The AFL will resume on Thursday, June 11, with teams split across three regions to make allowances for different state border restrictions, CEO Gillon McLachlan has confirmed.
After a stalemate with state governments in South Australia and in particular Western Australia refusing to waive the mandatory 14-day quarantine period for persons arriving back in the state, the AFL will set up hubs in the Gold Coast for the West Coast Eagles, Fremantle Dockers, Port Adelaide Power and Adelaide Crows. Games in Queensland will be played at both the Gabba in Brisbane and Gold Coast’s Metricon Stadium.
Victorian teams will remain in Victoria with the Sydney Swans and GWS Giants to fly in and fly out of the state when required.
All teams will return to training next week, with contact training to resume on May 25. However the two South Australian teams will have to relocate quickly in order to resume practice after the state government prohibited contact training until June 8. The Western Australian teams will remain in Perth for pre-season training before moving to Queensland ahead of their Round 2 game.
“Today is a significant step in getting footy back for everyone… we know as this situation continues to evolve we have to be agile and continue to adapt as necessary,” McLachlan said.
“Importantly we must not place any burden on the public health system.”
Teams will be tested regularly for COVID-19 once training resumes – twice a week – after teams began testing for the virus this week. All players, umpires and matchday staff will undergo education sessions on the protocols they’ll need to follow to keep the season running.
In a statement released today, the AFL revealed the key points of those protocols:
The use of the Gold Coast hub is clearly not the best solution for the AFL which tried desperately to have as normal a home and away season as it could.
Instead it’s been forced to restart using the Gold Coast base and the four teams only able to play each other, plus local Queensland teams the Suns and Lions, in those hubs for four rounds.
A fixture list for those rounds will be released in the next ten days next week, although it’s been reported that the derby between the Dockers and Eagles will be held back for later in the season. McLachlan confirmed the draw for the rest of the year will be released in blocks of four to six rounds.
It’s a wait and see approach in the hope that restrictions will be further eased in all Australian states and territories in the next month before announcing future fixtures.
Importantly, as far as the travelling players are concerned, McLachlan confirmed they’ll be allowed to have their families in the hubs as long as they’re following strict protocols.
“The return to footy doesn’t mean the work is complete, we must continue to follow the advice of the governments.”
While no details have been released in regards to finals, McLachlan said they are still aiming for a four-week series to conclude with a grand final played in October.