AFL under fire over 'inappropriate' move ahead of AFLW grand final

Brisbane Lions players, pictured here celebrating after advancing to the AFLW grand final.
Brisbane Lions players celebrate after advancing to the AFLW grand final. (Photo by Dylan Burns/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

The AFL has come under fire over the venue for next Sunday's AFLW grand final, with the Brisbane Lions set to host the Melbourne Demons at Brighton Homes Arena in Springfield.

The turf at the new 10,000-capacity ground was given the all-clear for use just hours before Brisbane's preliminary final win over Adelaide on Friday night that booked their spot in the grand final.

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But the turf isn't the only issue with Brighton Homes Arena, with many left gobsmacked that the AFL would allow a grand final to be played at a ground where only 10,000 fans can attend.

With the Gabba and Gold Coast's Metricon Stadium both unavailable and no other viable options in Queensland, it looked as though the minor premiers might have to relinquish their home ground advantage for the decider.

However the AFL has ticked off Brighton Homes Arena as the grand final venue, meaning thousands of fans will be locked out if they can't secure tickets. Previous AFLW grand finals have drawn an average of 23,000 fans – including the 2019 decider which saw 53,034 people pack into the Adelaide Oval to see the Crows win.

Speaking to Channel 9 on Sunday, women's sport advocate and GWS Giants player Chloe Dalton bemoaned the decision, while former Essendon captain Brendon Goddard labelled it "disappointing".

" [The AFL is] trying to provide Brisbane with a home-ground advantage, but you really want to get the big crowds in for matches like the AFLW grand final," Dalton said.

Retired AFLW player Meg Hutchins tweeted on Sunday: "I’m all for the highest ranked team hosting the Grand Final. I love that about AFLW. However, the venue MUST be appropriate for the moment it is hosting. 10K+ min capacity. Gabba & Carrara (sadly unavail) Springfield - awesome venue - just not appropriate for a Grand Final."

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Brisbane CEO Greg Swann has since defended the Lions' right to play in front of their home fans for the decider.

"Brighton Homes Arena is an AFL-accredited stadium, with full broadcast compliance, excellent public transport and parking, expansive home and away team, and official's facilities. It's the best of its class for women's sport in the country and will go a long way in helping the growth of women's and girl's footy in Queensland," he said in a club statement.

"Significantly, it is the first gender-equal facility in Australia, with all facilities provided for the AFL program replicated for our AFLW program; locker room size, office space, recovery facilities, you name it.

"It's been designed as a uniquely Queensland venue – taking advantage of spectators being able to sit on the hill with their family and friends and have a festive feel with food trucks and entertainment.

Lauren Pearce of the Melbourne Demons, pictured here with the grand final cup during an AFLW media opportunity at Marvel Stadium.
Lauren Pearce of the Melbourne Demons poses with the grand final cup during an AFLW media opportunity at Marvel Stadium. (Photo by Morgan Hancock/Getty Images)

"I'd like to thank the Queensland and Australian governments, Ipswich City Council, the AFL, our partners, staff and everyone involved for their efforts to have Brighton Homes Arena ready to be opened this Sunday and for their enthusiastic support of women's footy. I can't think of a better way to show it off to the world."

Demons coach Mick Stinear also brushed off concerns over the venue, saying: "They earned the right to get a home final and if that facility is ready and available - and it looks like it is - we're keen to go.

"We're just grateful to be in a grand final and pleased our group earned that opportunity. Brisbane deserved that (home ground advantage) by being minor premiers."

with AAP

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