The AFL has announced that its 2020 season will resume on 11th June with four clubs from Western Australia and South Australia to relocate to a hub on the Gold Coast and the competition’s grand final likely held towards the end of October.
With clubs set to return to training from Monday, AFL Chief Executive Gillon McLachlan has announced that all clubs will resume full-contact training as of 25th May, before the premiership season restarts on 11th June.
Games will initially be held in closed stadiums without fans.
With its season suspended in March due to Coronavirus restrictions, McLachlan advised “today's a significant step in getting footy back for everyone, our fans, clubs players, coaches … and all who love the game.
"We know as the situation continues to evolve, we need to remain agile and flexible, to be able to adapt where necessary."
McLachlan said all players and returning football staff were being tested for Coronavirus and undergoing education on the protocols in place to manage the risk of the pandemic, advising that the measures, which had been developed in consultation with health authorities around the country, involved every player being tested twice a week in training and playing.
McLachlan advised “we have bi-weekly testing of every player at least 24 hours before the contact sessions and we'll have the results back before they're allowed to do contact sessions or play games.”
McLachlan explained that the schedule for the remaining 144 games and finals of the 2020 season would be released in blocks of four to six weeks, with the first tranche of fixtures to be released in 10 days.
Noting that the AFL would be guided by advice from governments and health authorities, he added “we must not place any burden on the public health system.
"Our industry understands the opportunity we have been given, we also fully understand and accept our responsibility to our football family and to the wider community."
McLachlan said the league's four teams from Western Australia and South Australia would base themselves out of the Gold Coast, after their home states declined to relax quarantine restrictions for players coming in and out of their borders.
McLachlan thanked the Queensland Government for reaching an agreement on "strict protocols" which would allow players from those teams to host family visits.
He initially told a press conference the AFL would fund those visits, but later clarified that the league would "facilitate" the visits instead.
McLachlan noted that the League’s schedule would have to be flexible if it started to conflict with other sports, such as cricket, stating “so if it plays out that we're coming into the T20 World Cup or racing we'll work around it with them and we'll get an outcome that works for sports fans and for other sports, for everyone.
"We have to remain agile and flexible to be able to adapt when necessary."
With representatives of the 18 AFL clubs advised of the schedule earlier today, West Coast Eagles General Manager of Football, Craig Vozzo, said obviously the team wanted to stay in Perth but "we're in a difficult situation and we need to be flexible".
Vozzo told the ABC “(our players) have certainly had lots of questions … so we need to work through those. We won't be forcing anyone to go.”
The Men’s T20 World Cup is scheduled to run from 18th October to 15th November 2020. Its schedule includes a number of games at the MCG.
Image: AFL Chief Executive Gillon McLachlan at the MCG.
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