Q&A with AFL Grand Final Events Manager Peter Jones

This months we have chosen a Grand Final theme for our Q&A so we spent some time with Peter Jones, AFL Grand Final Parade event organizer, to find out what his tips are for other people involved in organising events.

Which AFL grand final events do you organise?
Grand Final Parade on the Friday and Grand Final Pre-match entertainment on the big day.

How long have you been doing these for?
This year marks our 14th parade and 5th pre-match entertainment. The Parade attracts a crowd of around 100,000 and this year we will feature Meatloaf and Vanessa Amorossi performing in front of 100,000 people and a live telecast on Grand Final Day.

How do you decide on what entertainment to have?
It’s impossible to please everybody, but we predominantly aim at a 40+ audience. This is not the time to put on a brand new pub band that no one over the age of 22 has heard of. It is vital to the atmosphere on the day, that the audience know the act and the songs.  We also need to ensure we have different entertainment components that cover all areas, which is why the Grand Final team section is so important.

Is it difficult to organise when you don’t know that teams are playing until the week before?
We start our planning around the top four teams one month out and scenarios involving scripts and songs are prepared around these teams. One week out, we pre-record the final four team songs and brief the printers on banners. They are prepared and ready to go to print with the final two teams at the conclusion of the last final.

What is your favorite moment from your Grand Final events?
When the first ball is bounced and our part is over and nothing has gone wrong!  Then I wait for the media reviews the following morning to see whether I still have a job!

What near disasters have you avoided?
Where do I start? It usually always comes down to the weather. We live and die by the weather forecast. A thunderstorm when Marc Ruciotto abseiled from the light tower onto the ground could have been a tragedy, a gust of wind whilst the giant football was inflated on the ground last year would have been disastrous, a tape machine loosing sync during national anthem – very embarrassing.  There is a very fine line between success and absolute, public humiliation when you stage a public event.  That’s why it is so important to have contingencies in place to cover everything.  There is always a Plan B!

Any tips for volunteer event organisers?
Key rules to operate by:
1.       Plan well and have contingencies in place
2.       Have the best possible crew working for you.  Experience is everything!
3.       Rehearse, rehearse and rehearse!  Work out what works and make changes to suit.
4.       Think of your audience and be relevant
5.       Keep it simple.  Don’t try and make it too complicated.
6.       Incorporate something that will make the event unforgettable and unique
7.       Design the event to work within the budget

Feel free to add anything else of interest!
One of the most important aspects is these events have to be designed to work for both a television audience and a live audience. Both the Parade and the Pre-match entertainment are all based around what works for TV and Ad breaks need to be incorporated into the running order.  The networks will argue how it looks for TV is more important! Part of our job is ensure the integrity of the event is not compromised for the sake of the ratings!