THE AFL season has been suspended in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the aftermath of these unprecedented events, here is what we know:
Last updated: Tuesday 28 April 2020
What is happening with the 2020 Toyota AFL Premiership Season?
The season has officially been suspended at the completion of round one by AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan, with the suspension period to span until at least May 31. A review of the situation is ongoing. The review will determine whether a further suspension period is subsequently required. McLachlan has recently written to all clubs, expressing that the League will wait until a national cabinet meeting on May 10 to confirm a potential return date.
What happened with the 2020 NAB AFL Women's Competition?
Having already brought forward the finals series to ensure the best possible chance of ensuring a premier, the 2020 AFLW season was officially cancelled in March. With four teams remaining in the hunt for the flag – Fremantle, North Melbourne, Carlton and Melbourne – no premier will be awarded.
Why has this decision been made?
The decision has been made due to the continued spread of the COVID-19 virus. The worsening situation in the community and the decision by various state governments to enforce tougher travel restrictions and border control measures were all contributing factors to the AFL's decision to enforce a suspension of competition.
Is there a chance the season is suspended beyond May 31?
Yes. The AFL continues to review the situation, with clubs required to have a month's notice before the resumption of play. Should the League determine that a further suspension period is required, the indefinite halt to the game will continue.
Are 'hubs' likely to come into play?
Yes. Club and League officials, in terms of players, umpires and staff members, are likely going to be forced into isolated 'hubs', situated in a range of different areas across Australia, in order to stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus upon the resumption of competition. Whichever venues are chosen, accommodation within 60 minutes of the stadiums will be required. Hub options in Victoria include the Mornington Peninsula, Surf Coast, Macedon and Yarra Valley, while Gold Coast is also firming as a potential hub option. A number of other major cities across Australia have also put forward their plans to host hubs. Speaking in April, the AFL's general manager of clubs and broadcasting Travis Auld said of hubs: "It feels like the only way we're going to get our season started."
Will the NAB AFL Draft go ahead?
Gillon McLachlan has confirmed he is "very confident" the NAB AFL Draft will take place, although the suspension of play and the likely delay of Year 12 exams across Victoria could mean it is postponed until January 2021. Junior systems and talent pathways are currently being reviewed by a series of working groups set up by the AFL, with debate continuing to rage over whether the draft age should be raised to 19 years in the wake of the game's shutdown.
Is the AFL still planning for a 153-game season?
Yes. The AFL's plan is for the remaining 144 games, plus finals, in the reduced 2020 fixture to be played upon the resumption of competition. The League is focused on being as agile and as flexible as possible in respect to the remaining matches to ensure they are all played. The AFL is also prepared to run games for as late as possible in the 2020 calendar year to ensure all matches are completed.
Will football look different when it eventually returns?
Almost certainly. As was the case in round one, shortened quarters of 16 minutes will remain. There will also be no crowds for the immediate future upon the resumption of competition, in order to help slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus. An easing of the interchange cap, plus the potential addition of more players on an interchange bench, are among a number of further in-game initiatives currently being looked at by AFL operations manager Steve Hocking to ensure a 153-game season can be undertaken amid a condensed timeframe.
Will the shortened 2020 season mean a longer 2021 season?
It appears unlikely. Speaking in April, Gillon McLachlan said a number of factors including venue availability, increased demands on players and existing contracts with venues and broadcasters meant it would be unlikely the 2021 Toyota AFL Premiership Season will span for longer than the normal 23 rounds. There had previously been a widespread view among clubs that additional matches would need to be played next season in order for both teams and the League to recover from the financial pitfalls of the COVID-19 crisis.
How has this impacted the AFL and clubs?
On Monday 23 March, the AFL made the difficult decision to restructure its organisation and that of the 18 AFL clubs. The majority of full-time staff (around 80 percent) would be stood down until May 31, while remaining staff would have reduced hours of around three or four days per week. The salaries of the AFL Executive team would also be reduced by a minimum of 20 percent indefinitely. Clubs had been bracing for cuts around 30 per cent ($9.7 million down to $6.7 million), but it is now likely the total allowed to be spent on off-field football department staff for the 2021 season and beyond will be reduced by 40 per cent, to $6 million per club.
Have players been forced to take pay cuts?
Yes. After two weeks of intense negotiating, the AFL Players' Association and the League agreed to a pay cut for players in March. Wages were cut 50 percent through until May 31, which would increase to 70 percent should games not recommence by June.
Have any players tested positive for the COVID-19 virus?
No. Although a number of players have been tested – including Collingwood captain Scott Pendlebury and Fremantle youngster Sam Switkowski – there are currently no AFL or AFLW players who have tested positive for the COVID-19 virus. A Collingwood staff member was confirmed to have tested positive for the virus upon returning from an overseas holiday, but had been in self-isolation and hadn't had contact with any members of the playing group or football department upon returning. The League had planned to implement a blanket and mandatory 30-day suspension period should any player test positive to the COVID-19 virus at any stage. However, Gillon McLachlan has said that suspension period will be shortened upon the eventual resumption of competition.
What will happen to the state leagues?
The state leagues will shut down until at least May 31. This comprises men's and women's competitions in each of the VFL, SANFL, NEAFL, WAFL and TSL. All national and state talent programs will also delay the start of their seasons until the end of May.
Will community footy go on?
The AFL has postponed all Auskick programs around the country until at least May 31. All independently governed community football leagues across the country have also been advised to postpone their seasons until at least May 31.