20-minute quarters ‘most likely’ to return in AFL next season

The AFL look set to revert to 20-minute quarters in 2021 as they continue to reposition key elements of the game disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic.

After deciding to play 16-minute quarters during 2020 to help them complete the COVID-19 affected season, the AFL has been weighing up whether to revert to the same length of quarters that existed pre-COVID-19 or find a middle ground and change the length of quarters to 18 minutes.



However sources said the AFL – who are in the final stages of discussing the matter with broadcasters and other relevant parties – were keen to return, in many areas, to how the game was before the pandemic.

A source close to the decision on the length of quarters said it was "most likely" that the AFL executive would recommend a return to 20-minute quarters when they make their final decision with AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan and football operations boss Steve Hocking saying in separate media conferences held during the week that a decision would be announced soon.

A return to 20-minute quarters would increase the effect of the decision announced this week to reduce interchange rotations from 90 to 75 as the AFL attempts to fatigue players in order to ease congestion and open the game up.

The AFL will also need to consider the length of breaks between goals, and quarter- and half-time breaks, in making their decision. Those breaks were adjusted in 2020 when a compressed fixture was played to ensure the season could be completed.

With quarter length reduced in 2020, the average game length for the season was 102 minutes and three seconds, a dramatic drop from the 2019 average game length which was 122 minutes and 33 seconds. It had hovered just above 120 minutes per game since 2016.

The AFL are keen to have what was termed “a footy frenzy” during 2021 but they remain in discussions with broadcasters over that issue with the fixture to be released next year as uncertainty about the COVID-19 pandemic and state borders remains high.

McLachlan declared on Friday that the season would be 22 rounds and begin on March 18 with the traditional blockbuster season-opener between Richmond and Carlton.

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