The AFL today announced the fixture for the 2020 season with marquee timeslots and major games spread as widely across the competition.
For the first time since 2011, 16 separate clubs will feature on a Thursday or Friday matches as showpiece games of the round.
AFL's Travis Auld said the fixture was constructed with the primary aim to continue to build the AFL game as the number one code in this country.
“The 2020 fixture really tells the story of the success of the AFL’s equalisation policy. The competitiveness and the ability for any team to win on any day gave us great confidence in the spread of marquee timeslots across the season,” said the general manager of clubs and broadcasting.
“In the 2019 season, with the rule changes that were introduced we had a very high number of upsets and almost half of the games (47%) decided by less than four goals which is the highest level in 20 years, so we are seeing a closer, more even competition and I think this year’s fixture reflects that.
“More than seven million fans attended a game across the 2019 Toyota Premiership season and Finals Series. The support of our fans and the great work of our clubs and players is why our game continues to grow."
DOWNLOAD THE SEASON GUIDE HERE NOW
To ensure balance for all clubs across the season, Auld said the AFL needed to ensure it enabled fans to access the game in strong numbers, and that all clubs received as balanced a fixture as possible via the weighted match-up rule.
“Our competition is coming off another record-breaking season in attendance, membership and participation. The fixture plays a central role in growing the game across all states, territories and communities and it is vitally important that all fans have the ability to see their team, either live at the ground or via the support of our broadcast partners,” Auld said.
Auld said the fixture framework adopted the same approach as the 2019 season, aiming for a strong start with a series of key Thursday and Friday night matches to build momentum into the early part of the season.
The 2020 Toyota AFL Premiership Season will begin on Thursday 19 March, as Richmond will unfurl their 2019 Premiership flag when they host Carlton at the MCG. From the opening game running through to the last weekend in August, 198 matches will be played across every state and territory.
A standard round consists of one Friday night, two Saturday afternoon slots, one Saturday twilight, two Saturday night, two Sunday afternoon and one Sunday twilight match, with other rounds featuring additional timeslots including Thursday night and Monday afternoon games.
Nine Thursday night matches will feature in season 2020, up on eight from 2019.
Rounds 1 to 5 will have a Thursday night slot, maximising the school holiday period. The Thursday night slot will again be used through the bye period in Rounds 13 through 16.
Teams featuring in the Thursday night matches include Essendon (4), Collingwood (3), Brisbane, Carlton, Hawthorn and Richmond each on two occasions.
The traditional Friday night weekly blockbuster will be played across six states - Victoria (MCG, Marvel Stadium and GMHBA Stadium), SA (Adelaide Oval), WA (Optus Stadium), Queensland (GABBA), NSW (SCG) and the ACT (UNSW Canberra Oval) and will feature 15 clubs playing on a Friday night across the season.
The spread of Friday night matches is illustrated by the fact that no club has more than two home Friday night matches.
Reigning Premiers Richmond and Geelong Cats play in six Friday nights, while Collingwood play in five. West Coast Eagles and Western Bulldogs will each play four Friday night matches, Hawthorn and Melbourne will play in three, while Adelaide, Brisbane, Essendon, GWS Giants, Port Adelaide and Sydney Swans each feature in two Friday night matches.
The Gabba will play host to its first Friday night match since 2013, as the Brisbane Lions host Richmond in Round 8 and again in Round 14 vs Melbourne.
Round 1 will also see the first ever AFL / AFLW double header for Premiership points, as GIANTS Stadium hosts both GWS and Geelong Cats men’s and women’s teams on the same day.
Two more double headers will be featured in Round 2 as the GABBA hosts a Brisbane vs North Melbourne AFL / AFLW double header, while Carlton will play the Western Bulldogs in the men’s competition, that will feature Carlton vs Fremantle women’s match at Marvel Stadium.
Round 2 will see Port Adelaide commemorate their 150th year celebrations with their first home game as a Showdown against the Adelaide Crows on a Saturday night.
Round 3 sees the Giants host the Bulldogs at UNSW Canberra Oval, for the first of three matches to be played in Canberra.
This year’s Good Friday game at Marvel Stadium will be played between North Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs, replicating the match-up in the first Good Friday game three years ago.
North Melbourne hosts Fremantle in the early Sunday afternoon slot in Round 5 as they play the first of four matches at Blundstone Arena in Hobart.
Round 5 also sees the Saturday twilight timeslot made available for the AFLW Grand Final.
In Round 6, ANZAC Day falls on a Saturday in 2020 and will see four matches across four states played on the day.
Hawthorn will play the West Coast Eagles in the first of four home matches for the Hawks at University of Tasmania Stadium in Launceston.
The traditional ANZAC Day encounter between Collingwood and Essendon will be held in a national standalone Saturday twilight timeslot. Mr Auld said the AFL believed it was vital that this game should not cross over with any other match across the weekend, and hence the revised starting time, compared to when the match is played on a weekday.
To complete Anzac Day, Port Adelaide hosts the Western Bulldogs on Saturday night at the Adelaide Oval to recognise Peter Badcoe VC and Fremantle hosts Geelong in the Len Hall tribute match on a Sunday evening match to conclude round.
The first of two WA Derbies features in Round 7, along with the Grand Final rematch between Richmond and the GWS Giants.
Mars Stadium in Ballarat will again host the Western Bulldogs as the venue hosts games in both Round 8 and Round 22.
The first of two matches in the Northern Territory occurs in Round 9 as Melbourne hosts the Adelaide Crows at TIO Traeger Park in Alice Springs on Sunday afternoon.
Round 10, the Sir Doug Nicholls Indigenous Round celebration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture and contribution to Australian football, commences with the Sydney Swans hosting the Geelong Cats in the Marn Grook game on Friday night at the SCG. The traditional Dreamtime at the ‘G match between Essendon and Richmond will continue to be placed in the Saturday night slot.
A Premiership Season match heads to China for the fourth consecutive year as St Kilda hosts Port Adelaide at Adelaide Arena at Jiangwan Stadium in the Sunday twilight slot in Round 11.
The bye rounds will commence in Round 12 and carry over three weeks into Round 14. During these rounds there will be only six matches per round.
The Gold Coast SUNS will host St Kilda at TIO Stadium in Darwin, in the SUNS’ first ever home game in Darwin during Round 13.
Round 15 see St Kilda host the Sydney Swans in the fifth consecutive Pride Game on Sunday afternoon at Marvel Stadium.
As in previous years, in 2020 the AFL has made the decision to release only the opponents and venues for matches in the final home and away round – Round 23, rather than schedule official timeslots.
This decision allows the AFL to schedule timeslots for this round of matches closer to the end of the 2020 Toyota AFL Premiership Season, enabling optimal scheduling of Week One of the 2020 Toyota AFL Finals Series (and the weeks that follow) for all competing teams, venues and broadcasters. Therefore, the AFL retains the right to schedule Round 23 matches into final timeslots at an appropriate date prior to the end of the 2020 Toyota AFL Premiership Season.
Matches will be broadcast live by the Seven Network, Foxtel and via the official AFL Live App thanks to Telstra.