MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — The Australian Football League’s grand final will be held outside of its traditional home in Melbourne for the second consecutive season because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Australian rules season decider will be held Sept. 25 in Perth, Western Australia, after the Victoria state government conceded the strict lockdown measures in and around its capital would prevent the game being staged as initially scheduled at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
The AFL grand final was held in Brisbane, Queensland state, last year.
“It has become clear as we continue to navigate through these challenges that it wouldn’t be in the best interests of the community to host a grand final at the MCG in front of no crowd,” AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan said on Tuesday.
Victoria state's Sports Minister Martin Pakula said the decision was made in the best interests of the health and safety of the population.
“It’s also in the best interests of football — if the grand final can be played in front of supporters, then it should be," Pakula said. "We look forward to the grand final returning to its traditional home at the MCG in 2022 and for decades beyond.”
The AFL grand final is regularly one of the biggest events on the Australian sports calendar, and Melbourne usually celebrates with a long weekend.
But Victoria and New South Wales, Australia's two most populated states, are under extended lockdowns after recent coronavirus outbreaks.
The latter rounds of the National Rugby League competition are being staged in Queensland state.
Queensland is also hosting the end of the Rugby Championship, featuring World Cup champion South Africa, Argentina, New Zealand and Australia, and an international cricket series between the women's teams from Australia and India.
Australian Formula One Grand Prix organizers earlier had to cancel the Melbourne race — already rescheduled from March to November — for a second straight year because of the pandemic.
Organizers of the Australian Open, usually the first tennis major of the year, remain confident the tournament can be staged in the second half of January.
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