In a memo to all 18 clubs, the AFL has outlined strict protocols to ensure the 2020 season can resume, including all players being tested for COVID-19 by the end of the week.
The AFL has indicated there are plans to allow a resumption of training as early as Monday, as they are acting with all state governments in the hope of gaining uniform approval to train, following the Victorian government announcing a relaxation of restrictions.
The memo also included the banning of AFL-listed footballers from playing in their respective states’ second-tier competitions (VFL, WAFL, SANFL, NEAFL) and the financial cuts and staff restrictions that will be applied to all clubs.
With the banning of participation in these competitions, the AFL has announced they are considering alternative arrangements where players not selected to play in their AFL team can participate in ‘scratch matches’ between other AFL clubs in a controlled environment.
Following this announcement, Adelaide, Port Adelaide, and West Coast have all withdrawn their respective sides from second-tier competitions, with Port Adelaide chief executive, Keith Thomas, saying he is disappointed but understands the importance of doing so.
“It is very disappointing to not have Port Adelaide participate in the SANFL competition this season, especially given it is our 150th anniversary,” Thomas said.
“We are a foundation club of the SANFL and proud of this heritage.
“We look forward to continuing that legacy in the SANFL in 2021.
“However, the AFL have made it clear that for health and safety reasons we need to restrict the number of people our players interact with and competing in another competition opens that up significantly.
“We respect that view and completely support the need to protect our players from transmission of COVID-19.
“It is unfortunate, but it’s a necessary measure to protect our people,” he said.
With the staff restrictions, clubs will be allowed a maximum of 24 staff only, with a doctor, psychologist and player development manager listed among the legislated necessary staff for each club.
Along with this, the AFL has introduced a financial limit for clubs, with breaches set to result in luxury taxes, in an effort to protect new financial safeguard deals with banks, that would be jeopardised otherwise.
The AFL has told clubs they must reduce costs by 40 per cent, to about $430,000, with that figure allowed to be increased to more than $500,000 when matches begin, which is expected to be mid to late June.
The AFL will continue to enforce training and isolation protocols league-wide, including all club facilities remaining closed, including club gyms, all coaching sessions and training programs to be provided remotely, and all medical services to be provided remotely.
Along with the testing of all players by Friday, clubs have also been asked to nominate an internal COVID-19 Club Compliance Officer, who will be responsible for ongoing player/staff education, leadership and compliance with the AFL Return to Play Protocols through the return to training and the 2020 AFL seasons.
Following the memo, the AFL Players’ Association (AFLPA) will brief all players today on the plans, through multiple sessions, with the players expected to be given some form of clarity over the structure of matches ahead of the season restart.
For more on the AFL’s plans to return to action in 2020, listen to our “Conversations” vodcast episode with the AFL’s CFO and GM of broadcasting and clubs, Travis Auld.