The first AFL grand final in Melbourne in three years will remain in the traditional afternoon timeslot, with fan sentiment again winning out over the commercial push for a twilight start.
The 2022 decider, to be held at the MCG on September 24, will begin at 2.30pm, as per tradition.
The league had been weighing up the benefits of a twilight fixture, starting at 4.30pm, with AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan regarded as a supporter of the later start.
Significantly increased television ratings over the past two years was another issue taken into account when considering a time shift.
But supporter sentiment had clearly favoured keeping the grand final in the afternoon and the decision to revert to the traditional timeslot was welcomed by the AFL Fans' Association.
"We're grateful that the AFL has respected the preference of most fans and returned the grand final to its popular afternoon time slot," AFLFA president Cheryl Critchley said in a statement.
"Most fans have made sacrifices throughout the pandemic, including paying good money for memberships they could not use for extended periods. It's great to see that loyalty rewarded."
McLachlan, whose AFL tenure closes at season's end, said after two pandemic-affected years, fans wanted to return to their "footy rituals and routines".
"That return-to-rituals principle underpinned our decision making in ratifying a traditional start time," he said in a statement.
"The prestige, nostalgia and atmosphere of the day grand final is something we all know and love."
The premiership decider returns to the MCG after being played in Perth last season and Brisbane in 2020 because of COVID-19 impacts.
The 2020 finale at the Gabba started at 6.30pm local time and last year's Optus Stadium playoff between the Western Bulldogs and Melbourne began at 5.15pm local time (7.15 pm AEST).
Richmond's Jack Riewoldt played in the most recent MCG grand final in 2019 and the 2020 Gabba decider and welcomed the afternoon start.
"Red footies every day," Riewoldt said.
"We're slowly getting back to some normality in life and we find ourselves with some normality in AFL football as well."
Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge was "apathetic" on the start time but for tradition's sake, preferred the earlier start.
"I'd rather it to be played during the day as a purist, whether you're involved or not so I like the decision," he said.
A decision was made at Wednesday's AFL Commission meeting but the call had been a tightly held secret, with officials unwilling to overshadow Thursday's announcement of the new AFLW pay deal.
Australian Associated Press
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