All AFL players to face COVID-19 testing before training resumes

The AFL has ordered every listed player and staff member to be tested for COVID-19 by Friday before clubs potentially return to full-contact training with complete squads next week.

The mandatory coronavirus tests are to be completed as part of the AFL’s return-to-play plan, which is still being finalised.

An official announcement on the season restart will not be made until at least Wednesday, as league officials continue negotiations over training protocols with state governments.

In a note sent to all clubs on Tuesday detailing coronavirus testing requirements, the AFL also told clubs they must reduce football department spending by 40 per cent as part of drastic cost-cutting measures deemed necessary for the competition’s survival.

Football department staff numbers will be capped at 24 and must include a doctor, player development manager and psychologist.

“We must take a prudent approach to football department expenditure which recognises that a significant level of industry revenue has already been lost and there is further material risk to our financial position both this season and in future years,” AFL general counsel Andrew Dillon said.

As part of strict return-to-play rules, players have been banned from featuring in their affiliated second-tier competitions.

The AFL is considering allowing players who are not selected for regular matches to participate in games against other AFL clubs in a controlled environment.

Clubs have been warned against further breaches of coronavirus protocols after Adelaide’s training error last week, and all clubs are required to nominate an internal COVID-19 club compliance officer.

The AFL is still locked in talks with state governments over training allowances in the build-up to a likely season restart next month.

All 10 Victorian clubs have been handed exemptions by their state government to train at full capacity from Wednesday, providing they operate in exclusive facilities away from the general public.

The four AFL clubs in New South Wales and Queensland appear likely to receive similar exemptions, in line with those given to their NRL counterparts, but there are currently no exemptions in South Australia and Western Australia.

The AFL is hopeful the South Australian and Western Australian governments will grant their respective clubs special permission to train or fly in and out of their bases for matches without serving mandatory quarantine periods upon re-entry.

Otherwise, they could have to temporarily relocate their operations to recommence the season.

Melbourne makes logistical sense for temporary relocations however the Gold Coast also presents as a drawcard with its facilities and warm weather.

Victorian Sports Minister Martin Pakula on Tuesday gave the green light to interstate clubs using Melbourne as a temporary base.

“We’d be comfortable with Western Australian teams being part of any appropriate quarantine arrangement [in Victoria] if that’s the way they choose to go,” he said.

“But it’s a matter for (Western Australian Premier) Mark McGowan and the Western Australian Government, and ultimately for them and the AFL to come to a conclusion about.”

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The Virus

AAP