendances in Perth and Adelaide once Melbourne is sorted- the fact is that games should be played at the same time not spread out one at a time over the weekend so TV can show each game. There should be two Friday night matches, the bulk on Saturday afternoon and Saturday night, two on a Sunday (no later than 1pm start in the city it is played).

      Date and time
      August 02, 2014, 11:39AM
  • I don't live in Melbourne so it doesn't matter to me but heh, Saturday afternoon at G! I was in Melbourne a few years ago and went to a Saturday game. Just thinking now about walking through the parklands to the game gives me goosebumps.

    All sports have sold their souls to the broadcasters to some extent but now is the time for the AFL to claw a bit back.

    Date and time
    August 01, 2014, 9:04PM
    • Sorry but I really doubt it. Kids are migrating to soccer due to lack of kid friendly day games. Afl don't care. Don't be surprised when aussie rules numbers drop off in the next decade or so.

      Date and time
      August 01, 2014, 9:34PM
      • Skeptic. Keep trolling and speaking up your beloved soccer lol, seriously, what parent would take kids to soccer over AFL, soccer where fans rip up seats, let of flares, fight each other pathetic. Speaking of A League when is its season , that's right had to be moved as couldn't compete with AFL and NRL

        Go Blues
        Date and time
        August 01, 2014, 11:17PM
      • Agreed. I went to the MCG to see a game when last in Melbourne. I'd heard all this talk about 'great atmosphere' etc....nope. I've been to Championship games back home with more atmosphere. AFL is a bit like other minority sports, the less interested the world is, the more deluded the sports fans become. Remember, this games been around 150 one cares.

        Date and time
        August 02, 2014, 8:33AM
      • Damn Right, AFL have lost me so sick and tired of the AFL thinking they run Victoria and they can't be criticized. A League has much better atmosphere.

        Phillip J Fry
        A Proud MVFC Memeber
        Date and time
        August 02, 2014, 3:32PM
    • The fans prefer Saturday afternoon footy? Totes amaze balls...
      The fans don't want twilight, starlight, spotlight games on school nights? RU4REAL?
      Next you'll be saying the fans want a fair dinkum draw, affordably priced tickets and Collingwood to actually play outside Victoria every now and then...
      Get me a new CEO. This one has gone fully cray cray.

      Date and time
      August 01, 2014, 9:39PM
      • Or even Essendon, Carlton, Richmond or Geelong to play a game outside of Victoria occasionally as well.

        Date and time
        August 01, 2014, 11:28PM

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