A heated debate about the AFL grand final timeslot erupted between veteran reporter Caroline Wilson and former Collingwood president Eddie McGuire on Wednesday night's Footy Classified.
Though the pair are regular sparring partners on Channel. 9's AFL panel discussion, Wilson and McGuire were at loggerheads over whether or not this year's decider should be a twilight game.
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The previous two grand finals, held during Covid-19 interrupted seasons, have been twilight games hosted by the Gabba and Perth's Optus Stadium respectively.
With the season ending showdown set to return to the MCG for the first time since 2019 this season, the AFL is locked in broadcast negotiations, with the massive ratings drawn by the previous two grand finals certain to factor into discussions.
Last year's decider between Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs was the most watched grand final since 2016, attracting 3.910 million viewers nationally.
Much of this has been attributed to the twilight timeslot, with McGuire arguing the potentially lucrative extra AFL revenue from a twilight grand final would benefit the league in a variety of ways, particularly in the wake of cost-cutting measures implemented during the height of the pandemic.
Wilson however, has long maintained that the tradition of a Saturday afternoon grand final shouldn't be overlooked.
The last two years have represented a massive break from tradition, being the first time the grand final has been played out of Melbourne, for consecutive years no less.
— Footy on Nine (@FootyonNine) May 18, 2022
“I think it would be nice, given that the grand final hasn‘t been at the ’G’ since 2019, it would be great to see an afternoon grand final and I dispute the fact that the media rights are going to be worth that much more money if the grand final is played in twilight," Wilson said, prompting an energised reply from McGuire.
“Caro, I just can‘t be vehemently more opposed to you. AFLW, AFLM, Covid deficit, possible class actions, Tasmania, half the clubs are still insolvent and you want to go in with half the ratings?" he queried.
"They’ll drop two million people if it’s played on a Saturday afternoon.”
Spirited debate erupts over AFL grand final timeslot
The argument continued along similar lines for some time - McGuire arguing the financial benefits of such a move, Wilson maintaining the league needed to keep some traditions.
Wilson hit back at McGuire's point about providing extra funding for the AFLW, arguing 'one game' wouldn't have enough of an impact on the league's bottom line - even if it is the grand final.
McGuire later suggested the windfall from a twilight grand final could be as much as $50 million - "it could be $100 million.Who knows, it doesn’t matter," he said.
The debate took a nasty turn towards the end however, with McGuire accusing Wilson of hypocrisy by alleging she had opposed the renovation of the MCG's Northern Stand in the early 2000s.
That stand was redeveloped for the 2006 Commonwealth Games, with Wilson accusing McGuire of a 'wicked lie' when he claimed she had made her opposition to the redevelopment public in columns at the time.
In the meantime, AFLW players have had their pay almost doubled under a new one-season deal struck with the AFL.
Announced on Thursday, the deal covers the seventh season of the AFLW competition, which has been brought forward to start in late August.
It will feature 10 home-and-away rounds plus an expanded four-week finals series, culminating in the grand final on the last weekend of November.
Top-tier players will be paid $71,935, while the minimum AFLW wage will increase from $20,239 to $39,184.
The average increase across the four pay brackets is 94 per cent.
Each of the 18 AFL clubs will be represented in the women's competition next season with the addition of Essendon, Hawthorn, Port Adelaide and Sydney.
The expansion signing period for those clubs will begin on May 24, while all clubs will commence pre-season training on June 13.
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