Melbourne Renegades may cause hiccups to AFL Grand Final



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Marvel Stadium - AFL Grand Final Image: Marvel Stadium/AFL

The present contract between Marvel Stadium in Melbourne, Australia, and Big Bash League (BBL) team Melbourne Renegades has come in the way of the Australian Football League’s (AFL’s) hopes of a later-than-usual Grand Final at Marvel Stadium.

The Marvel Stadium is a multipurpose, grassed oval sports and entertainment stadium in the Docklands area of Melbourne.

The Melbourne Renegades are an Australian professional men’s Twenty20 franchise cricket team based in the Australian State of Victoria. They compete in the Australian Twenty20 cricket competition, the Big Bash League.

The 2020 AFL season presently stands suspended following new measures introduced by federal and State Governments to combat the coronavirus outbreak. Due to this, the league is hopeful of getting in a 17-round season (down from 23), plus finals, and are prepared to play matches right up until Christmas, with the players already having made themselves available.

The Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) has entered into a legally binding agreement to host the AFL Grand Final until at least 2057 as part of a deal that saw the Victorian Government invest $225 for the redecoration of the Marvel Stadium. However, this isn’t any ordinary season due to the COVID-19 global onslaught.

The AFL Grand Final is traditionally held on the last Saturday of September, but further delays due to the coronavirus shutdown may push this date back and the MCG, along with other major Australian stadiums, is set to be handed over to the International Cricket Counil (ICC) for staging of the 2020 ICC Men’s T20 World Cup which is scheduled to be staged from October 18 to November 15, 2020.

The Men’s T20 World Cup runs from October 18 until mid-November, with the MCG, Adelaide Oval and Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) all due to host games in the latter stages of the tournament. Optus Stadium in Perth, Western Australia, will also host matches until October 30. The grand finale is due to take place on November 15 at the famed MCG.

The AFL Grand Final is an annual Australian rules football match, traditionally held in the afternoon on the final Saturday in September every year at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in Melbourne, Australia, to determine the Australian Football League (AFL) premiers for that year.

Marvel Stadium has been mooted as a possible finals and AFL Grand Final venue should the MCG be unavailable. If that is the scenario, some 44,000 die-hard fans will not get to savor and enjoy the showpiece event.

Though the multiuse Marvel Stadium does not hold any T20 World Cup matches, nevertheless, it is the residence of BBL franchise Melbourne Renegades.

Cricket will not be a full-on activity until December 16 this year. There will be an issue only if the AFL season is hugely delayed due to the coronavirus menace.

Whatever may be the case, the AFL will, in all likelihood, use its clout and seek to delay or even relocate BBL from Marvel Stadium. In 2019, the Melbourne Renegades didn’t play their first game at the venue until December 29 and across its five matches, attracted an average crowd of 17,741 at the 56,347-capacity Marvel Stadium.

Only time will tell if the ICC T20 World Cup will be held as scheduled or will be delayed/postponed as coronavirus continues to flex muscle globally and has impacted a whole lot of sporting events including the Tokyo Olympics.

The AFL owns Marvel Stadium and recently secured a $500 million loan from the National Australia Bank (NAB) and Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Limited (ANZ) banks to keep the league’s future in safe hands. The AFL can essentially borrow against the stadium, which it purchased in October 2016 for approximately $200 million.

The acquisition makes Marvel Stadium the AFL’s biggest asset, with some valuing it at more than one billion dollars and puts it way ahead of other major sporting events in Australia.

Talks are also doing the rounds of a best-of-three AFL Grand Final series to determine the 2020 Premiership, however, that does not seem likely given the fact that AFL is attempting to shorten the season.

Following the opening round of the season, which was played behind closed doors, the AFL season has been suspended until at least May 31, however, looking at the present coronavirus scenario, it appears highly unlikely the season will recommence until several weeks after May 31. If the coronavirus situation does not improve, there is also likelihood that the season may be abandoned entirely. This is the worst-case scenario.

To date, Australia has 6,104 coronavirus cases and 51 deaths reported.

The National Rugby League recently told its clubs the season must commence by September 1 this year at the latest (with a shortened 15-round season running through to Christmas), otherwise the season would be abandoned. The earliest date it would return is June.

The National Rugby League is Australia’s top-level domestic men’s rugby league club competition. It contains clubs from the original Sydney club Rugby League competition, which had been running continuously since 1908.

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