ALL PLAYERS and football department staff at AFL and AFLW clubs will need to be fully vaccinated to train and play as part of the AFL's COVID-19 policy.
After months of consultation with governments and the AFLPA, the AFL on Thursday released a three-stage schedule as part of its "responsibility to address the risk of exposure to COVID-19 of our players and football program staff".
The policy will apply to all players selected in next month's NAB AFL Draft.
Applications for exemptions for vaccinations will be determined under criteria "similar to the Victorian Authorised Worker Vaccination Mandate".
Stage one of the policy is effectively the Victorian Government's mandate for all "workers" in Victoria to have received at least one vaccination by October 22 and a second dose by November 26.
The second stage is specific to all AFLW players and all football department staff, as well as AFL players and staff from the Sydney Swans and GWS, requiring a first vaccination by November 19 and second by December 17.
Stage three incorporates AFL players and football staff at WA, SA and Queensland clubs, where doses one and two must be completed respectively by January 21 and February 18, in advance of practice matches in the latter stages of the 2022 pre-season.
Individuals who fail to comply with the vaccination protocols will be banned from attending club and AFL facilities to train and play.
The clubs will determine sanctions, if any, for players and staff who do not reach the vaccination policy requirements. There will be wide scope for the clubs – from no action at all through to termination of contracts, as well as reductions in wages.
AFL executive general manager football and general counsel Andrew Dillon said the overriding principle of the policy was the health and safety of players, staff and the wider community.
"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," Dillon said.
"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."
AFL Players Association chief executive Paul Marsh said:
"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."