With the two Sydney teams, Sydney Swans and GWS Giants, doing battle with Geelong and the Western Bulldogs respectively in this weekend’s preliminary finals, fans will be flocking to both the MCG and Spotless Stadium tonight and tomorrow for the big games.

And that means the 2016 AFL Grand Final is only a week away!

The AFL’s decision to play the GWS-Western Bulldogs preliminary final at Spotless Stadium in Homebush has caused debate, considering the ground has a capacity of only 24,000 fans. Comparatively, ANZ Stadium, which is across the carpark from Spotless Stadium, has a capacity of 81,500, which would accommodate more travelling supporters of the Bulldogs as well as the Giants fans. This decision by the AFL has been widely criticised due to its apparent lack of consistency compared with previous scheduling decisions, where home teams have been disadvantaged by having a final moved to a larger ground purely because of the number of spectators able to attend. However, as GWS Giants CEO David Matthews simply stated, “we’re entitled to a home final and our home ground is Spotless Stadium.”

Beyond purely the expected attendance for matches, the scheduling for AFL finals is influenced by the agreements the AFL has in place with the various stadiums. These agreements dictate not only the number of home games that are to be allocated to each stadium during the home and away season, but also the number of finals required to be played at certain venues and the amount of money clubs are to receive in exchange for games. For example:

  • Under an agreement between the AFL and the MCC-MCG Trust, the grand final is, and will be, played at the MCG until at least 2037. In 2009, the MCC-MCG Trust renegotiated a 1989 agreement with the AFL which sees the ground host 45 home and away games with a guaranteed return to home clubs of at least $100,000 per game.  The agreement also ensures that the MCG are entitled to host at least 10 finals overall across a 5-year period.  
  • In NSW, an agreement between the AFL and ANZ Stadium saw all Sydney Swans home finals played at ANZ Stadium. However, this agreement expired this year, and thus the AFL now has more freedom to schedule matches at the most suitable venue between the SCG, Spotless Stadium or ANZ Stadium, depending upon the expected attendance and competing teams.  

In what would be a major development in stadium agreements for the AFL, the Herald Sun reported that “significant movement” has occurred in a potential purchase by the AFL of Etihad Stadium, with a sale of about “$150 million” potentially being completed before Christmas. It is yet to be seen whether this potential purchase will increase the number of finals potentially played at Etihad Stadium, as it is somewhat limited by its capacity, however it will be a significant step for the ground’s current tenants with gate returns likely to “dramatically improve.”

Regardless though, it is an exciting time of year for all footy fans, especially for those heading to the ‘G both this weekend and next. As the Regional/Suburban Law Firm of the Year for 2016, we are somewhat biased towards the regional/suburban clubs…GO CATS AND GIANTS!

For advice or further information regarding stadium/venue agreements or other areas of Sports Law, please contact:

Ashleigh Wall
Special Counsel
T  03 5226 8559


Jesse Drever
T  03 5225 5226