Religious leaders have condemned the AFL's decision to go ahead with Good Friday football as a greedy cash-grab taking precedence over important cultural traditions.
Bishop Philip Huggins, of the Anglican Diocese of Melbourne, said Monday's announcement that Good Friday games will begin as early as next year had caught him by surprise.
He said a run of meetings between the church and the AFL had left it believing he would stay committed to keeping the religious holiday footy-free.
"It is particularly disappointing in light of discussions I had with the AFL's chief executive [Gillon] McLachlan, in which I thought he understood these sensitivities," Bishop Huggins said.
He said the decision was regrettable and would trash a significant day that was the "turning point of all human history".
"The AFL has chosen to preference another money-making opportunity over respect for cultural traditions and sensitivities, continuing the grinding banality of product marketing," Bishop Huggins said.
"No doubt if the marketers believed they could sell it, there would be AFL at 3am on Christmas Day in Madagascar."
Mr McLachlan said the AFL's general manager of scheduling, Simon Lethlean, had consulted with religious leaders and other stakeholders about turning Good Friday into a game day.
"He's met with a lot of stakeholders, and I think that's important to recognise, including Good Friday Appeal people, broadcasters and representatives of church groups," Mr McLachlan said.
The Victorian Council of Churches also objected – and asked that a percentage of any gate takings be given to charity organisations.
AFL Commission chairman Mike Fitzpatrick said there had been a "growing appetite" to hold a game on Good Friday, and "on balance, we believe the time is right".
Atheist Foundation of Australia's Tracy Burgess said it was surprising it had taken the AFL so long.
"I thought the AFL was the religion in Victoria," she said.
"We have a multicultural society, so to shut things down just for one small group is somewhat antagonistic to everybody else.
The question of whether to play AFL games on the religious holiday has long been a controversial topic. Former AFL chief executive Andrew Demetriou opposed the idea but admitted he believed it was inevitable.
The most likely inaugural Good Friday clash will be between North Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs.
The story Holy day matches not good for football, say religious leaders first appeared on Brisbane Times.