The AFL will make a decision on the location of quarantine hubs this week and will meet with the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee on Friday to discuss their plans.
- The AFL season has been suspended since March 22 due to the coronavirus pandemic — the league is working to confirm how it will resume play
- The AFL is expected to wait until after next month’s National Cabinet meeting to announce its preferred return date
- Quarantine hubs are the preferred option to house players but Victoria and WA say they won’t pay for them if they are chosen to host
The governing body will then work through potential fixture models with broadcast partners by next Monday, according to an update sent to clubs via email from AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan.
However, despite a season-resumption plan being close to finalised, the league will not publicly announce a date until after the National Cabinet meeting on May 10, with May 11 firming as the most likely date for a public announcement.
In stark contrast to the NRL, whose Project Apollo committee announced a comeback date of May 28 before consulting broadcast partners, the AFL won’t announce plans without government and broadcast partners signing off.
While McLachlan has told clubs there is a provisional date in mind, the AFL does not want to prematurely announce it, to avoid a backflip because of changing restrictions.
The league boss acknowledges that quarantine hubs are the best chance the code has of starting and continuing the season but hopes it can finish with players travelling to matches from their homes when travel restrictions across state borders are relaxed.
Numbers of club staff travelling with players to quarantine hubs will also be restricted.
Correspondence with clubs emphasises that each staff member travelling with teams results in 18 extra people in quarantine across the competition, with corresponding costs.
The governing body says it is looking into all options to provide players with the mental and emotional support required to cope with separation from family.
The AFL lists government financial support as one of the criteria being used to select hubs but government officials seem resistant to providing funding.
Speaking on Channel Nine, Victorian Minister for Sport Martin Pakula said there was no need for the government to chip in.
“There is no obvious need for government funds to play a role in this,” Mr Pakula said.
“In terms of a hub, you are really talking about the possibility of whether it’s hotels or resorts. You are looking at some security measures around grounds that would allow them to be contained in a way that you could be confident that everybody who came and went was COVID free and remained COVID free.
“There is not a huge expenditure in that. The AFL, it would be our expectation, they would be responsible for the vast majority of it.”
WA Premier Mark McGowan has also ruled out government funding if a hub is located in Western Australia.
“Obviously Melbourne has a much bigger issue with COVID-19 than Perth does, so I think it would make sense to have a hub here and we can obviously restrict the teams into a certain area and make sure that it’s in proximity to [Perth] stadium,” he said.
“[But] I’m not going to put taxpayers money into that when we have all these other priorities — our health system, education — we’ve had huge declines in revenue across the board.
“We’re in a dire financial situation. Like all states, we are losing revenue, we are going to focus on our health system and if football wants to do it, it’d be great but I don’t expect the West Australian taxpayer should have to pay for the privilege.”