The AFL, in conjunction with the AFLPA, has on Thursday released its COVID-19 vaccination policy for all AFL and AFLW players and Football Program Staff.
In general terms, the Policy will require all AFL and AFLW players and Football Program Staff to be vaccinated in advance of the start of the AFL and AFLW seasons according to a progressive schedule.
The Policy has been introduced following an extensive education program across the clubs and industry in regard to COVID-19 vaccinations and the AFL will continue to work with the AFLPA to provide all players and staff further support and guidance through the evolving situation.
The Policy reflects the AFL’s strongly held view that as the governing body of the sport, we share responsibility to address the risk of exposure to COVID-19 of our Players and Football Program Staff, and in delivering upon this responsibility, TGA approved vaccines offer the best possible protection in keeping our people safe, healthy and together.
Further, it provides our sport the opportunity to recover from the COVID-19 interruptions that have beset both the AFL and AFLW competitions in these past two years.
AFL Vaccination Requirements
The Policy strongly encourages all persons in the AFL industry to be vaccinated as soon as they are practicably able to be. The AFL acknowledges and thanks the industry for the levels of vaccination that have already been achieved.
To meet our objective of providing the best possible protection in keeping our people safe and healthy, the Policy requires all Players and Football Program to be progressively vaccinated according to a three-stage schedule:
- The First Stage is already in effect in Victoria by virtue of the Government’s Authorised Worker Vaccination Mandate and requires Players and Football Program Staff of Victorian Clubs to be vaccinated (first dose 22 October 2021 and fully vaccinated 26 November 2021) prior to being able to attend their Clubs to start or continue their pre-seasons.
- The Second Stage applies to all remaining AFLW Players and AFL Football Program Staff, and additionally the AFL Players and AFL Football Program Staff of the NSW Clubs, namely the Sydney Swans and Greater Western Sydney. This stage requires first vaccination dose by 19 November 2021 and to be fully vaccinated by 17 December 2021, in advance of likely scheduled practice matches and the AFLW season commencing in January 2022.
- The Third Stage requires all remaining AFL Players and AFL Football Program Staff (i.e. of Clubs in WA, SA and QLD) to receive a first dose by 21 January 2022 and to be fully vaccinated by 18 February 2022, in advance of likely scheduled practice matches in late February 2022 and commencement of the season in March 2022.
Under the Policy, the scheduled dates for the stages can change by agreement between the AFL and AFLPA if there are changes in relevant Government mandates or in the COVID-19 levels in relevant States.
Other changes to the Policy (including any extension of the term beyond the 2022 AFL and AFLW seasons) must also be agreed by the AFL and AFLPA. The Policy will be reviewed on an ongoing basis by the AFL and AFLPA jointly to assess the changing environment in relation to COVID-19 and vaccination in Australia.
The Policy establishes a process for the AFL’s consideration and (where appropriate) approval of medical exemptions using criteria similar to the Victorian Authorised Worker Vaccination Mandate.
The Policy will apply to new Players coming into the AFL and AFLW, including by the upcoming AFL Draft.
Player’s playing contracts and remuneration
Players and Football Program Staff that do not comply with the vaccination requirement that apply to them will not be able to attend Club or AFL premises including to train or play, absent a medical exemption approved by the AFL. In short, they will not be able to perform their contracted services for their Clubs.
Clubs will determine the action to be taken with respect to remuneration and employment status of Football Program Staff that do not comply with the Policy.
For Players who do not comply with the Policy and do not have an approved medical exemption, from the date at which a Player is no longer able to perform their contracted services, their Clubs can:
- Transfer the Player to the inactive player list (meaning the Player can be replaced) and pay the Player 25% of (for AFLW) their contracted salary or (for AFL) the CBA minimum base salary
- Keep the Player on their playing list (meaning the Player cannot be replaced) and pay the Player not less than 25% of (for AFLW) their contracted salary or (for AFL) 25% of the CBA minimum base salary
- Terminate the Player’s playing contract with the agreement of the Player
- Exercise any rights the Club may have at law to terminate the Player’s playing contract, but such rights are not to be exercised prior to 18 May 2022.
Quotes attributed to AFL Executive General Manager Football and General Counsel Andrew Dillon
“The health and safety of our players, staff and the wider community has been one of the guiding principles governing the AFL’s ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
“The AFL has undertaken extensive education programs across the clubs and industry in regard to COVID-19 vaccinations and we will continue to be led by the Government and Medical Professionals.
“The uptake of AFL industry people being vaccinated has so far been extremely encouraging and we are very pleased the overwhelming majority of our players, coaches, staff members across the AFL and the 18 clubs have at the very least received their first vaccination shot.
“We will continue to work with the AFLPA to provide all players further support and guidance through the evolving situation.
“The football industry has gone above and beyond in the last 18 months to safeguard our people and industry and the community and ensure the competitions have been able to go on. The vaccination policy is a continuation of our commitment, ensuring the livelihoods of the thousands of people that work in football, and making sure we can continue to play for the millions of fans across the country in which football means so much.
“Our policy delivers on our commitment to best protect our players, staff and the wider community, so we can once again unite as families, as friends, as work colleagues, as teammates, as supporters, as communities, as one.”
Quotes attributed to AFLPA Chief Executive Paul Marsh
“In our conversations with players about COVID-19 vaccinations over recent months, we have made it clear that the AFLPA believes in the importance of vaccinations as part of a safe workplace and community and as a pathway out of our current lockdown cycle.
“In saying this, our view is that vaccinations are an individual decision. It has, however became apparent in recent weeks that unvaccinated players will not be able to fulfil their contractual obligations due to various State border restrictions, and the new worker requirements in Victoria. Through our player meetings, players have been made aware that this was a possible scenario.
“Therefore, in working through this policy with the AFL, our focus was to agree positions that provide players with clarity, appropriate timelines for making personal vaccination decisions, an ability to review the policy should Government directions change, and financially support those who make the hard decisions to step away from their playing careers. The agreed policy delivers all of this.
“We are proud of the leadership shown by our players and the wider industry through the ongoing and complex challenges of the pandemic.”